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Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas Addresses Debate About Her Competing On Women’s Swim Team

Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas Speaks Out About Criticism Over Competing On Women’s Team

Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, has pushed back against the critics who say she doesn’t belong on the women’s team.

In case you didn’t know, the 22-year-old athlete has become highly talked about in the college swim scene after setting multiple records throughout the 2021-2022 season. However, her wins have sparked a massive debate online about whether it was fair for Lia to compete on the sports team at UPenn. Now, the college swimmer is speaking out about all of the criticism in a new interview with Sports Illustrated, saying:

“The very simple answer is that I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.”

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Lia revealed that she began questioning her identity near the end of her time at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, sharing:

“I felt off, disconnected with my body.”

After being paired with a trans mentor on campus, she ended up coming out to her brother between her freshman and sophomore years and later told her parents – all of whom were supportive of her transition. Throughout that time, Lia had also accomplished a ton in her sport – earning multiple spots on the All-Ivy team and nearly reaching her goal of swimming at the NCAA championships.

Still, the college student’s feelings of dysphoria reached an all-time high. She told the publication that she became “very depressed” then, explaining:

“I got to the point where I couldn’t go to school. I was missing classes. My sleep schedule was super messed up. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed. I knew at that moment I needed to do something to address this.”

Lia eventually decided to start hormone replacement therapy in 2019. According to Sports Illustrated, NCAA rules allow athletes to change gender categories – but Lia needed one year of HRT before becoming eligible to compete against other women in events. And after taking a year for her treatment, she began swimming with UPenn again in the summer of 2021 — this time on the women’s team.

She went on to dominate in meets. This past February, she even set an Ivy League record in the 200-yard freestyle during the Ivy League championships. Speaking on her journey, she said being trans is “an amazing and beautiful experience,” adding:

“I’ve been reinvigorated. I’ve been swimming for 17 years, but for [only] a short part of that time have I felt fully engaged. After coming and being my authentic self, I could really start to see a future. Before I came out, I couldn’t visualize a future.”

Not everyone on the swim team has been supportive of her, as sixteen members wrote a letter asking that Lia be barred from competing. And unfortunately, she’s also experienced attacks on social media. BUT, the college athlete isn’t letting the hate get to her! As she puts it:

“I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team. I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer. It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love. I get into the water every day and do my best. I don’t look into the negativity and the hate. I am here to swim.”

Ultimately, Lia just wants her career as a swimmer to be an inspiration for the transgender community:

“I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone. They don’t have to choose between who they are and the sport they love. I don’t know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would love to continue doing it. I want to swim and compete as who I am.”

Don’t listen to the haters, girl!

We’re wishing Lia nothing but the best as she finishes up the rest of her swim season! You got this!

Reactions to her response to all of the debate, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments.

You can also read her entire interview with Sports Illustrated HERE.

[Image via SwimSwam/YouTube]

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Mar 04, 2022 06:56am PDT