Simply a university graduate, Lia Thomas is now able to lead her life out of the public eye and relish in her initial summer following a period of unfavorable publicity and jeers directed towards her whenever her name was mentioned.
So, what does it mean for the transgender champion to take the necessary steps to win the Gold Olympic medal, as she also plans to head to law school? She’s granted her first media interviews since her historic NCAA victory, where she tells reporters about her journey.
“Good Morning America,” Thomas informed ABC News correspondent Juju Chang on Tuesday, expressing his determination to continue swimming. He expressed his desire to fully pursue this goal, as swimming at the Olympic trials has been a long-standing aspiration of his.
In addition, Katie Barnes, a sportswriter from ESPN and a native of Austin, Texas, who is the first LGBTQ journalist to be granted this opportunity, also agreed to answer questions from Chang.
Thomas emerged as the victor in the freestyle 500-meter race in March. Immediately after her triumph, she was live on ESPN, swimming in the pool on the deck. Interestingly, she was the sole participant in this particular event. In December, she made an appearance on the SwimSwam podcast, where she gave only two interviews. Thomas flatly refused to attend the traditional winner’s news conference, as reported by Barnes, a podcaster for SwimSwam. Additionally, she was repeatedly asked for an interview with Blade Los Angeles, both after and during her participation in the National Championships in Atlanta.
Barnes, a non-binary individual who is a graduate of UPenn, was asked for her perspective on the ongoing national debate over women and girls cisgender and women and girls transgender competing in sports.
Thomas stated, “I believe the biggest misconception is that people think I transitioned just so I could have an advantage, but in reality, I transitioned to truly be happy.”
In 2021, as a fifth year senior, Thomas became a member of the women’s swim team after completing 30 months of hormone replacement therapy. After completing her second year of college, she started her medical transformation in May 2019, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the cancellation of college swimming, following a year-long break. Thomas participated in three seasons of swimming for the Penn men’s team.
Legislators invoking the name of Thomas, Republican lawmakers have claimed that laws are needed to protect the sanctity of women’s sports, even stating that students who compete in sports should be banned from participating if they are transgender. These bills, which copy-paste bans on transgender student athletes, have been introduced in states across the country.
Thomas informed ESPN that the danger is completely fictional.
Thomas informed Barnes that the prevalence of trans women excelling is an occurrence that has not been witnessed, and the regulations established by the NCAA concerning the participation of trans women in women’s sports have been in existence for over a decade. Trans women constitute a significantly minute portion of the entire athlete population. The overall integrity of women’s sports remains unaffected by the inclusion of trans women in competition.
Thomas, who had previously only complied with the policy, demonstrated a level of testosterone that was 10 nanomoles below the required limit. The NCAA, however, chose not to impose a policy for the 2022 diving and swimming championships. In February, a three-person panel decided to update the eligibility evaluation for transgender women, requiring 36 months of testosterone suppression. However, the rules are changing for USA Swimming.
Critics of the NCAA have proposed that trans women compete separately from cis women. She told Thomas that Barnes objects to this so-called solution.
Thomas expressed, “Moreover, it fails to provide them with equal measures of esteem and chances to participate and strive.” If you state that one can participate but not achieve points or are assigned to an additional lane, it perpetuates a sense of alienation for transgender individuals.
She informed them that it boils down to this: Transgender women are women.
She stated, “It is still a challenge for transgender women to obtain opportunities or scholarships. It is important to ensure that cisgender women do not miss out on opportunities. It is a situation where individuals are competing against each other, specifically in the field of athletics. There is no significant difference between a cisgender woman and a transgender woman when it comes to taking a spot on a team or in other forms of travel.”
Thomas said she plans to attend grad school in the fall, with a focus on public law and civil rights, in addition to looking forward to the Olympic trials.
Thomas expressed, “I have developed a strong desire and deep passion to fight for trans equality and rights. I have witnessed hateful attacks on trans rights through legislative measures.”