Controversy in Collegiate Women’s Swimming

Controversy in Collegiate Womens Swimming

Liv Swaney

Lia Thomas placed 1st in the NCAA 500 meter swim, being the first ever trans woman to do so in Division 1 athletics. As Lia stood on the podium and was adorned with her medal, anti-trans and hate groups rallied outside the pool, protesting the legitimacy of her participation. Currently ranked 1st in Division 1 Women’s Swimming, pre-transition she was ranked 412th in Division 1 Men’s Swimming.

After coming out to teammates in her junior year of college, she began her transition on New Years of 2020. In order for her to be able to compete in women’s athletics instead of men’s she has to be on hormone treatment for at least one year. She finished out her junior year on the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s team, before finishing out her senior year on the women’s.

Lia is actively taking Antiandrogen therapy and estrogen therapy to aid her transition. Antiandrogen therapy is the suppression of testosterone and results in the following:

  • Decreased muscle mass.
  • Fewer erections.
  • Change in sex drive (libido).
  • Smaller testicles.
  • Thinning facial and body hair

Estrogen therapy side effects are the following:

  • Softer skin.
  • More fat on the hips, buttocks and face.
  • Full breasts.
  • Mood changes, anxiety or depression.

Many medical institutions such as the Mayo clinic, UMBC, and the Cleveland Clinic, report that the effects of the treatments are generally complete by the end of two to three years. Meaning that Lia Thomas is fully transitioned or almost finished transitioning. Additionally that means that Thomas has lost at least 10% of her previous muscle mass and her testosterone levels are equivalent to what a woman’s would be. This would make her almost equal with the body types of all other women swimmers.

Since there is still a legitimate body size difference between Lia and her teammates, she has been scrutinized and ostracized by the community, and even some of her own teammates. Thomas told NBC news that, “I don’t look into the negativity and hate…I am here to swim.” Even with her eyes on the prize, her entrance onto the national stage has caused ripple effects in states legislatures.

Over 92 anti-trans bills have been proposed by state lawmakers this year, according to Freedom for All Americans, a nonprofit group that advocates for LGBTQ protections nationwide. Many of the bills aim to bar trans athletes from competing on girls’ and women’s sports teams. 10 states have enacted similar legislation since 2020.

Through the trials and tribulations of transitioning while being under fire by the media and people who were considered to be family, Lia remains proud and determined to take her swimming career to the next steps. She reported to the insider that she intends to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Her monumental decision opens the door for the future of all trans athletes.