Lia Thomas: Transgender swimmer says ‘trans women are not a threat to women’s sport’

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Speaking to ABC’s Juju Chang, Thomas said, “Trans people don’t transition into athletics. We transition into being happy and authentic and ourselves.”

Thomas has recently become the face of the debate over transgender women in sports. In 2017, she arrived at the University of Pennsylvania and joined the men’s swim team, but during her early years in college, Thomas grew increasingly depressed.

The transition was costly and challenged her swimming career.

“That’s part of what kept me from transitioning for so long. The thing is, I wasn’t sure I could continue swimming and playing the sport I love,” Thomas said.

Despite this, she started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2019 during her second year.

“The mental and emotional changes actually happened very quickly,” she said. “I felt a lot better mentally, I was less depressed and I lost muscle mass. I became much weaker and much slower in the water.”

Per NCAA protocols, she took a year off swimming and joined the UPenn women’s team in 2020.

“I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman. I was prepared for that,” she said. “But I also don’t need anyone’s permission to be myself and play the sport I love.”

Thomas said “there are a lot of factors that go into a race”, but the biggest difference now is that she’s happy.

“It allows me to put everything into training and racing,” she said.

In March, Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle event.

Now out of college, she has her sights set on something bigger.

“It has been my goal for a very long time to swim in the Olympic Trials and I would love to achieve that,” she said.

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