SwimSwam, a news website that covers swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming, recently ran this headline: “Princeton Sweeps Ivy Tri Meet; Penn’s Lia Thomas Sets New Program Records.”

The article hyped the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s swim team victory in the 400 free relay, then said,

The victory in the 400 free relay put an exclamation point on a big day for Thomas, as she won three events, set a pair of program records and posted the top time in the NCAA in two events. Thomas touched fist [sic] in the 200 free at 1:43.47.  It was the fastest mark in the NCAA in the event this season and a new program best. She also finished first in the 500 free with a program record time of 4:35.06. She won the 500 free by over 12 seconds and her mark was the fastest in the NCAA this year. Thomas also added a victory in the 100 free (49.42).

What SwimSwam failed to point out was that Thomas was born male and had competed for the U Penn Quakers men’s swimming team for three years, from 2017 to 2020. Born Will Thomas, the athlete identifies as a woman and heads up “Penn Non-Cis.”

The student-run campus organization explains:

Penn Non-Cis is a student-run organization that serves trans students (graduate and undergraduate) at the University of Pennsylvania. We promote discussion about gender identity and expression (their emphasis).

Non-Cis is short for Non-Cisgender, which is a term that we use to encompass trans (transgender, agender, bigender, genderqueer, etc.) and questioning people.

“Cisgender” is a term coined by the transgender movement to describe individuals who don’t struggle with gender confusion and identify as the sex they were born.

Penn Non-Cis says:

Our goal is to make a tangible difference in the Penn community through providing an affinity space for noncis (sic) students and education for the community at large. We do this through sharing information, raising awareness, education, events, speakers, and most importantly creating a safe space where people can be sure that “gender” will be at the center of the conversation.

Penn Today posted an opinion piece masquerading as a news article, quoting Thomas. The article noted that 117 “anti-trans” bills were introduced in 33 U.S. states. The various laws were ones to protect women’ and girls sports from male-bodied athletes; to preserve single-sex spaces for men and women; and to safeguard children and teens from permanent, body-damaging puberty blockers, opposite-sex hormones and surgeries.

Thomas called such proposals “vicious anti-trans legislation.” He also said this about competing in women’s sports, “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.”

But in this case, while we should have compassion for Thomas’ gender confusion and rejection of his male body, the issue isn’t whether competing against women is “rewarding” for him.

The real issue is this: Thomas, who grew up in a male body, is now using his athletic skills and his male body to take swimming opportunities, records and wins from real women.

His male body is very different from theirs, even with opposite-sex hormones and any surgeries he’s had.

The Independent Women’s Forum and Law Center recently published a resource that explains some of those biological differences that give Thomas an edge in the pool. The report, “Competition: Title X, Male-Bodied Athletes, and the Threat to Women’s Sports” lists some of those differences:

  • Males have larger hearts and lungs than females.
  • Men have a higher concentration of hemoglobin and better aerobic capacity.
  • Men have “longer, larger, and denser skeletal structures” and “approximately 36% greater muscle mass than grown females.”
  • Male puberty confers a significant, and lasting, athletic advantage.
  • “The male-female athletic differential is significant by age 15.”

The report goes on to explain that males have a 10% to 13% advantage over females in the sport of swimming. Perhaps that’s why Thomas is setting program records and “blasted the number one 200 free time and the second-fastest 500 free time in the nation.”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s guidance on “transgender student-athletes” is making it possible for a male-bodied athlete to displace women on the U Penn team and to set new “program records.”

The organization is supposed to safeguard and promote women’s sports. Instead, as the booklet “Competition” points out, the organization is “decreasing the chances of female athletic success” and “taking away roster spots, playing time, and potential scholarships from female athletes.”

Related articles and resources

Girls Don’t Chest Bump: Transgender Athletes Subverting Title IX

It’s Official: First Transgender-Identified Athlete to Compete at Olympics

Parent Resource Guide: Responding to the Transgender Issue

Poll Finds Most Americans Oppose Transgender Athletes Competing in Sports According to Gender Identity

U.S. Department of Education Withdraws Support for Female Athletes

World Rugby Finds Men and Women are Different: Announces New Guidelines Protecting Elite Women Players

Photo from Instagram.