Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas defended his participation in women’s sports in his first TV interview.
“Trans women are not a threat to women’s sports,” Thomas told ABC News and ESPN in an interview that aired Tuesday.
“Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes,” Thomas, who competed in women’s swimming during his time at the University of Pennsylvania, added. “The NCAA rules regarding trans women competing in women’s sports have been around for 10-plus years. And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.”
Thomas, a biological male, competed on the University of Pennsylvania men’s team for three years before identifying as female and transitioning to the women’s team.
Thomas, who began hormone replacement therapy in May 2019, told ABC News, “What kept me from transitioning for so long is I wasn’t sure if I could continue swimming.” NCAA guidelines allowed Thomas to compete after just one year of hormone replacement therapy.
“I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman and I was prepared for that,” Thomas said.
“I was prepared for that, but I also don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself and to do the sport that I love,” Thomas added.
In March, Thomas won the NCAA championship title in women’s 500-yard freestyle by over a second, beating biologically female competitors. According to Swimming World Magazine, Thomas was previously ranked 65th in men’s 500-yard freestyle.
Asked about a possible competitive advantage and the large change in ranking, Thomas responded, “There is a lot of factors that go into a race and how well you do and the biggest change for me is that I am happy.”
“Thomas is, and always will be, a male,” Jay Richards, director of the DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an interview Tuesday. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“If a man can compete in women’s sports after a few months of taking estrogen, then what is the logic in having sex-segregated sports in the first place?” Richards added.
Thomas also argued that it was “the biggest misconception” that he transitioned to “have an advantage.”
“The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned,” Thomas said. “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself.”
Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and 14 other states have instituted a variety of bans on biological males competing in women’s sports.
Thomas also indicated a desire to continuing swimming as a woman competitively, saying, “It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time and I would love to see that through.”
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