Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas speaks out after receiving massive backlash

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has spoken out after receiving a massive backlash for competing in women’s events for the University of Pennsylvania

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has spoken out after receiving a massive backlash for competing in women’s events for the University of Pennsylvania.

The 22-year-old Thomas has been making headlines after setting a number of women’s records for her university.

She competed at the Zippy International earlier this month, setting a new pool and meet record in the preliminaries of the 500 metre freestyle.

In the finals, she swam more than 12 seconds faster, finishing in first place with a time of 4 mins 34.06 secs. That time is currently the best in the country for the women’s collegiate event.

Thomas has now given an interview for SwimSwam Podcast, detailing her transition from male to female.

"I first realised I was trans the summer before, in 2018," she said. "There was a lot of uncertainty, I didn’t know what I would be able to do, if I would be able to keep swimming.

"And so, I decided to swim out the 2018-2019 year as a man, without coming out, and that caused a lot of distress to me.

"I was struggling, my mental health was not very good. It was a lot of unease, basically just feeling trapped in my body. It didn’t align. I decided it was time to come out and start my transition."

Thomas began to transition in May 2019, beginning hormone replacement therapy. She continued to compete on the men’s team, however, and her performances dipped.

One year after beginning testosterone suppression, she submitted all of her medical work to the NCAA, and was approved to compete on the women’s swimming team at the University of Pennsylvania.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the entire 2020-21 season, meaning Thomas has only just begun competing as a woman.

"It’s been a lot of struggles in the 12 months prior to coming out to everybody, to the initial awkwardness, and the uncertainty of first starting out transitioning," she said.

"There just seems to be so much to do and things you have to take care of, and it just seems like this mountain.

"But you get by it day by day, and build confidence each day, and I’m feeling confident and good in my swimming and all my personal relationships.

"Transitioning has allowed me to be more confident in all of those aspects of my life, where I was struggling a lot before I came out.

"The team has been unbelievably supportive since the beginning... I feel very supported. Just treated like any other member of the women’s team."

Even though Thomas meets the eligibility standards set by the NCAA for women’s events, she has received massive backlash for competing.

Broadcaster and journalist Piers Morgan accused Thomas of "destroying women’s sport" and claimed it was "cruel and discriminatory" for her to be competing in the pool against cisgender women.

The topic is a much-discussed one in the United States, particularly after nine states, including Texas and Florida, recently decided to ban transgender athletes from competing in female sports at schools.

The legislation, which applies to public school teams through high school, is part of a national campaign introduced by Republicans in 32 states. They claim it is protecting fair competition.

But, equal rights activists have argued there is no evidence that trans women and girls are dominating sports.

Ricardo Martinez, chief executive of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas, called the bill a "hateful, targeted attack on transgender people."

Transgender MMA fighter Alana McLaughlin also claimed politicians in Texas were using trans kids as "scapegoats".

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