Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas insisted in an interview Tuesday that athletes like her “are not a threat to women’s sports” — while revealing that she now has her eye on the Olympics.
“I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman, and I was prepared for that,” the 22-year-old Texan told “Good Morning America” in her first TV interview about the controversy sparked by her record-breaking performances in the pool.
“But I also don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself and to do the sport that I love,” she said defiantly.
“I intend to keep swimming … 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,” she said.
The Penn swimmer bluntly dismissed experts who insist that she has an unfair advantage having gone through puberty as a male before transitioning.
One, Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, told ABC News that a slew of advantages — including “body size, airway size, hand size, foot size, perhaps bone density” — would remain even after years of hormone therapy for trans athletes.
Thomas suggested that such criticism was unfair given the differences found in all athletes.
“I’m not a medical expert, but there’s a lot of variation among cis female athletes,” she said, referring to the term “cisgender,” describing people whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth.“There are cis women who are very tall and very muscular and have more testosterone than another cis woman, and should that then also disqualify them?” she asked.
Thomas recalled the “amazing experience” of winning an NCAA title — the first ever by a trans athlete — while “competing as my authentic self” after less impressive results competing in the men’s division.
She insisted that was far more important than the criticism of experts and other athletes complaining that she may have an unfair advantage.“Trans women are not a threat to women’s sports,” she insisted.
“Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves.
“Transitioning to get an advantage is not something that ever factors into our decisions,” she told ABC News’ Juju Chang.In fact, she said, one of the main reasons she had delayed transitioning until 2019 was because of the fear she might be barred from “doing the sport I love.”
She also ripped the 16 of her Penn teammates who signed an anonymous letter arguing that she posed a threat to women’s sports even though she had followed all the guidelines before competing.
“You can’t go halfway and be, like, ‘I support trans women and trans people, but only to a certain point,’” Thomas said in response to her teammates’ letters.“Where if you support trans women as women and they’ve met all the NCAA requirements, then I don’t know if you can really say something like that.”