Penn State transgender athlete creates a wave of controversy

Transgender University of Pennsylvania swim team member Lia Thomas has stirred controversy by competing on the women’s team. Thomas is a transgender woman who has become the subject of many heated debates over which team she should compete with. The arguments against Thomas competing in the women’s league assert that her biological make-up is still that of a male. Ignoring the fact that she has been on estrogen and testosterone for two and a half years, which far surpasses the NCAA’s required criteria of one year, this is simply a logical fallacy as biology is not binary. These arguments are generally made out of ignorance surrounding the “male-to-female” transition process. The assigned male at birth body is heavily affected by estrogen, the hormone Thomas takes. According to UCSF’s Transgender Care program, notable effects of estrogen include decrease in muscle mass, as well as redistribution of body fat. The only physical trait Thomas possesses that is evenly remotely some sort of advantage over most cisgender women is her relatively broad shoulders. Spoiler Alert: cisgender women can also have broad shoulders.

The controversy lies in her ability to dominate in her events. She was a very successful swimmer in the men’s league and this trend is continuing in her women’s league career. The sad truth is simply that transgender athletes are only tolerated when they do not dominate, when they are quiet and forgettable. When Thomas crushes her competitors she is compared to those who use performance-enhancing drugs before competitions. Her good sportsmanship is disregarded and countless news outlets publish “exposé” pieces about how she dared brag after winning a single race. Her effort and dedication to her sport is ignored and large publications are champing at the bit to demonize her. Michael Phelps, a giant in her sport has himself called for “an even playing field.” The irony in this lies in his variety of genetic rarities that make him a physically superior swimmer. Why then, is his career fair but Thomas’s is not. As joked by Twitter user @ErinInTheMorn “Remember. Advantages only matter if you’re trans.”