Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas: 'Trans Women Are Not A Threat To Women's Sports'

The recent college graduate and first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA swimming championship said she intends to keep swimming.

Transgender athlete Lia Thomas pushed back at her critics during her first sit down interview following her historic NCAA swimming championship win this spring, reiterating that “trans women are not a threat to women’s sports.”

“I intend to keep swimming,” she said in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America after making history in March as the first openly transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division I national championship in any sport.

Thomas graduated from the University of Pennsylvania this month after competing for three years on the men’s swim team and then on the women’s team this past season after transitioning. In that final season, after completing a year of hormone replacement therapy as required by the NCAA to change gender categories, she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle event with a season-best time of 4 minutes, 33.24 seconds. She said she now plans to attend law school with a goal of competing in the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

“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.

But her NCAA win was met with controversy with critics saying that she had an unfair, physical advantage against her female cisgender competitors. Some members on her own swim team said they support her as a trans woman but said she posed a threat to women’s sports and shouldn’t compete against cisgender women like them.

Thomas dismissed her teammates’ claimed support.

“You can’t go halfway and be, like, ‘I support trans women and trans people, but only to a certain point,’” Thomas said. “Where if you support trans women as women, they’ve met all the NCAA requirements, then I don’t know if you can really say something like that.”

She also questioned whether some cisgender women who have naturally higher testosterone levels and larger bone structure and physique should be allowed to compete against other cisgender women if people like her are disqualified.

“I’m not a medical expert, but there’s a lot of variation among cis female athletes,” she said.

Then-University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas accepts the winning trophy for the 500 Freestyle finals during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta in March.
Then-University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas accepts the winning trophy for the 500 Freestyle finals during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta in March.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The future for transgender athletes competing in ways that Thomas has remains in question, however, with the NCAA in January updating its transgender athlete eligibility guidelines to say that each sport’s national governing body can make their own rules. These guidelines are slated to go into effect next season.

At least 18 states have meanwhile enacted laws or statewide rules that prohibit or limit transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports at public schools. Some states have also passed, or attempted to pass, legislation that targets transgender bathroom access and gender-affirming care for children.

Thomas was personally cited as motivators for some of those athletic rule changes. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who last year issued one such ban in his state, personally issued a proclamation against Thomas’ NCAA victory in March while naming Thomas’ second-place competitor the “rightful winner.”

“The NCAA’s actions serve to erode opportunities for women athletes and perpetuate a fraud against women athletes as well as the public at large,” he said in a statement.

Thomas continues to dismiss her critics’ findings and imposed limitations.

“Trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole,” she said. “Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. 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.”