Until 2019, Will Thomas had been competing in swimming as a male. He was a middling quality swimmer. The he took a year off due to Covid, grew his hair, changed his name to Lia, and made the outward physical and chemical transition to appearing as a woman.
Now, Thomas is competing on the University women’s swim team and smashing records. He doesn’t swim faster than before, but he’s now competing against women who don’t have the upper-body advantage that he does.
In two events — the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle — Thomas has the fastest times, and the season has just started. H/she is one of two swimmers in each category to meet the “A” qualification that results in an invitation to the national championships in March. H/she has already broken the conference record in the 200 by 3.22 seconds, and in the 500 by 2.25 seconds at the Zippy Invitational.
Thomas’ dominance in the pool is unusual to do from the Ivy League, which has had only one swimmer — Cristina Teuscher — win a women’s NCAA individual title in any event.
Thomas is the national top seed thus far in two NCAA events and fifth in a third — the 1,650-yard freestyle.
To compare, Alaskan and Olympic Gold Medalist Lydia Jacoby swam the 100-yard breaststroke in 59 seconds at the the Alaska state high school swimming and diving championship in November. The famous Seward swimmer’s time was a state record and will likely rank her at the very top among American high school swimmers. It was a remarkable swim.
But if Jacoby had raced in the boys’ 100-yard breaststroke final, her time would have put her in sixth place.
If the boys’ champion, Patrick Foy, a sophomore from Juneau, had decided to take a year to transition to appearing as a female, his time would have wiped out the fastest woman ever, of any age, during any time in Alaska. As a boy, Foy may end up with pretty good results on the national level. With that said, although he was over four seconds faster than Jacoby, his ranking will not be nearly as good as hers. They are in different categories, ones that reflect physiological differences.
Boys are significantly faster at swimming than girls, as a rule, thus boys and girls are in two different, incomparable categories when it comes to many sports. Foy’s 100-yard breaststroke is quite good, while Jacoby’s breaststroke, though four seconds slower, is phenomenal. Much like a bicyclist has a clear and unfair mechanical advantage over a runner, young males have a clear physiological advantage over young females — an advantage so clear and unfair that they belong in different categories.
Thomas told the University of Pennsylvania student newspaper that, “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue has been very rewarding.” It’s certainly been rewarding for him. He is soundly defeating his female competition at the NCAA Division 1 level and taking home the medals.
It’s not rewarding for his competitors, however. Allowing biological males to compete in female swimming competitions denies every female swimmer their rightful, promised opportunity, after these girls and women have trained hard, day after day, year after year for most of their young lives, just so they have a shot at their moment in the sun.
Men swimming in women’s divisions are destroying the sport for women. Schools that permit it should be found in violation of Title IX. Women athletes would be in their right to sue for discrimination because of the unfair advantage these men clearly have.
Thomas would still have ample opportunity to compete in NCAA swimming even if he weren’t allowed to do so against women. Thomas would just have to compete against those athletes who share his physiological advantages.
In the likely event that Thomas goes on to win multiple events at the NCAA women’s national swimming championship and break multiple national records by large margins, women swimmers are wondering: Who is he going to brag to?