Trans Penn swimmer loses to other trans swimmer in women's tournament finals, but with a twist

Trans Penn swimmer loses to other trans swimmer in women's tournament finals, but with a twist
(Simon Bruty/OIS/IOC via AP)

We’ve recently covered the story of Lia Thomas, the transgender swimmer who has been “smashing records” at the University of Pennsylvania this winter. As a male competing against women, Thomas has been able to rack up an impressive streak of victories, though not challenging the overall NCAA records in the various women’s events. This has led to a great deal of consternation among the actual female competitors and their families, as well as some (but not all) members of the coaching staff.

Things changed this weekend, however, during Penn’s final home meet of the season, a three-way matchup with Yale and Dartmouth. Thomas once again won the 200 ad 500-meter freestyle competitions, but when the 100-meter freestyle came around, the trans athlete finished in sixth place. In what initially seemed like a bit of delicious irony, it was reported that Thomas lost the match to another transgender swimmer. But there was more to that story than initially met the eye. (Outkick)

Penn transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who had been crushing her competition since joining the women’s swim team after three years swimming as a biological male, met her match Saturday in the 100-meter freestyle during a tri-meet with Yale and Dartmouth.

Thomas won the 200-meter and 500-meter races at Penn’s final home meet of the season, but she finished sixth in the 100-meter where Yale’s Iszac Henig, a transgender swimmer who is in the process of transitioning from female to male, crushed Thomas. Henig finished the 100 in 49.57 while Thomas touched the wall in 52.84.

“I wasn’t prepared for that. Everything is messed up. I can’t wrap my head around this. The NCAA needs to do something about this. They need to put science into the decision and discussion,” a Penn swim parent told The Daily Mail.

Henig also defeated Thomas in their respective leg of the 400-meter relay race, as well as winning the 50-meter freestyle.

When this headline first broke out on social media I saw a number of people jumping on it, but they were making an incorrect assumption. It appeared that some people assumed that one male swimmer had defeated another male swimmer in the women’s tournament, but that wasn’t the case. The winner, Iszac Henig, is indeed another transgender competitor, but Henig is transitioning from female to male, not the other way around. Since Henig wasn’t born and raised in a male body, there was no inherent advantage over the women, such as the one enjoyed by Thomas.

Further, Henig is not taking hormone therapy as part of the transition and is only “transitioning socially.” The swimmer did undergo a mastectomy, which I suppose might provide a slight advantage in terms of reduced resistance in the water. But without taking testosterone (which would have provided a significant, unfair advantage over the rest of the actual women), there isn’t enough of an advantage for me to really complain about allowing the race to proceed. After all, in reality, this is just another woman competing against the rest of the college women plus Thomas.

Not all of the irony has been removed from the story, however. What this really means is that trans swimmer Thomas was beaten by an actual woman, so how well would Thomas do against the guys? This is a subject we touched on when the story first emerged last month. Thomas may be setting records for the University of Pennsylvania and for these specific meets, but all of the times posted thus far are still slower than the current NCAA women’s division records for those events. And they are laughably far behind the men’s division records. And now, even with the distinct biological advantage that Thomas enjoys, the swimmer has been defeated in multiple events by an actual female.

That doesn’t remove all of the injustice from the situation, of course. There are still plenty of other legitimate female college athletes who are being bumped down the charts. As the linked article indicates, one parent of a female Penn swimmer was once again calling for the NCAA to “put science into the decision and discussion.” We already saw one collegiate swimming official end her career in protest over what’s been going on. Sadly, the NCAA has clearly drunk deeply from the new chalice of wokeness and they aren’t likely to voluntarily embark on a return to sanity any time soon.

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