Iszac Henig Reaches Podium in ‘Dream Come True’ Swim in Historic Race for Transgender Athletes

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Lia Thomas was not the only transgender swimmer to make the 100 freestyle final at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Division I Championships. Iszac Henig is a transgender swimmer for Yale.

His story is very different from Thomas, but also extremely similar in a lot of ways.

Henig identifies as a transgender man, but has not gone through any hormone replacement therapy — so is eligible to compete at the meet.

Henig finished tied for fifth in the 100 freestyle in 47.32, tied with Louisville’s Gabi Albiero.

Thomas, who won the 500 freestyle, finished eighth. After the race, Henig and Thomas posed for a photo together on the podium.

“It was incredible. It was a dream come true. I came into the meet just hoping to do my best, and it worked out really well,” Henig said. “It is so fun to race your friends and have someone to push you to go faster. This entire meet is filled with incredible athletes that I just feel honored to be here competing.”

Iszac Henig and Thomas both had the message “Let Trans Kids Play” written on their arms during the race.

“It was very important to me to do it and I am glad that Lia joined me,” Henig said. “There are so many bills in so many different states that want to bar trans athletes, I think I need to use the platform I have to speak out, and that is really powerful for me.”

Henig received a decent amount of cheers from the crows, and Thomas, who had not receive as warm of a reception earlier in the meet, heard much more cheers and no audible negative feedback during introductions or on the podium afterward.

The mixed reaction is nothing new for Henig.

“You never want to hear bad things written about you from people who don’t have best intentions, but at the end of the day, it is my support network that keeps me stronger,” Iszac Henig said.

Demonstrators protested transgender athletes outside the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech, each full day of the meet. They were met on the first day by a counter protest.

Henig was aware of it, but athletes have a different entrance to the building, so he never had to walk through it.

“I got to come in the back, so I didn’t have to deal with any of that. There are so many different things actually risking women’s sports like equal pay and coverage from news networks. That is far more important to me than someone’s birth gender.”

51 Comments
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Bob Button
10 months ago

Rules question:

Doesn’t NCAA have rule against the statement written on the arm?

Would a young woman in that final have been allowed to have the following on her arm?

“Women’s swimming is for women”

This is a serious question for swim officials.

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Veritas
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob Button

There are fairly detailed rules for messaging swim suits, caps, goggles and other attire, but those address mostly commercial issues like size of logos. There are also prohibitions on vulgar and profane language in the ethical obligations of coaches and student-athletes. I don’t see anything about political messages in the rules, but I just took a quick skim through them.

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Terpswim
10 months ago

Um, so this swimmer is (or was until recently) a female who is ‘transgendering’ into a male? So why isn’t this swimmer competing in the men’s swim meet next week? Thomas is (or was) a male who is swimming against women in the women’s meet, so it seems Henig should swim against the men? Or do trans swimmers get to pick and choose whatever race they think they can do best in?

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Dabrecia Dye
10 months ago
Reply to  Terpswim

I said the same thing. The fact the Thomas & Henig have swam in the same races pretty much proves that they just want what they want when they want it. Henig should’ve said it was “transphobic” to not be in the men’s race

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denyeverything
10 months ago
Reply to  Terpswim

Henig hasn’t started hormone replacement therapy so he can still compete in the women’s. Frankly, neither should’ve been in this race.

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Jeanne Erling
10 months ago
Reply to  Terpswim

Exactly. Thomas should’ve just finished career first. Timing is wonderful for her, extremely unfair to biological women who have worked hard and HAD a chance to win or place in top 3.

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Nick
10 months ago
Reply to  Terpswim

It depends on how far along in their transition they are, Lia did a similar thing in her last year on the male team where she was racing in a womens suit.

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Testosterone levels have little to do with it Y chromosome individuals should only compete against other Y chromosome individuals.

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Dave B
10 months ago
Reply to  Terpswim

If Henig hasn’t begun hormone therapy why would there a problem. After all, Henig is competing in the race with people of the same biological sex (I thought that was what people who oppose Lia Thomas’s participation want) , and Henig has no unfair advantage.

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Dave B

I think you’re missing the point they’re trying to portray this as a trans gender man winning in a competition overlooking the fact that he is participating with women

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Melissa
10 months ago
Reply to  Terpswim

Perhaps before commenting false information you should read the article again. It clearly states she identifies as a transgendered man but has not started any therapy. Therefore she swam with the women because she is still biologically a woman. This is how misinformation is spread. Read and understand the facts before commenting

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Tony
7 months ago
Reply to  Melissa

She will always be biologically a women

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Veritas
10 months ago

You neglect to mention that the medical “treatment” for Ms. Henig has involved doctors mutilating her by doing an unnecessary double mastectomy. So, her case is in some ways an even more horrific example of medical malevolence than the case of Lia Thomas.

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Veritas
10 months ago
Reply to  Veritas

And I not being critical of her. I am outraged that she has been the victim of this medical malevolence.

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Nikita
10 months ago
Reply to  Veritas

HE identifies as HE. You are transphobic.

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Logical Hammer
10 months ago
Reply to  Nikita

HE is competing in women’s events.

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Dave B
10 months ago
Reply to  Logical Hammer

And Lia Thomas – SHE is competing in women’s events. Interesting that the same people who condemn Lia Thomas for swimming in women’s events have a problem with Henig, who is a biological female and has not taken any hormones. Maybe its the trans part they have a problem with, they just don’t want them around.

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Dave B

Nobody really has a problem with her competing we have a problem with the article trying to insinuate she won competing against men.

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Sandra Nicht
10 months ago
Reply to  Logical Hammer

without having taken any male hormones and thus is still eligible to compete as a woman while psychologically transitioning to his preferred gender expression.

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Jennifer
10 months ago
Reply to  Veritas

By having his decisions respected?

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Swimmer
10 months ago
Reply to  Veritas

Man stfu

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Jeanne Erling
10 months ago

Transgenders can play, but should play against original sex. Wait until 6’9” 290 lb men transition and get to play basketball against women. Because this just opened that door.

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Erika
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeanne Erling

?

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeanne Erling

Did you hear about an extreme fighter who is a man who got to compete against women and fractured a woman skull.

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Jennifer
10 months ago
Reply to  Mel

It was an orbital fracture, which is extremely common in MMA and other combat sports. Cis women who choose to fight don’t need to be coddled.

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Jennifer
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeanne Erling

You know there are cis women playing professional basketball who fit this description, right?

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Swimfan
10 months ago

I don’t understand why Iszac is swimming in the women’t meet if Iszac identifies as a male. Isn’t he not being true to his true self by competing in the women’s competition?

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Erika
10 months ago
Reply to  Swimfan

I guess it’s whatever benefits Iszac for the time being.

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Ash
10 months ago
Reply to  Erika

Actually it’s not. He can’t actually perform on the mens team until he starts hormone therapy and has been on it for a significant amount of time. And before anyone says he is putting it off, there are a lot of medical reasons that he may not be able to start hormone therapy yet, despite wanting too. Also, hormone therapy is not cheap and not always covered by insurance.

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Ash

He absolutely is allowed to participate on the men’s team he chooses not to. There is no required minimum testosterone level.

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Nikita
10 months ago
Reply to  Swimfan

If you read the article you would see it’s because they have not taken hormone replacement therapy. Not hard to understand at all.

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Jason
10 months ago
Reply to  Nikita

You don’t have to have a certain amount of testosterone in your body to compete as a male. So Iszac is making a decision to compete against women, why? If Iszac identifies as a male and doesn’t believe that biological sex is advantageous to to Lia, than surely the flip side of that coin is Iszac should be able to compete on the Men’s team without any issues too. The reality is Iszac couldn’t make the Men’s team so if Iszac wants to swim while in college Iszac has to stay on the Women’s team. If Iszac wants to stand up for Trans rights Iszac should put his money where his mouth is and switch to the Men’s team. But of course the reason he won’t do that is obvious to everyone that can still think rationally. He wouldn’t be placing third at these meets in the Men’s division because he would even be able to make the team with those times.

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Laura
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason

Perfect

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Gail C.
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason

I completely agree with you. Iszac identifies as male, but won’t compete with the men until he gets testosterone treatment. So testosterone seems to be his deciding factor in continuing to compete with females. He knows he cannot compete with biological men without having testosterone treatments. On the other hand, Lia, who has gone through male puberty and has had the physical benefit of testosterone for 20-plus years, is allowed to compete against biological females. If she had any respect for women or women’s sports, she would not have competed against women knowing that she has a lifetime of biological advantages from being born male. There should be separate categories for transgender athletes. The Paralympics has many different categories for athletes with different types of physical abilities.

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Jennifer
10 months ago
Reply to  Gail C.

So it’s about testosterone until you remember the stringent testosterone testing for trans women, then you reach for a way to make it fit.

OK.

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Neal
9 months ago
Reply to  Jason

The reason that he can not compete yet is because he has not started hormone therapy. If you had read the article you would know but you don’t have common sense.

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Luke Adam
10 months ago

What a load of rubbish, girls should not have to compete against men. If a girl wants to dress like a man that’s fine she is still a girl, if a man wants to dress like girl all good too. But each should have to compete against their own gender.

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Luke Adam

Well we don’t let people use testosterone to enhance their performance. So if Isaac wanted to take testosterone supplements to feel more like a man then he would not qualify to participate in women’s sports. Again we don’t allow steroid enhancing drugs for sports.

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Lacy
10 months ago

Unacceptable. Sports should be based on biological sex not feelings.

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ted
10 months ago

time biological women stood up for themselves

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Sally Price
10 months ago

No, it is not more important then someone’s birth gender otherwise you wouldn’t have the categories of male or female- and Lia Thomas would have continued to swim with the men’s team. I really wonder whether the world views of the trans community are skewed by the lack of social and emotional understanding that is a hallmark if autism.

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Kim Nava
10 months ago

I think that the trans gender community did themselves a disservice here. Lia was concerned with only Lia and was used by an activist community without regard for all the women athletes they trampled on to further their cause. I’m certain not all transgender people agree with NCAA’s decision to allow pressure to influence their decision rather than the spirit of true fairness and a level playing field. These are two different issues and the end doesn’t justify the means. This was clearly unfair competition. It was dishonest and took the spotlight off those who deserved it. My heart breaks for the young women who were completely disregarded and cheated out of the opportunity they worked so hard for over the past 15 or more years. Tragic!

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Too doggie
10 months ago

Why did he compete on the women’s team? No self respecting guy would compete on the women’s or girl’s team. If your are going to be a man then start acting like one. This whole season has turn women’s swimming into a confused hot mess. Now trans women and men can swim on the women’s teams. This has turned into a bad joke. Don’t even call the category women’s swimming anymore.

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Mel
10 months ago
Reply to  Too doggie

I agree there should be Y chromosome sports and non-y chromosome sports.

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Neal
9 months ago
Reply to  Mel

What about people with Swyer Syndrome. Even though they are female, they have XY chromosomes. Does it mean they have to participate in the Men’s competitions even though they have female anatomy?

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Daing Pusit
10 months ago

This is just the beginning of the end. If authorities does not make any action to correct this oppressive mistake as early as today, just wait when you see all biological men from 1st to nth competing in the womens category. You may say Lia is just 1 or with Iszac they are only a few, just wait when real men take advantage of this option to succeed financially. Just wait when this rule is exploited by persons or corporations or countries who have less chances of success in any competition. Make this right today not tomorrow or it might be too late. Biological women of authority and influence stand up for your rights and for your daughters.

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Fairgame
10 months ago

Henig is different from Thomas. Henig transitioned socially, but kept competing as birth right. Henig is an example how trans people can complete without losing the lifestyle of their own choice. Thomas should learn, and follow suit, and then maybe earn some respect back. Henig was not in the same boat as Thomas.
Congrats to Henig.

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Ollie
10 months ago

What a MESS , how pathetic , there is No discussion , how funny a situation , man pretending to be a woman swimming against women , woman pretending to be a man swimming against women , what’s going on , there is insanity here , they are both a big joke

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Ken
10 months ago

At birth you are a male or female. If a male wants pretend that they are a woman ….to dress and act like a woman, change his name, grow long hair, etc., that’s their choice. BUT they are not women nor can they ever be a woman. Don’t screw up women’s sports by using unfair male physical advantages for your own ego.

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Gigi
10 months ago

I’m not saying transgender men should be banned from sports but perhaps the powers that be can create a strictly transgender men only sports and they can pose as women and compete as women together but if they’re all men it’s more of an equal vantage

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Jakkalsie
10 months ago
Reply to  Gigi

Good idea. Keep the playing fields even. What benefit is the NCAA getting financially by not doing so?