Lia Thomas to Sports Illustrated: ‘I Want to Swim and Compete as Who I Am’

lia-thomas-penn, transgender

As Penn swimmer Lia Thomas prepares for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Division I Championships, she has spoken up about being a transgender swimmer.

Thomas was recently interviewed by Sports Illustrated and is on their daily cover.

“I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone,” Lia Thomas told SI. “They don’t have to choose between who they are and the sport they love. I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team. I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer. It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love. I get into the water every day and do my best.”

Thomas is the top seed at the NCAA Championships in the 200 and 500 freestyles. She will also swim the 100 freestyle. She won all three of her NCAA entries at the recent Ivy League Championships.

When the season started, Lia Thomas was in compliance with an NCAA rule that required transgender women to have undergone hormone-suppressant therapy for at least a year prior to competition. The NCAA rule, though, was based on early 2010s science and controversy erupted, primarily concerning the advantages held by Thomas due to undergoing male puberty. In response to arguments over Thomas’ participation in a women’s sport, the NCAA indicated it would follow USA Swimming’s guidelines to determine transgender eligibility.

USA Swimming eventually announced the adoption of new guidelines that required transgender women to have a testosterone threshold of 5 nmols/L for 36 consecutive months. The NCAA, in response, indicated it would not follow USA Swimming’s guidelines and stated that it would require athletes to produce a testosterone threshold of 10 nmols/L prior to the NCAA Championships. The average testosterone threshold for a female is .5 to 2.4 nmols/L.

Lia Thomas told SI she initially put off hormone replacement therapy because she worried that it could end her swimming career. But she began HRT in May 2019. “I did HRT knowing and accepting I might not swim again,” she said. “I was just trying to live my life. … I felt, mentally, a lot better and healthier pretty quickly. The relief it gave me was quite substantial.”

“I don’t know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would love to continue doing it,” Lia Thomas told SI. “I want to swim and compete as who I am.”