Female swimmer fights for women athletes as Lia Thomas goes all in on transgender ideology

Campus Reform spoke with Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer who tied with Thomas during the 200-yard freestyle in March.

Gaines said that she made it her mission to keep the conversation about protecting women's sports alive in the off-season.

Former University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) swimmer Lia Thomas made his first public appearance in a taped interview on Tuesday in which he refuted claims that he “enjoys” a competitive advantage.

Thomas told Good Morning America (GMA) that he does not have a biological advantage when competing against women and suggested that those claims are based on an anti-transgender bias.

”There’s a lot of factors that go into a race and how well you do,” Thomas said. “The biggest change for me is that I’m happy.”

However, female athletes tell a different story.

Campus Reform spoke with Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer who tied with Thomas during the 200-yard freestyle in March. 

Gaines said that she made it her mission to keep the conversation about protecting women’s sports alive in the off-season.

I kind of want to highlight this experience and not just my own, but other perspectives as well,” she said. ”Whether that be scientific perspectives, other people affected, swimmers and parents, and people that deal with this every day.” 

She continued, ”I just don’t want this to be a conversation that dies down, and so I’ve kind of made it my goal to continue it.”

Gaines is currently planning a series of speaking events and will attend rallies to back female athletes. She is also working to take legislative action by proposing a new policy, Title XX, to reflect biological chromosomes.

Thomas began hormone replacement therapy during his sophomore year. After competing for three years as on the men’s team, he transitioned to the women’s division as a senior and took home a national title at the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship.

Despite his jump in the rankings, rising from #462 to #1 in the matter of one season, Thomas claims that his gender transition depleted his athletic ability.

According to Thomas, HRT effects made him “slower” and “weaker” in the water. He also stated that he “lost muscle mass” during the transition.

[RELATED: Lia Thomas eyes the 2024 Olympics]

However, critics have been quick to discount his claim. Last week, Mayo clinic doctor attempted to set the record straight during an interview with The New York Times. 

Dr. Michael J. Joyner equated testosterone to being an “800-pound gorilla.”

Sports physiologist Dr. Ross Tucker told The New York Times that Thomas “is the manifestation of the scientific evidence,” drawing national attention back to the data that proves men are more athletic than women.

”The reduction in testosterone did not remove her biological advantage,” he assured.

The same has been said by former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner, who identifies as a woman, told Fox News in January that he refuses to gold against female competitors because of being naturally stronger- despite being on estrogen for several years.

Despite expert opinion, Thomas held fast to the belief that there is no difference between competing as a man or competing as a woman.

”I’m not a medical expert, but there’s a lot of variation among cis-female athletes,” he countered. “There are cis-women who are very tall and very muscular and have more testosterone than another cis-swimmer.”

Thomas then asked, “Should that disqualify them?”

While Thomas’ performance as a swimmer sparked national debate, it did not shift the support scale of most Americans. A 2021 Gallup poll found that 62% of Americans believe athletes should compete based on biological sex. 

[RELATED: DOED delays Title IX changes again as conservative lawmakers protect women’s sports]

The push to regulate gender division in sports has rippled through state legislatures across the nation. Currently, 18 states have banned men from competing in women’s sports. Additional states are considering similar proposals. Lawmakers in Ohio and Louisiana, for example, are deliberating their own version of such bills.

2022 experienced the largest surge in legislation passed regarding fairness in women’s sports. Many of the bills have been coined the “Save Women’s Sports” bill to emphasize focus on fair competition.

Thomas, however, is deaf to the concerns of critics.

”Trans women are not a threat to women’s sports,” he dictated.

A former UPenn teammate of Thomas disagrees. 

She was featured in Daily Wire commentator Matt Walsh’s documentary What is a Woman? under the condition of anonymity. 

In the film, the female said that women swimmers were censored from expressing criticism and gaslit to believe that they were not at a disadvantage.

”There was a lot of things you couldn’t talk about that were very concerning- like [the] locker room situation,” she said. “If you even brought up concerns about it, you were transphobic. If you even bring up the fact that Lia swimming might not be fair, you were immediately shut down [with] being called a ‘hateful person’ or ‘transphobic.’”

The swimmer explained that UPenn’s solution to consoling concerned female athletes was to host “LGBTQ activists” to discuss inclusion.

The anonymous swimmer wasn’t the only concerned voice that attempted to raise the red flag on men competing in women’s sports. 

In March, 16 members of the women’s team penned an anonymous letter to the Ivy League officials that requested Thomas be barred from competing at the conference championship.

The letter was composed by nearly half of the squad, as the women’s swimming roster holds 37 athletes.

[RELATED: Lia Thomas is ‘most likely to shatter the glass ceiling,’ classmates believe]

Thomas has since graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and told GMA he is shifting his focus to law school. Primarily, he may want to use a law degree to advocate for transgender rights. 

Additionally, he has not taken his eyes off another return to the pool.

”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,” he said.

Campus Reform contacted UPenn, Joyner, and Tucker for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

Follow @Alexaschwerha1 on Twitter