Lia Thomas – and all Trans Athletes – Deserve to Thrive

Athlete Ally responded to the mass of criticism facing University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who has followed the NCAA requirements for transgender athlete participation and worked hard at her sport under those guidelines. 

In a statement to NBC OUT, Athlete Ally’s Director of Policy and Programs Anne Lieberman said:

Part of the conversation about [Thomas] has been focused on whether the NCAA policy is “working.” What do we mean by ‘working’? So for many people, working means that it will prevent trans athletes from either succeeding or even participating in college athletics — and I think that that’s an important distinction. Trans athletes — Lia, in particular — deserve love, support, care, access to be able to swim. And Lia, like any other athlete, should be able to win and lose.”

Lieberman said they don’t think the conversation about Thomas is just about sports, because, they noted, there hasn’t been an issue with the NCAA policy in the last 10 years. Rather, they said the conversation about Thomas and trans athletes generally is part of the “fuel for the political fire that is absolutely ravaging trans rights in this country.”

Ten states — nine this year — have passed laws that ban trans girls and women from playing on female sports teams. More than 20 additional states considered similar bills. Over two dozen states also weighed legislation that would ban trans minors from accessing gender-affirming medical care such as hormones and puberty blockers. Governors in two states — Arkansas and Tennessee — signed such legislation into law, though a judge blocked Arkansas’ law from taking effect in July.

“While people might think more broadly that this is just about sports, this is really about the broader conversation about the humanity of trans folks and whether or not we deserve to participate in all aspects of life in society, and that includes college sports,” Lieberman said.