Monday, December 13, 2021

I Do Not Like This Success Story

The religious right is neither - However, a transgender person has provided a weapon that can use to flog us.  

News Week reported the facts this way:

Lia Thomas, a 22-year-old trans woman from Pennsylvania, is breaking numerous college records in swimming but is the subject of fierce debate because of her status as a transgender athlete.

At the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, over the weekend, she finished the 1,650-yard freestyle 38 seconds ahead of her teammate Anna Sofia Kalandaze.

On Friday, she won the 500-yard freestyle in 4:34.06, setting a new record, Akron pool record, Penn school record, and the Ivy League record.

The next day she won the 200 freestyle with a pool, meet and program record time of 1:41.93, seven seconds ahead of second place.


I am very much in tune with scholastic-competitive swimming. Two of my daughters attended college on swimming scholarships. Many years of effort, on their part, went into getting to that point. Starting at about age 8, there was year- round 6:00 am practices plus practices again from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, 5 days a week.  Saturdays were swim meets.  My oldest daughter has continued her passion as a recognized swim coach and Masters swim participant. The tradition also continued with my granddaughter becoming an All-American diver two years running.  

Swimming is about physicality, training and, motivation. I have seen many swimmers with a beautiful stroke plateau for no other reason than their physical limitations. They had reached their limit and while additional training, coaching, time in the pool, and hard work helped, physicality is what it is. 

Lia Thomas said that she came to the realization that she was trans in the summer of 2018, but it took almost a full year before starting the transition process. Thomas, who is now two and a half years into hormone replacement therapy is eligible to compete as a women. 

The fact remains, Lia Thomas, who transitioned around age 20, already went through puberty and developed physical advantages, pre-transition. She went through purity as a male and fully developed as a male 
(athlete). There are aspects of male development that hormone therapy will not undo; especially short-term. I am not sure that enough time on hormone therapy has elapsed and due to male development as a teen, she may have an unfair competitive advantage as a female in swimming. 

Competitive swimming is divided by gender due to physical advantages. I agree that Ms. Thomas has the right to swim as a female and future athletes should have the right to participate in their chosen gender - As long as sports governance rules are applied. However, this may be the worst-case scenario and will not end well for sports inclusion or our community.     

I have always contended that just because you can do something (either through legality or ability), it does not mean this is the best use of your effort. All of the jobs I have had as Rhonda, including the latest, I have always prefaced my disclosure with, "If I ever, as a person, reflect badly on your organization or cause the least problem, I will be the first to step back".

Stifling personal liberty is injudicious and this is the goal of the religious right (wrong),  However, putting the greater causes ahead of one's selfish motivation, may be advantageous. I hope that selfish motivation is not in play here.  

I am afraid we have weaponized our detractors. This is not the success story that I like to post.   

Please, your thoughts?




  1. stuff like this is going to kill us.it will then jump to bathrooms etc.-emily

  2. Firstly, I can't believe colleges are not yet using the metric system; maybe because they are still using old swimming pools.

    Was she swimming on the men's team during her initial hormone therapy? Certainly, that would have been a disadvantage. If she'd waited a couple years while on HRT before joining the women's team, did her times go down from what they were before HRT? From what I've heard, she had been a fairly decent competitor against the men before she switched to the women's team. Not that any of this necessarily goes toward your question, but I'm just curious to know how much effect the HRT had, as well as the timeline of her transition.

    Personally, I never would join a women's team with the knowledge that I'd be so overwhelmingly superior, athletically. It wouldn't serve me well in a sporting sense, nor would it serve me well in my attempt to live an authentic life as the woman I was born to be. I know that, when I was a 14-year-old, I was a promising track runner whose time in the 440 was at the top of all freshmen runners in my state. Fifty-six years later, that same time would put me at the top of all high school girls' 400 meter times (after doing the math) in the country. I was in the middle of my puberty back then, although not yet fully developed into having the athletic-type male body I was to have in my early twenties. (I now refer to my puberty as my menopause - only half-jokingly, because it played havoc in both my body and mind). Had there even been a girls' track team at my school, I wouldn't have thought once about being on it - even though I often would come home to an empty house after track practice and express myself as the girl I thought myself to be inside. Of course, there was not anything close to an option of being on a girls' team back then, but I know now that I wouldn't have taken it, regardless. I don't see the advantage for me to be a big fish in a small pond, nor do I want to be seen as the clown fish in any pond.

  3. Rhonda,
    It would be useful to know what her times were before she transitioned. Those are very quick time indeed. Both made (just barely) the NCAA "A" qualifying time in the two events with times. As a swim parent, I am sure you know that strength is important and men have an advantage but decreasingly so with increasing distance where technique begins to dominate. Penn has a good program and she could be benefiting from that. On the other hand, it would be useful to know if they monitor her T levels.

    --as long as my side is WINNING!-

    You seem to have a real conundrum on your hands with this one, and yeah the whole matter smacks of unfairness at the least.
    You are part and parcel of various elements and interests in both sides of the issue.
    I dont envy the 'double bind' you might feel.
    OTOH, when the 'RELIGIOUS WRONG' has run out of examples of 'their side', they will simply FABRICATE THE NEXT STORY, to create 'rage motivation', in order to grift money and votes.
    So much for "Thou shalt not bear false witness-(against thy neighbor)"-Hey! Aint that a LOOPHOLE? As long as 'you' and 'me' are not neighbors...
    There is a W.C Fields joke like that..... GOOGLE IT!

    In a similar vein, as my wife is a multiple amputee (since birth) we receive several periodicals that feature disabled persons fitted with high-tech prosthetics that enable competitive participation which is sometime seen as advantage.
    This group of individuals with similar physical issues have organized into their own sports leagues, as well as the Para Olympics.
    Given the enormous variation and range of disabilities, equitable competition and ranking is not a possible realization. Yet there are competitive events inside their own society.
    We dont expect geriatric athletes to compete with college age athletes.
    At what point is athleticism only about rating, ranking and winning?
    These individuals perhaps should organize their own league.

  5. This story bothers me each time that I hear it for the same reasons as you state so well. There are so many trans girls that just want to play on the local soccer team with the other girls, not so they can be a star, but they just want to have fun. I am concerned that Lia is going to give some confused people ammunition to dash those girls dreams as well as their feeling of self-worth.

    1. My point Gracie. This is going to be used against us at multiple levels.

  6. Women fought long and hard for title ix sports. We all have rights, but not special rights over others. This is going to backfire on us.

    1. You ares so right - My kids worked hard for their place at the sports table. Had it not been for Title 9 the opportunity would have never existed

  7. I am equally concerned. I was a competitive swimmer and definitely know that I lost out to taller guys with longer arms and legs. I have no idea about the additional advantage that a larger heart and lungs may give, but certainly something. So, it isn't just musculature. Sadly, that means that I believe she did this for herself without enough thought to the impact on her teammates or how her success will be weaponized.

  8. I think I am entirely bothered by the notion that trans women are okay to compete as long as they aren't successful or competitive. Extremely disappointed to see all the transphobia in this post.

    1. I am torn on this subject as well. My kids had to compete, at on point, during there swimming career against super athletes (other women). They became discouraged and wanted quit. A level/fair playing field is necessary to allow budding young athletes to flourish. Transgender men could dominate this sport and other sports for selfish reasons.

    2. You, of course, meant to say transgender women - not transgender men.

      But, yes, I think it is for selfish reasons that a transgender woman would choose to compete in a sport, while having such a physical advantage (not to mention the prior training). As I said above, I wouldn't even think of doing such a thing, mainly because of my sense of fair play. Beyond that, it's difficult enough to live an open trans life without doing something that foments so much resistance and hate - both for self and the whole trans community, and by both the trans haters and many in the trans community, itself. The ultimate anti-hero!

    3. Thank you for participating in our oppression and othering. :(