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Shame on the not so little mermaid who used to be a man


WHEN I was a child, half a century ago, there was no such thing as transgenderism. Men were male; women were female; children grew up to be one or the other. There was a plumber who liked to dress as a lady at weekends; no one bothered him but he certainly stood out from the crowd, not just because he was at least 6’5” in his heels but also because he wore full make-up and dressed like no female I had ever seen: no one ever mistook him for a woman.

Nowadays, we are asked to believe that trans people are part of the New Normal – they seem to be everywhere.

On Sunday, USA Today announced its nominees for Women of the Year 2022, ‘a recognition of women across the country who have made a significant impact’. Surprising no one, their dozen-strong list includes nine women of colour and at least one man: Rachel Leland Levine, formerly Richard. Levine is a doughfaced paediatrician, Joe Biden’s health secretary and a four-star admiral. A divorced father of two, he is ‘passionate about promoting the rights of the LGBTQI+ community’.

Surely though, USA Today has made a grievous omission by not including swim star Lia Thomas (formerly Will). Statuesque Lia, a 22-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania, has demolished all competition and smashed school and Ivy League records at the US National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) women’s swimming and diving meetings. Lia went on to become the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Championship in any sport

Parents of swimmer daughters submitted an anonymous letter in December last year requesting that the NCAA exclude Thomas from women’s competitions under their own rules. Their request pointed to the proven scientific advantages that male biology gave to Lia: a bigger heart and greater lung capacity, larger hands and feet, wider, stronger shoulders, and narrower hips. The NCAA failed to respond.

Sixteen teammates also tried to assert their rights by sending an unsigned letter requesting that Lia be excluded from participating in women’s races. That the young women athletes felt they had to make their pleas anonymously speaks volumes about their lack of confidence in the authorities and the toxicity surrounding the issue.

In response, NCAA officials issued an unequivocal statement confirming that Thomas would swim as a woman and the director of the Penn athletic team, Alanna Shanahan, sent an email to the rest of the team suggesting that anyone ‘upset about Thomas’ could ‘utilise robust resources available to them’ including the university’s department of Counselling and Psychological Services. In other words, any young woman who objects to swimming in competition against a man needs therapy.

Will Thomas was ranked 554th in the men’s 200 freestyle, 65th in the 500 freestyle and 32nd in the 1650 freestyle. Now with long hair and a full swimsuit that does little to disguise an obviously masculine 6’ 3’’ frame , Lia Thomas just wants to ‘swim and compete as who I am’.

Not everyone agrees with that desire: the editor of Swimming World compares Thomas to the hormone-formed and dope-fuelled athletes from China, East Germany and Russia who used to dominate Olympic Games but the NCAA, which describes itself as ‘a member-led organisation dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes’ decided it should protect Lia’s ‘rights to compete as a woman’.

Kellie-Jay Keen, British head of the organisation Standing for Women, decried Thomas’s participation, saying in an interview with Fox News that of all the women’s rights protests she has attended, ‘this one has had more support than any I’ve ever been to before.’

With a clear honesty missing from much of the debate, Mrs Keen said: ‘There’s a man, called Will Thomas, who’s changed his name to Lia Thomas, who is competing in women’s swimming. Women aren’t considered full humans. We can’t be – otherwise there wouldn’t be an opportunity for men to compete in women’s sports.’

She went on, ‘There is absolutely no feasible way that a man competing in a women’s swimming race is fair or just. There is every feasible way that it is an act of grave cowardice by the NCAA.’

The Daily Mail has followed Lia’s progress and given insights into the swimmer’s interactions with team members. It reports that Lia boasts about the ease with which female competition can be overcome and displays ‘male body parts’ in the ‘women’s’ locker room. Lia is still attracted to women, say teammates, which makes them uncomfortable.

Thomas shows little concern for these matters, saying: ‘The simple answer is that I’m not a man, I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.’

USA Swimming released new guidelines in February ‘clarifying eligibility’ and established a three-person ‘medical panel to determine whether transgender women have a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors’.

The ‘medical panel’ will not have to look far for evidence, however their language is enough to tell the rational observer everything they need to know. The categorisation of ‘transgender women’ as a legitimate class and the comparison with ‘cisgender females’ shows that women have lost. Women are not ‘cisgender females’ – women are a distinct sexual class needing no qualifying statement.

Thomas says that being trans is ‘an amazing and beautiful experience . . . I’ve been reinvigorated. I’ve been swimming for 17 years, but for [only] a short part of that time have I felt fully engaged’. We are all surely pleased. Thomas is reported to be a potential qualifier for the US Olympic team for Paris in 2024 and USA Swimming have already confirmed they will have no objection.

Thomas is applying to law school to pursue an interest in the civil rights of the marginalised. Continuing success in NCAA competitions will guarantee a place and scholarship funding. Inclusion in the women’s competition will rob a young woman of her place and opportunity to pursue her sporting and career dreams.

Shame on Lia Thomas and on all of the moral cowards that continue to facilitate this denial of reality.

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Kate Dunlop
Kate Dunlop
Kate Dunlop is a mediator.

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