Last updated on January 24th, 2022 at 11:26 am
In November, biological male Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania made headlines when he broke both the school and Ivy-League women’s swimming records in the 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle races.
But this past weekend, Thomas took a backseat to Iszac Henig; a biological female who has undergone male hormone treatments, and yet is still permitted to swim on the women’s team at Yale University. But it was her obnoxious celebration following her victory which stupefied spectators.
At the swim meet where Penn, Yale, and the University of Dartmouth were competing, Henig won the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 49.57 seconds. Almost every media outlet is focussing on Henig’s time being three seconds better than Thomas’s, but it belies the fact that Henig’s speciality appears to be sprint (50-yd/100-yd freestlye) while Thomas is a record-setter at longer distances (200-yd and 500-yd freestyle). What is of extreme importance is that while these outlets seem to suggest that male-to-female and female-to-male athletes can equally find success in women’s sport, what gets lost in the shuffle is that biological women are the losers in both scenarios.
What is also camouflaged in various reports is that while Henig says she has “delayed” her hormone therapies, it’s still unknown exactly when they were delayed. The fact that her transition is well underway and would obviously be an ongoing process suggests that she would likely have elevated testosterone levels compared to that of her female competitors.
Also, and extremely integral to the issue, is that Henig has no intention of swimming in male competitions against biological males. In a New York Times opinion piece in July, she admitted that “coming out as a trans guy put me in a weird position. I could start hormones to align more with myself, or wait, transition socially, and keep competing on a women’s swim team. I decided on the latter… I value my contributions to the team and recognize that my boyhood doesn’t hinge on whether there’s more or less testosterone running through my veins. At least, that’s what I’ll try to remember when I put on the women’s swimsuit for the competition and am reminded of a self I no longer feel attached to.”
The 20-year old from Palo Alto, California helped her team to a first place finish in the 400 freestyle relay and cruised to victory in the 100 freestyle. But it was her antics following a win in the 50 free that had many in the stands aghast. On the deck following her victory, Henig–who has had her breasts surgically removed–pulled down her top to reveal a scarred chest. One shocked Penn parent, wishing to remain anonymous, told DailyMail.com, I wasn’t prepared for that. Everything is messed up. I can’t wrap my head around this. The NCAA needs to do something about this. They need to put science into the decision and discussion.” Another simply stated, “A man just crushed the women’s team.’
As for Lia Thomas, who smashed 200 and 500 freestyle records in the November meet, spectators were curious about his performances over the weekend. His win in the 200 was his second-slowest of the season, and his victory in the 500 was a whopping 23 seconds off the pace of her record-setting mark earlier this season. Some onlookers told DailyMail.com it seemed Thomas was “coasting” and “barely trying”.
UPenn and the Ivy League seemed to have been working overtime to keep the situation under their control. Last Thursday, both organizations publicly reaffirmed their support for Thomas, stating that he is in alignment with NCAA rules and regulations.
Meanwhile, it was revealed last week that a number of Thomas’s teammates had considered boycotting the event over her participation. They backed down due to worry over being labeled “transphobic” and possibly being barred from February’s Ivy League championship. That said, UPenn–with the Ivy League–citing COVID protocols, decided to hold their final home meet of the season behind closed doors; banning general spectators.
UPenn’s final home event of the season took place behind closed doors, with only media and a few dozen family members present after college officials announced last week that general spectators were banned, citing Covid concerns.
In early December, Cynthia Millen–a USA Swimming official for over 30 years–stepped down from her post in protest of Lia Thomas’s being permitted to swim against women. Millen explained on Tucker Carlson Tonight, “The statement for women then is you do not matter, what you do is not important, and little girls are going to be thrown under the bus by all of this.”
“The fact is that swimming is a sport in which bodies compete against bodies. Identities do not compete against identities… Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed.”