Commentary: Transgender Swimmer Brings About Good and Bad Aspects

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has brought about positive and negative criticism.
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has brought about positive and negative criticism.
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On March 16, 2023, Lia Thomas, a collegiate swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title upon her first-place completion of the five-hundred yard freestyle at the national championship swim meet that Thursday evening.

While seemingly a perhaps mindless feat worth minimized attention to some, such an event sparked mass controversy in the competitive swimming domain.

Should modern gender and sexuality acceptance assume the role of priority in comparison to women’s rights and equality?

Such a question, even a year advanced to the present of day, has only disgruntled fans, athletes, and coaches alike. As a collegiate female with a history in competitive swimming myself, I am inclined to resonate with such a debate on a personal level, and it is comprehensible to identify both positive and negative effects regarding the subject.

Initially, I am in direct opposition to the acceptance of transgender competition in female sports, especially an individual sport such as swimming.

Foremost, swimming is an individual sport, as well as a sport that is tailored best toward the male anatomy.

Statistically speaking, those possessing a male body frame tend to swim significantly faster than those who are female, making such competition an unfair disadvantage to traditional female swimmers.

Moreover, Thomas, before her transition, ranked within the lowest 25% of male swimmers in her prior swimming seasons, yet she placed first amongst females. The differentiation of ranking based upon gender alone speaks for itself.

In a final perspective, male-born participation in female sports degrades the efforts of centuries of feminists under the consideration of women’s sports. It was 30 years after the first male olympic swimming competition that females were included in such a sport on a less prestigious level, and their efforts continued for decades until Title X guaranteed women’s equality in collegiate campuses and athletics.

An accomplishment as such should not be corrupted by unsuccessful male athletes.

However, the inclusion of transgender athletes in competitive swimming does present notable positive aspects as well.

In fact, as a typically unpopular sport, the controversy has sparked a mass interest in swimming on all performance levels, from amateur to professional, bringing the due attention many of the dedicated athletes deserve.

In addition, impending controversy over a singular transgender athlete alludes to support and acceptance of diverse genders and sexualities, a modern concept that is prevalent within our nation today.

Lastly, while lacking a positive manner, Thomas’ actions have unified two major groups of people–female athletes and transgender acceptance–creating strength and support as a whole. Perhaps soon there will be a compromise in which all swimmers, regardless of anatomy, can unite and support one another as they progress in their athletic endeavors.

With that, I do have one solution to propose that would ensure the equal rights and opportunities of both female sports and transgender athletes.

Rather than forcing transgender athletes to compete against those of their past gender, and forcing females to compete in a disadvantaged competitive position, the NCAA could induce two new subsections of competitive swimming.

Male sports could be restricted to male-born males, and female sports could be restricted to female-born females, and transgender athletes could be restricted to competing with others of the same transition process, allowing gender equality in the pool, as well as in other sports.

All in all, Lia Thomas has altered the course of athletics for years to come. It is for this generation to decide the positivity or the degradation of such an impact.

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