Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who generated controversy by competing on the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania, said she plans to keep swimming, and now she has an eye on competing in the Olympics.
Thomas sat down with ABC News’ Juju Chang for her first televised interview to talk about her controversial season at the University of Pennsylvania, where she became the first transgender woman to win a Division 1 national title.
“I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman. I was prepared for that but I also don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself and do the sport I love,” she said in the interview, which aired Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”
Despite what is being said, Lia said she did not transition to gain a competitive advantage.
“The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned,” Thomas said in an interview Monday with ABC News and ESPN. “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself.”
“Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport.”
Thomas burst onto the national scene when she posted the nation’s fastest times in the 200-yard freestyle and the 500 free.
“I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team,” Thomas said in an exclusive interview with SI in January. “I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer. It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love. I get into the water every day and do my best.”
Competitors and other members of the swimming and sporting world throughout the season have pushed back against Thomas competing against women, but it has not deterred Thomas in the slightest.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into a race and how well you do and the biggest change for me is that I’m happy and sophomore year, when I had my best times competing with the men, I was miserable. So having that be lifted is incredibly relieving and allows me to put my all into training and racing,” Thomas said.
“Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves. Transitioning to get an advantage is not something that ever factors into our decisions.”
Thomas argued that naturally born women athletes also had different physical body types and questioned if they too should be disqualified over what might be considered an advantage.
“I’m not a medical expert, but there’s a lot of variation among cis female athletes,” she said. “There are cis women who are very tall and very muscular and have more testosterone than another cis woman, and should that then also disqualify them?”
Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win a Division I national title in March when she defeated Olympic medalist and Virginia standout Emma Weyant.