Members of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming and diving team are advocating for their school and fellow Ivy League competitors to embrace the new transgender guidelines that have recently been put forward by USA Swimming.
Under the new rules their transgender teammate, record shattering swimmer Lia Thomas, might not be able to compete in the March NCAA swimming championships, as transgender athletes are required to be on hormone therapy for 36 months, as of Tuesday’s announcement.
In a cowardly move, the NCAA avoided making any ruling on transgender athletes last month, instead choosing to push the decision on the governing bodies of each individual sport.
Under the previous NCAA policy, athletes only needed to have one year of hormone therapy. Thomas has two and half, and will still be under the new 36 month threshold in March, thus making her ineligible to compete. UPenn officials are currently considering legal action against the NCAA.
In the letter, sixteen UPenn swimmers praised USA Swimming’s new “Athlete Inclusion Procedures” for ensuring “that transgender women competing in the Female competition category ‘do not have an unfair advantage over their cisgender Female competitors in Elite Events.'”
“We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically,” the letter reads. “However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity.”
They asserted that Thomas “holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category,” and noted that she ranked as #462 when competing under the male category, but rocketed to #1 while competing as a female.
“If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete,” they wrote.
The letter stated that they have lost competitive opportunities and records due to Thomas’ biological advantages, only “to be sidelined or beaten by someone competing with the strength, height, and lung capacity advantages that can only come with male puberty.”
They also added that they have been threatened to stay silent at the cost of their positions on the team and even future job offers, when journalists have reached out for their opinions.
The letter encourages their school and the Ivy League to allow the new rules to stand and refrain from pursuing legal action against the NCAA, so they can finish out their season with “distinction and pride.”