Lia Thomas calls out ‘anti-feminists’ for pushing ‘transphobic beliefs,’ showing ‘half support’ to trans women

Lia Thomas, the transgender swimmer who won a women’s NCAA Division I championship in 2022, called out women who argue only athletes born girls should be competing in female sports.

Thomas said some of her University of Pennsylvania teammates were “half” supportive of the swimmer, who was competing against women despite being a biological man. She did not compete against women until the 2021-22 season.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, we respect Lia as a woman, as a trans woman or whatever. We respect her identity. We just don’t think it’s fair.’ You can’t really have that sort of half support where you’re like, ‘Oh, I respect her as a woman here, but not here,'” Thomas said on fellow trans swimmer Schuyler Bailar’s podcast “Dear Schuyler.”

“You can’t sort of break me down as a person into little pieces, and you’re like, ‘OK, this is OK, this is OK, that’s not.’ It’s pretending to be supportive on some level but, in reality, it just sort of falls flat.


Lia Thomas prepares for race

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas prepares to swim the women’s 500-yard freestyle final at the NCAA swimming and diving championships. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

They’re using the guise of feminism to sort of push transphobic beliefs. I think a lot of people in that camp sort of carry an implicit bias against trans people but don’t want to, I guess, fully manifest or speak that out. And so they try to just play it off as this sort of half support.”

Thomas’ gripes with her teammates stem from when 16 of them wrote a letter to the school saying they felt it was unfair Thomas was competing in the women’s division.

“They think about how twisted ‘feminism’ has become their arguments. In order to exclude anybody in the trans category, you have to reduce women to reproductive capacity, which is, in my opinion, extremely anti-feminist,” Bailar said.

UPenn athlete Lia Thomas at nationals

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 freestyle finals at the NCAA swimming and diving championships March 18, 2022, at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Thomas says she doesn’t feel responsible for the heightened debate of transgender females in women’s sports, placing responsibility on those against the phenomenon.


“I definitely struggled with, at first, sort of like a year ago following the season, following NCAAs, of feeling almost a responsibility or maybe even a blame for some of the new rulings or rules or legislation,” Thomas said about the publicity she received. 

She said it was “frustrating to focus on the controversy of … trans women in sports.”

“It wasn’t me personally that sparked it. It was just — they were waiting for a trans woman to be successful to go on a whole tirade against trans people and pass all sorts of legislation,” Thomas added. “So, that’s helped me move past that a little bit.”

Lia Thomas at swimming competition

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas waits for a preliminary heat in the women’s NCAA 500-meter freestyle swimming championship March 17, 2022, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


The U.S. House on Thursday passed legislation aimed at preventing biological males from competing as transgender athletes in girls and women’s sports at schools across the country after a debate in which several Democrats accused Republicans of “bullying” transgender students by calling up the bill.

Fox News’ Peter Kasperowicz contributed to this report.

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