Man! I Swim as a Woman

Shania Twain once had a hit song called “Man! I feel like a woman,” recorded in 1997, which was a celebration of womanhood.

Twenty-five years later, women athletes are singing a different tune, one of dismay over competing against biological men.

What was once "girl power" is now simply horsepower, the benefits of male puberty and testosterone. In the song, it is, “Men’s shirts, short skirts”, but now it’s women’s swimsuits, long hair, and first-place finishes.

I am referring to Lia Thomas, winner of the NCAA collegiate women’s swim championship 500-yard freestyle event last week. But Lia wasn’t always Lia and was born and grew up as a guy.

The story began last fall and, in brief, involves a University of Pennsylvania swimmer named Will Thomas, an unremarkable member of the men’s team whose life and swimming career went on hiatus due to COVID. During his year off, Will became Lia and is now a member of the Penn women’s swim team. While a mediocre men’s swimmer, Lia is anything but as a women’s swimmer. “UPenn trans swimmer, 22, sparks outrage by smashing women’s competition records after competing as a man for three seasons.”

Thomas, competing as a transgender, continued to dominate collegiate women’s swimming.  Then came the ivy league championships. Thomas still had the upper hand where she: “Dominates 200-yard freestyle at Ivy League swimming championships and sets a new tournament record.”

Next was the women’s NCAA championships, where to no one’s surprise, Thomas, a biologic man, crushed the field, winning the national championship in the 500-yard freestyle. Thomas also competed in the 200-yard freestyle, tying for fifth, still an impressive performance. She fizzled in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing 8th in the final, but her presence in the final denied a spot to one of the women swimming in the consolation race.

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Criticism ensued, predictably, as the Daily Mail noted with this headline,

Meet the REAL winner of the NCAA 500 yard freestyle: University of Virginia swimmer Emma Weyant who is an Olympic silver medalist is hailed as a heroine on social media after coming second to controversial trans rival Lia Thomas.

This illustrates the trickle-down effect of Thomas competing and winning. The other competitors all move a step down, including Emma Weyant, an Olympic medalist, who under normal circumstances would be the NCAA champion, now in second place, not the champion that she would otherwise be.

Someone also missed out on competing in the finals, specifically the ninth-place finisher, who due to Thomas in the race, didn’t make the finals, an achievement in and of itself in such a competition.

Or this actual example of Thomas denying another Olympic medalist a medal at the NCAA championships: Brooke Forde, a silver medalist at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, raced for Stanford and finished in fourth place, just off the medal stand.

How would a Will Thomas have performed in the same race swimming against men? His/her winning time in the 500-yard freestyle was 4:33.24. For comparison, let’s look at the same men’s event from last year, as this year’s competition has not taken place.

The men’s winning time in the NCAA championship 500-yard freestyle was 4:07.97. Thomas’s time would not have made the finals or consolation race. The slowest of the top 16 men swam the event in 4:16.13, 17 seconds faster than Thomas’s winning time in the women’s event. That’s a huge difference, half a pool length, compared to the only 9-second gap between 1st and 16th place in the men’s race.

If Thomas was still Will, competing as a man, he would not be competing in the NCAA championships and would not be an ivy league champion swimmer.

I have written about this new and disturbing trend in women’s sports, wondering where the feminists and women’s rights groups have been, and why they haven’t been outraged over a man competing as a woman. Perhaps the NCAA championships have woken some of these groups from their politically correct slumber.

Kellie-Jay Keen, head of the organization Standing for Women, noted "Women aren't considered full humans. We can't be – otherwise there wouldn't be an opportunity for men to compete in women's sports."

She had company in her concern. "This is a male displacing women," Annabelle Rutledge, Concerned Women for America director, told Fox News. "The female who came in second today is the real winner."

Another women’s rights group is taking the matter to court since like most things now, a legal remedy is needed for something that in the past would be considered common sense.

Concerned Women for America filed a lawsuit with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights claiming that the University of Pennsylvania has failed to protect women’s rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

As explained by the group’s president, “The future of women’s sports is at risk and the equal rights of female athletes are being infringed,” said Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America. “We filed a formal civil rights complaint against UPenn in response to this injustice.”

Following the science, this group correctly observes,

Thomas is anatomically and biologically a male with physical capacities that are different from anatomically and biologically female athletes, which extends an unfair advantage and strips female student-athletes of opportunities afforded to them by law.

The science, according to the International Olympic Committee is simple: “A number of scientific papers have recently shown people who have undergone male puberty retain significant advantages in power and strength even after taking medication to suppress their testosterone levels.”

Puberty is when boys differentiate from girls through muscle mass, strength, and power. Once the engine is built, adult testosterone levels matter comparatively little. This means that a trans female swimmer keeping her testosterone level below a certain number makes little difference at this point since she went through male puberty years earlier.

Finally, this is being noticed. The collegiate swimming world is “overwhelmingly” concerned about fairness in women’s sports, according to three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines.

What’s the solution? Sports can become a single category, everyone competing against each other regardless of age, size, weight class, gender, or any other characteristic which creates an uneven playing field. So much for equity and inclusion with this solution.

Or create a separate competition for transgender athletes, a logistic challenge with only a handful of transgender athletes at this point.

The simplest solution would be to leave competitive sports alone, with only two categories, those with XX chromosomes and those with XY chromosomes, a binary option regardless of one’s identified gender or preference.

As Red State described,

Given that Lia has has made no real moves toward transitioning to a woman besides hormone treatments and simply verbally embracing the female gender — the male parts remain as does a reported interest in dating women, by some reports — this is all starting to feel very like something most women have had to deal with in some version or another in their lives: men supplanting them in accolades despite their hard work and achievements.

In short, it’s beginning to feel a lot like toxic misogyny.

Women could simply say NO and refuse to compete on this uneven playing field. When the race starts, they should just stand on the starting blocks and let Thomas swim alone, the others boycotting the unfair race. Otherwise expect this to continue in other sports and eventually reach the world championship or Olympic level, making a mockery of women’s sports, rights, and empowerment.

Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., is a physician and writer. On Twitter as @retinaldoctor. And on Truth Social as @BrianJoondeph.

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