clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Anti-trans panic comes to an Ivy League pool

A college swimmer is the latest trans woman athlete-turned-transphobe’s latest “villain.”

The women’s swimming team at Penn, and Sheerr Pool, have suddenly taken center stage in the national conversation about college sports and trans athletes.
Penn Athletics

You’ve probably heard about some unwritten rules in sports. It seems when it comes to transgender people, certain commentators, pundits and twitter sports shock jocks have another one.

Transgender women can play against cisgender women as long as the transgender woman always loses.

The penalty for “breaking” this rule? The athlete gets subjected to mass media misgendering by certain outlets like the New York Post and the Daily Mail. These groups and others will put your deadname and pre-transition photos all over the story without your consent. The athlete will also be subjected to loads of insults on social media, from unknowns to the well-known, like the son of a former President of the United States.

The people coming at the athlete feel they are 100% justified in calling them a “cheater”, “misogynist” or more common soft-bigot variant of misgendering, “biological male.”

I’ve seen this play out through many different sports in over three years of writing for Outsports. This seems to follow the same script.

The venue could be a velodrome or a golf course. The controversy flared up in a Connecticut high school and a Big Sky university. This “monster movie” hysteria had a backdrop at an NCAA championship and at the Olympics.

Alexa McLaughlin stepped in for her MMA debut 7 years after Fallon Fox had her last fight
Fallon Fox

The anti-trans panic found an MMA cage in 2014, and then came back for a sequel in September 2021.

And now we have the newest panic, coming out of a swimming pool.

Lia Thomas, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. She has some people hearing the “Jaws” theme in their head because she’s trans and swims fast.

She’s won at dual meets in the Ivy League and surged to some strong wins at an invitational in Ohio last weekend. Her times in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events — the NCAA Division I’s best this season — also cliched her a spot in the NCAA Division I championships next March.

However, her achievements have been met with more transphobia than cheers.

Being trans, an athlete, and a journalist, I have one word to the people who feel justified in once again making a trans woman a target and demeaning her:

ENOUGH.

Enough with the slurs and willful ignorance.

Enough with selling the concept that “trans women are just mediocre males who figured they’ll transition to win.”

As I said earlier this year: Nobody transitions to win in sports. PERIOD.

Quite a few of us lose a lot just to affirm who we are. Some of us have lost family and friends because we came out. Those who are in the arena of sports face a lot of your ignorance played out on video screens, social media pages, legislative chambers and courtrooms.

When I walk out into the world daily to do my job, run my errands, to train and to live, my head is on a swivel. As I write this, I’m also digesting the news of a 50th trans person murdered in this country for being who they are this year.

Sports brings me trans joy, even if those lost in their transphobia try to bring strife
Karleigh Webb

Whenever I race or prepare to play with a team, it’s in the back of my mind: Will somebody start beef with me because of who I am?

You really think it’s about winning some local 5k or playing in some rec league?

Some of you truly buy the idea of some star — or even bench-warming — male professional athlete transitioning strictly so they could dominate the women’s competition. For a myriad of reasons, from financial (women’s sports would a be pay cut), to the social and media climate that still tolerates — or even encourages — open transphobia, that person would be as squeamish as I am about just walking out their front door, let alone be ready to train and compete at the highest level.

CYCLING-ENG-TRACK-WORLD-GENDER
Dr. Veronica Ivy celebrated a UCI Masters world championship in 2019
Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

You think it's a “win” to have to put out a rebuttal to platformed transphobia just hours before you head out to perform with a championship on the line? I don’t think Dr. Veronica Ivy saw it as a win, and she’s taken your best shots and kept pedaling.

Enough with this “its about fairness for women” and “we wanna save women’s sports!” Really? The same people who want to “save women’s sports” are also linked to organizations who have never supported any women’s issue.

Some of you johnny-come-lately wannabe right-wing shock jocks are the same people who put up the same weak jokes about the WNBA, NWSL, or any women’s sport that doesn’t conform to your views.

As Dr. Ivy stated to CNN Tuesday night, “It’s real simple sexism.”

Karleigh Webb

Being a Black transgender woman, I have to point out that transphobia is a leading cause of misogynoir. Just ask Serena Williams or Michelle Obama about that some time. Both are dynamic Black cisgender women who have had transphobia weaponized against them by the same people who would come after trans women.

Enough with calling trans women “cheaters” after every win. Cheating denotes that a rule has been broken. If you are coming at Lia Thomas with the charge that she is a “cheat”, show me a rule she’s broken and quote it directly from the NCAA regulations.

In fact, I’d love to see you try to do that for any of the targets of your bile. Find their sporting governing body’s regulations and show where the breach is. I’ll save you the trouble. There’s nothing you’ll find because there’s nothing to find.

chris mosier team usa
Chris Mosier made a number of first in competition and stays out front from trans rights now
Outsports

Enough with “where’s the trans men succeeding in sports” argument. You all know how much of a deflection that is. Never mind that perhaps the most decorated transgender athlete in the world is a trans man: Chris Mosier gets more of your vitriol because he stands up in this issue now than he got in competition ever.

Trans men don’t sell the agenda many of you try to sell. To quote another trans male athlete with whom you may be familiar: “People don’t the know what a trans female is or what a trans male is. For instance, the pictures with me in a wrestling match? People thought I was a trans female in that photo.”

HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: FEB 25 Texas Wrestling State Tournament
Some of those caught in this panic still think Mack Beggs was a trans girl back in high school. STOP IT!
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mack Beggs, now a junior in college, was telling the truth about many of you who are still showing his photos of him in high school all over social media to try make this phony case stick. Enough of that, too.

You all can panic all you want because trans women in sports aren’t going away. As 2019 NCAA Division II track champion CeCé Telfer said to me in an interview, “It doesn’t matter if they boo me, because the more they boo the faster I run.”

2019 NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships
The more some of those anti-trans types booed, the fast Cecé Telfer ran
Photo by Rudy Gonzalez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Like it or not, Lia Thomas will crouch in a starting block and hit the water flying for Penn from now through the conference and national championships. Like it or not, Alana McLaughlin is getting in that cage. Like it not, Hailey Davidson someday will be staring down a putt, and the winner’s check, at 18 after a final round on a Sunday.

And somewhere, some young trans athlete is practicing and playing. They know that you may come at them, but they’ll take their shot anyway.

A good friend told me that when comes to this issue, many people hear the “tale” but don’t know the story.

You can keep the tale and your panic while we just keep achieving. That’s our story of trans joy in sports and we’re sticking to it.