Transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male who has drawn significant attention while competing against women, reportedly sees a personal comparison to legendary baseball star Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the 20th century to participate in the sport in the major leagues.
"She compares herself to Jackie Robinson," a female University of Pennsylvania swimmer said about Thomas, according to the Washington Examiner. "She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports."
Thomas has made waves in women's swimming, even winning a 1650 free last year by a massive margin of about 38 seconds — but this month Thomas finished sixth in a 100 free, while another transgender swimmer, Izzi Henig, a biological female, came in first.
"She laughs about it and mocks the situation," Thomas's female teammate told the Examiner. "Instead of caring or showing that she cares about what she’s doing or what she’s doing to her teammates, she’s not sympathetic or empathetic at all. Lia never addressed our team. She never asked if it was OK. She never asked how we felt. She never tried to explain how she feels. She never has said anything to us as a group. She never addressed anything."
"On our last training trip, we were told not to wear Penn gear on our trip to Florida, on the off chance that we would get harassed or anything," the female swimmer said. "So, everyone went out of their way — now, about 75% of our athletic wardrobe is Penn — we went out of our way to not pack any Penn stuff. Except Lia. Every single day at the airport and at the gym, Lia made sure to wear a big Penn shirt with ‘Penn Swim and Dive’ on it. And she was the only one. We weren’t allowed to wear it because of her, and she did it every day."
Although the issue of biological males competing in women's sports remains a topic of significant cultural contention, Penn Athletics and the Ivy League have both issued statements supportive of including Thomas in women's swimming.
"Lia Thomas has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols over the past two years for a transgender female student-athlete to compete for a women's team. She will continue to represent the Penn women's swimming team in competition this season," Penn Athletics said in its statement.
Correction: This story previously said that Thomas won a 1650 free by more than 38 seconds — the win was actually just under 38 seconds and the story has been corrected to note that Thomas won that race by about 38 seconds.
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