'I'm Not A Man': Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Hits Out At Critics Following Huge Backlash
Lia Thomas has hit out against her harshest critics, claiming that her treatment hasn't been warranted at all.
The transgender swimmer has found her name in the newspaper headlines over the past 12 months after she shattered a number of women's records in the pool.
Thomas' impressive results sparked huge debate among sports fans with some supporting the inclusivity on show from the University of Pennsylvania, while others slammed it as being unfair to the girls she was competing against.
The hot topic has subsequently seen Thomas' name dragged through the mud as she has been subject to some pretty vile comments online.
Now the 23-year-old has decided to finally break her silence and speak out.
"The very simple answer is that I'm not a man," she told Sports Illustrated.
"I'm a woman, so I belong on the women's team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.
"I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they're not alone. They don't have to choose between who they are and the sport they love."
"I don't know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would love to continue doing it. I want to swim and compete as who I am."
SI sat down for an exclusive interview with Penn's Lia Thomas, the woman at the heart of the debate over transgender athletes.- Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 3, 2022
"I am here to swim," she told @MileHighRobert https://t.co/aj5lgk7kdo pic.twitter.com/JR8eQK7aip
In her first year swimming for the UPenn women's team, following three seasons competing against men, Thomas smashed a bunch of age-old American collegiate records.
Her performances in the pool resulted in an influx of complaints from rival swimmers, even her own teammates, claiming that Thomas shouldn't be able to compete against other women.
The majority of UPenn swimmers and their parents coming forward decided to remain anonymous, although the comments spilled out onto other social media channels with other users having their say on the matter.
But according to Sports Illustrated, the online backlash became so bad that Thomas was forced to deactivate some direct messaging on her Instagram account.
"I don't look into the negativity and the hate," she added.
"I am here to swim.
"I'm a woman, just like anybody else on the team. I've always viewed myself as just a swimmer. It's what I've done for so long; it's what I love." She's not thinking about wins or records, she insists. "I get into the water every day and do my best."
Prior to transitioning, Thomas admitted she "I felt off" and "disconnected with my body".
said"I was very depressed," Thomas says.
"I got to the point where I couldn't go to school. I was missing classes.
"My sleep schedule was super messed up. Some days I couldn't get out of bed. I knew at that moment I needed to do something to address this."