Erika Brown: “We Cannot Allow Transgender Females” To Compete Against Women

Two-time Olympic medalist Erika Brown became the first active U.S. National Team swimmer to speak out regarding the ongoing debate surrounding Lia Thomas‘ ability to compete as a woman in the NCAA, posting a statement on her Instagram Stories Wednesday.

Brown, a former NCAA star at the University of Tennessee, said that “we cannot allow transgender females to compete against biological women,” and that a few years of hormone suppression won’t change the fact that a trans woman will have physical advantages over a biological female.

Thomas, a trans woman, competed on the University of Pennsylvania men’s team for three seasons before transitioning over a two-year period before beginning to race as a woman in 2021-22.

Read Brown’s full statement below:

“I want to share something that’s been on my heart regarding what is going on in USA Swimming at the moment. I believe that we are all God’s children and we are called to love one another. I don’t want to create any hate, only speak up for what is right.

“We cannot allow transgender females to compete against biological women. A biological male goes through male puberty. Even when she has transitioned, she still has the physiology of a male. A few years of testosterone blockers and estrogen doesn’t change the fact that she will have more powerful muscles, a larger heart and greater lung capacity than a biological woman.

“It’s time to start standing up for women’s sports, before we lose what so many before us have fought for. I hope that this can help inspire others to speak up.”

Thomas is not a USA Swimming member, according to USA Swimming President Tim Hinchey.

Prior to Brown’s statement, we’ve seen some others in the swimming community let their voice be heard on the issue, though primarily not from those actively competing.

On Tuesday, former USC head coach Dave Salo spoke out with a similar stance to Brown, adding that he felt the need to voice his opinion because he was nearing the end of his career and therefore “cant be canceled.”

There have been reports of Thomas’ Penn teammates speaking out on the issue, though they’ve done so anonymously in fear of the potential repercussions.

Brown, 23, won two medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this past summer, earning a silver on the U.S. women’s 400 medley relay and a bronze on the 400 freestyle relay.

Brown also owns three SC World Championship gold medals from 2018, and was the two-time SEC Female Swimmer of the Year during her four-year career at Tennessee, which wrapped up in 2020.

The Charlotte, N.C. native was a 21-time All-American, won 18 SEC titles, and was a member of the Lady Vols’ NCAA Championship victory in the 200 medley relay in 2019.

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ACC
24 days ago

“I want to share something that’s been on my heart regarding what is going on in USA Swimming at the moment.“

“Thomas is not a USA Swimming member, according to USA Swimming President Tim Hinchey.”

BearlyBreathing
Reply to  ACC
24 days ago

I see your point but I think your point misses the point.
What if she had said, “U.S. Swimming” instead of “USA Swimming”? Add 2 periods and subtract an A.
There’s still a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed at each and every level of competitive swimming.

Last edited 24 days ago by BearlyBreathing
Coach Tom
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
24 days ago

I agree. USA Swimming’s stance on the issue is disingenuous and amounts to little more than kicking the can (probably a few months) down the road. They are going to have to confront this issue and develop sound/fair policies eventually.

sam
Reply to  Coach Tom
23 days ago

USA Swimming allows transgender athletes to compete in the gender category consistent with their gender identity.

https://www.usaswimming.org/news/2019/07/16/steps-to-request-competition-category

https://www.usaswimming.org/news/2021/06/01/lgbtq-resources

Braden Keith(@braden)
Admin
Reply to  sam
23 days ago

Those restrictions are specific to minor, non-elite athletes.

It’s still unclear what the regulations are for elite/senior level competitions in USA Swimming.

HJones
Reply to  Braden Keith
23 days ago

According to this line in Step 7:

“Elite athletes who may qualify for high-level or international meets must also refer to the guidelines provided by USADA, WADA, FINA, and IOC, regarding drug testing, qualifications, and other rules.”

it seems as though the regulations are the same for elite/senior-level competitions, with the added provision that they follow the regulations set forth by these higher bodies. So as it is written, Lia Thomas would be fine to compete. And, unfortunately, I don’t see them making a switch before the end of this swim year–they could also be legally restricted from doing so with a selection meet occurring in a few months.

sam
Reply to  Braden Keith
22 days ago

Tim Hinchey was interviewed by Brett Hawke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlfl3hoPIZY

Speaking on the transgender issue Hinchey said “Currently, right now, the way we work at an elite level, is we defer to the IOC’s language and mandate as it pertains to transgender athletes. And then they defer to FINA.”

Link below is to the IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on The Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variation

https://stillmed.olympics.com/media/Documents/News/2021/11/IOC-Framework-Fairness-Inclusion-Non-discrimination-2021.pdf

HJones
Reply to  ACC
24 days ago

Lia constantly spoke about how it was important for her to continue to compete in swimming. I think it is a fair and natural assumption to have that this will extend beyond this NCAA season, and likely into some USA Swimming meets, as she seems very passionate about being a competitive member of the sport–otherwise, she could’ve hopped in with the Penn club team or a local masters club, and this would be a non-issue.

Even if it’s not the case, and my assumption is off-base, it is much better to be proactive rather than reactive regarding issues like this, and nip them in the bud while it’s still latent. We constantly lament our governing bodies (both sporting and… Read more »

Last edited 24 days ago by HJones
Lkg4dmcrc
Reply to  HJones
24 days ago

She could very well join a club team or swim with a masters team but she should not be allowed to compete as a female masters swimmer either. Lia would win every title in every race for decades due to her advantage having gone through male puberty. Many female masters swimmers are super hard core and deserve an even playing field as well. Females who go through 30 plus years of periods and all that entails (possible childbearing), then go through perimenopause and menopause are at a detriment to those who have gone through male puberty and never will go through perimenopause or menopause. This is a biological fact. Females who work hard to compete at any age should not… Read more »

Xman
Reply to  Lkg4dmcrc
23 days ago

I think masters will be a good idea and she would be welcome. Masters is like summer league or country club, everyone gets what they want out of it with whatever effort and the meets are for fun.

swimmerswammer
Reply to  Lkg4dmcrc
20 days ago

What’s male puberty?

Are there different masters categories for childbearing, perimenopause, and mennopause? I thought it was just age groups.

The Kraken
24 days ago

I wonder if we’ll see a flood of more people coming out publicly with similar stances now that Erika has posted this.

Coach Tom
Reply to  The Kraken
24 days ago

I think we may have a few retired coaches or athletes who have already graduated making statements but other than that, I don’t foresee too much. No current NCAA coach wants to risk their career by speaking out on such a hot-button issue and no current college athlete wants to draw the ire of campus activists. That being said I have a lot of respect for Erika Brown in using her platform to speak her mind on such a divisive issue. I also want to mention that I have nothing but compassion for Lia Thomas but it seems pretty obvious that the current NCAA rules regarding transitioning are simply not fair for biological female athletes.

Liza
Reply to  Coach Tom
24 days ago

I totally agree with you. I empathize with Lia Thomas- she probably feels pretty alone in all of this and she’s taken a brave step for herself as a whole. That said, the NCAA rules about competing as a trans athlete are probably not based on enough experiences or research and need to be re-evaluated.

GOATS
24 days ago

Way to go Erika! Someone in her position standing up for what is right is EXACTLY what we need. Keyboard warriors wont change anything. The women at the top of the sport need to bring the necessary attention while being gracious and understanding there is no bad guy (or girl) in this, besides maybe the NCAA for not being on this years ago.

Dr Deluxe
24 days ago

Totally agree with Erika…this shouldn’t have gotten THIS FAR without the governing bodies doing something about this.
Suggestion…Penn Women please reconsider your boycott! You are the ones who could make a difference !

Sarcasm
Reply to  Dr Deluxe
24 days ago

I think the Penn women can speak and think for themselves. People want a “woman’s” point of view until it differs from their own. Whatever a females stance is on this, they are entitled to it and it should be respected.

swimgeek
Reply to  Sarcasm
24 days ago

Well, they can’t speak for themselves without major repercussions — when the school has reportedly issued a gag order. Some of them already have spoken out – but anonymously.

Sarcastic
Reply to  swimgeek
24 days ago

You’re probably right – I’m sure the organization has taken a stance and not everyone agrees. I’m just seeing a lot of people discrediting women’s voices when it doesn’t align with their views. That’s all I meant.

CrinkleCut
24 days ago

Three cheers for Erika!

Sid Frisco
Reply to  CrinkleCut
23 days ago

More than three!

Think about it
24 days ago

Erika sounds like a nice girl from Tennessee.

HJones
Reply to  Think about it
24 days ago

Regardless of where she’s from, it takes some massive stones to speak out as a national teamer in a sport dominated by progressive thought.

Alex Dragovich
Reply to  HJones
24 days ago

Since when has this sport been “dominated by progressive thought?”

swimgeek
Reply to  Think about it
24 days ago

She’s from Charlotte, NC.

Ksw
Reply to  swimgeek
22 days ago

Shes originally from Ripon, California

Sid Frisco
Reply to  Think about it
24 days ago

Sounds like someone with the courage to speak the truth and advocate for women everywhere.

みこと
24 days ago

You all seem to be writing a lot of articles about the participation of trans women in this sport mostly from the perspective of people who are critical of it, but little-to-nothing from the perspective of trans women themselves or their advocates in the sport. If you plan on doing journalism about trans women competing in women’s swimming, you should probably include trans voices.

Mr. Pack
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

Dude they had Lia on their podcast. What more do you want?

Stoked 2 b vaccinated
Reply to  Mr. Pack
24 days ago

Continued compassion. Elevating trans voices.

Mr. Pack
Reply to  Stoked 2 b vaccinated
24 days ago

Just say it. You just want them to post something that aligns with your views as this obviously doesn’t.

HJones
Reply to  Stoked 2 b vaccinated
24 days ago

That’s the vaguest, useless answer you could give. You’re looking for a perspective to be published that agrees with yours, but when the conclusion your draw is not rooted in fact, it doesn’t have the liberty to be published.

TXSwimMom
Reply to  Stoked 2 b vaccinated
24 days ago

SwimSwam is a swimming platform, not. Trans or LGBTQ platform. They are covering how this impacts swimming. And Lia’s POV has been covered as well. But focusing on the trans impact is not the goal of this publication.

みこと
Reply to  TXSwimMom
24 days ago

More than just Lia are trans swimmers/athletes. Because the discourse ultimately revolves around the participation of trans athletes, it will have an impact on the sport and athletes, what is a sport if not for its athletes? Only presenting one perspective alienates swimmers and causes tension within the sport. It’s not hard to include more than a single voice.

William Hoover
Reply to  みこと
23 days ago

It is not about a voice, or the ability to compete. It is about fairness, and advantage. Ask the question, why don’t you see transgenders, biological females transitioning to male, breaking male records? That is because they are at a physiological disadvantage.

Swimmer A
Reply to  TXSwimMom
24 days ago

Swimswam is a swimming news organization. So they have an obligation to report on trans perspectives as well, especially since they would be affected by rule changes.

The Observer
Reply to  Stoked 2 b vaccinated
24 days ago

You have the NY Times, Vox, Vice, Daily Beast, MSNBC and more to do your bidding on that. Once they start losing enough page views to media that takes an unbiased look at gender ideology, you’ll see them change their tune and try to get in front of the ball. It will be too late by then.

みこと
Reply to  Mr. Pack
24 days ago

I just said – publishing articles that include the perspective of trans athletes and their advocates, instead only amplifying the voices of those who are critical. News media impacts public opinion. the more balanced it’s presented, the more meaningful of an opinion people can form. Right now all that’s being accomplished is the fanning of flames

みこと
Reply to  Mr. Pack
24 days ago

My reply doesn’t seem to have been published, but what I said I was essentially a greater effort to include the perspectives of trans women and their advocates should be made. Because news media impacts public opinion, having a balanced presentation allows for people to make more meaningful opinions on complex topics. Right now those critical of the participation of trans women overly amplified and it’s just fanning the flames.

Sid Frisco
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

This is not a complex issue. It’s actually very simple. Woman should not have to compete against biological males. It’s really that simple

Sid Frisco
Reply to  Sid Frisco
24 days ago

*women*

The Observer
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

This is simply not true. Right now, the only US media outlets that are openly critical of gender ideology and the unintended consequences of failing to question and debate Trans Rights Activists’ demands are confirmed RW outlets like Fox, Nat’l Review, etc, and Dave Chappelle’s Netflix specials. The NYT shuts down reader comments on every story about transwomen athletes as soon as it’s clear that its liberal readership base isn’t buying it.

CBS made an attempt to question the wisdom of hormone treatments and surgery for children and young people whose brains are not yet fully formed, only to be shut down and censored by the Allies. You all don’t want, “balanced,” you want to maintain control of the… Read more »

Molly
Reply to  The Observer
23 days ago

Exactly. The notion that somehow only the “critical” views are amplified, or that mainstream media in this country doesn’t constantly censor and shut down views critical of gender ideology, is ridiculous. Entirely reasonable concerns are dismissed as “hate speech” and “transphobia.”

Cauliflower Crushed
Reply to  みこと
23 days ago

You’re acting like there’s a flood of National Teamers and elite coaches running to support Lia’s participation in women’s swimming.

I haven’t seen any. Who are they supposed to interview besides Lia??? They can’t MAKE people do interviews, and they can’t MAKE people take the other side to provide fabricated balance.

みこと
Reply to  Mr. Pack
24 days ago

Also – including the voice of Lia is the bare minimum when it comes to an issue this complicated and divisive. It’s hardly balanced to include every statement made by someone who is critical of trans participation, and one voice to represent trans women athletes.

Lkg4dmcrc
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

Lia knows that she has an unfair advantage. She has been a swimmer since a young age and knows how unfair it is going through male puberty and then to race against women. You should educate yourself a bit more on swimming. Trans women athletes should only say that they realize their advantage and refuse to participate in anything other than exhibition.

S88
Reply to  Lkg4dmcrc
23 days ago

No, no no. we are not here to resolve the issue. “participating in anything other than exhibition” is also not a real solve. I think there has to be a solution that means a win for each type of women. Otherwise exhibitions sound like consolation prices.

lol
Reply to  S88
23 days ago

A “win” is not a win if it is unfair and confers a predetermined advantage to a competitor or competitors. Both a male body and male puberty provide a predetermined advantage that a female competitor can NEVER have access to through any range of the genetic lottery.

Last edited 23 days ago by lol
Molly
Reply to  lol
23 days ago

Exactly, this. We’ve HEARD Lia’s perspective. Her perspective is that competing is important to her, that she’s surprised about all the blowback, and that she just doesn’t read it any of it. She’s excited about how easy winning has been for her (“I was just cruising out there!” and “At least I’m still number one in the country,” etc.). She says the hormone requirements she followed “maintain the integrity of the sport,” even though all evidence points to the contrary. She has said not one word I’ve read ANYWHERE acknowledging the obvious unfairness to the natal women on her team, or the biological reality of her immutable advantages from having gone through puberty as a male. It’s obvious to everyone… Read more »

swimmerswammer
Reply to  Molly
20 days ago

What evidence?

Stoked 2 b vaccinated
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

YES!!

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

Yeah I was suprised they didn’t post about Schuyler bailar

HJones
Reply to  Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
24 days ago

What could he possibly add that would be productive to the conversation that Lia Thomas did not already talk about? The issue with transwomen is nearly distinct from the non-issue posed by transmen.

Corn Pop
Reply to  Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
24 days ago

They did because I remember the name .

Ferb
Reply to  Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
24 days ago

It would actually be interesting to hear Schuyler’s perspective on whether Lia has an unfair competitive advantage over biological females.

Sarcastic
Reply to  Ferb
24 days ago

Schuyler is very supportive of Lia – you can check out his social media and see lots of information regarding trans athletes.

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  Ferb
24 days ago

He made an Instagram post about it

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  Ferb
24 days ago

Here it is: https://www.instagram.com/p/CX19ZSuLu2a/.

Schuyler says Lia took test suppression “to reduce her testosterone levels to average female levels…per the regulations.” (I haven’t seen anything in the NCAA regulations about specific levels. Someone please link them if they exist.)

Schuyler says believing that boys are better at sports than girls is false and sexist.

Schuyler says Phelps gets praised for his bio advantages, but Lia gets called unfair and this is because of transphobia, sexism, racism, and bigotry.

Schuyler says “there is no such thing as a ‘biological man’ or ‘biological woman.'” And those terms are transphobic and imprecise.

Schuyler says trans people are underrepresented at the Olympics.

Schuyler reminds us it’s… Read more »

Last edited 24 days ago by Beverly Drangus
Ferb
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
24 days ago

I guess it’s not surprising that Schuyler is regurgitating the same old cisphobic circular logic that pervades the trans agenda. Any acknowledgement that there are differences between trans women and biological women (sorry, Schuyler, but biology is a real thing) would contradict trans dogma, so it must be rejected.

LKB
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
24 days ago

“Schuyler says believing that boys are better at sports than girls is false and sexist.”
“Schuyler says “there is no such thing as a ‘biological man’ or ‘biological woman.’”

That’s why Schuyler was winning in HS as a girl, and not so much in college as a boy.

Catherine
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
24 days ago

thanks for posting the instagram link. The most ridiculous statement in it is that the belief that boys are better than girls at sport is rooted in sexism. By that thinking the logical conclusion should be to eliminate women’s sports as a separate category. so … let’s only have an open category?

The Truthiest Truth
Reply to  Catherine
23 days ago

That is where the rubber meets the road on this issue, isn’t it? The statistics speak for themselves, and the results from almost every trans female athlete hammer those statistics home. Biological males are (for athletes at the same level in their sports) pound for pound stronger and faster than the same level biological female, and no amount of chemical treatments can change that fact.

Catherine
Reply to  The Truthiest Truth
23 days ago

agreed. Arguments for the inclusion of XY athletes into women’s competitions often sound much like arguments for eliminating women’s sports entirely.

Sid Frisco
Reply to  The Truthiest Truth
23 days ago

Easy! Distorting the narrative with facts just makes to much sense. How dare you?

Oldswimguy
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

I don’t think SwimSwam has editorialized yet on this issue. They have reported what people are saying including Lia Thomas. The problem is, even transgender athletes themselves have admitted the unfairness of this.

Big Mac #1
Reply to  Oldswimguy
24 days ago

It is simply the way the rules work right now

HJones
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

They brought in the perspective of not just any trans swimmer, but Lia Thomas herself. The main perspective we need to consider now is the demographic that is most negatively impacted by her participation in the women’s category–women themselves. People’s “feelings” cannot continue to dominate over and impede the fairness of a protected class in the sport.

What more would another transperson’s voice add to the conversation? More talk about how the struggles and injustices they’ve faced should make it right to compete in the sex category of their choosing? How does this help the conversation at all? Sport is not a charity, get over yourselves.

Look, if someone needs to compete athletically with the sex of their… Read more »

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  HJones
24 days ago

What more does another anonymous teammate, Dave Salo, or Erika Brown add to the conversation? Swimswam publishes them nonetheless.

Killer Marmot
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
24 days ago

Obviously Brown’s views are of interest, given the reaction to them here.

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  Killer Marmot
23 days ago

HJones criteria was ‘adding to the conversation’ not ‘of interest.’ Didn’t we already know that a lot of people find this unfair? Did Erika say anything new here? Is swimswam going to publish a brand new story every time another person says ‘I also think this is unfair?’

Lia’s interview hardly touched on the fairness issue, so I think more coverage of the side that thinks this IS fair would contribute much more to ‘the conversation.’ Whether you think they’re right or wrong, apparently the NCAA, IOC, Penn coach, and probably many trans activists are on the other side of every swimswam story that has been posted so far. Why not get some perspective from them on the site?

HJones
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
23 days ago

Salo is the first big-name American coach (albeit mostly in emeritus status at this point) to attach his name to a statement regarding Lia Thomas.

Erika is the first active national team member to openly speak up about this, as far as I know. Furthermore, she is part of the demographic that is most hurt by Lia’s participation in the women’s category.

Regardless of what the opinion actually is on the subject, they are both the first of their peers to attach their thoughts to this issue.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
23 days ago

I mean I’d love to hear their perspectives on “athletes getting popped for doping” or “what strokes you swim in a medley” but past that, eh.

Coach Tom
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

As others have pointed out, Swimswam gave Lia an extensive platform on their own podcast, during which Coleman spoke to her with nothing but kindness and respect. If you have other voices for them to give a platform to, I am sure they would be happy to do so.

Sid Frisco
Reply to  みこと
24 days ago

Rational thought and critical thinking in concert with science and performance should compel any person advocating for women to arrive at the same conclusion.

Sippy
24 days ago

Go Erika!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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