“What Are The Boundaries?”: Penn Parents Demand NCAA Change Transgender Rules

A group of UPenn swimming parents have penned a letter to the NCAA demanding rule changes be made in light of the recent dominance in the pool from transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, according to DailyMail.com.

The parents “of about 10 swimmers” reportedly sent a letter to the NCAA on December 5, which hasn’t received a response as of yet.

“At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports,” the portion of the letter that was obtained by DailyMail.com says. The entire letter was not available.

“The precedent being set – one in which women do not have a protected and equitable space to compete – is a direct threat to female athletes in every sport. What are the boundaries? How is this in line with the NCAA’s commitment to providing a fair environment for student-athletes?

“It is the responsibility of the NCAA to address the matter with an official statement. As the governing body, it is unfair and irresponsible to leave the onus on Lia, Lia’s teammates, Lia’s coaches, UPenn athletics and the Ivy League. And it is unfair and irresponsible to Lia to allow the media to dictate the narrative without the participation of the NCAA.”

The parents that spoke with DailyMail.com asked not to be identified in fear of repercussions on their children, and one parent explained that some of the swimmers feel the same way.

“The swimmers have mixed feelings,” the parent said. “Many of them want to speak up, but they don’t because they believe they’ll be ostracized.

“Everybody is scared. Parents are also scared that the kids will be harmed. We are paying $80,000 for this school. Their life will be impacted.”

The DailyMail.com report shows that the university responded to the parents by saying they “want to help our community navigate Lia’s success in the pool this winter” and that “Penn Athletics is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our student-athletes, coaches and staff and we hold true to that commitment today and in the future.”

The parents came together in October when Thomas’ began to put up dominant performances in the pool. Most recently, at the Zippy Invitational in early December, Thomas put up the top time in the naiton in the women’s 200 freestyle (1:41.93) and 500 freestyle (4:34.06), along with the sixth-fastest time of the season in the 1650 free (15:59.71).

“I think that transgender people have a right to compete, but they need to have their own league,” another parent told DailyMail.com. “Being fair to one group of people shouldn’t take rights away from another group, and that’s what’s happening here.

“The NCAA obviously didn’t think much about the rules they set,” they added. “It’s not fair to the women on the team and it’s not fair to Lia as well. She went through transition, and I admire her bravery. But the records she sets now are not valued records, female records.”

The NCAA’s transgender policy currently dictates: “A trans female treated with testosterone suppression medication may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one year of testosterone suppression treatment.”

Thomas has been undergoing hormone replacement therapy since mid-2019, making her eligible to compete on the women’s team.

Last week, an anonymous Penn swimmer spoke to media outlet OutKick regarding Thomas’ presence on the women’s team, claiming that “pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this.”

A few days later a second swimmer spoke anonymously with OutKick, outlining the vibe in the pool when Thomas was competing at the Zippy Invite. The source specifically noted that the crowd was silent after Thomas won the 1650 freestyle, and then after teammate Anna Kalandadze finished second, 38 seconds later, the crowd “erupted in applause.”

“Usually everyone claps, everyone is yelling and cheering when someone wins a race. Lia touched the wall and it was just silent in there,” they said.

SwimSwam has not independently verified that OutKick‘s sources are actually members of the women’s swim team at Penn.

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Chloe Roe
6 months ago

Have a new class in competitions. “Transgender”.

CINCOKAT
7 months ago

Eventually there will likely end up being 2 new “categories ” for Trans athletes: men to women, and women to men Trans. This is a new frontier and ALL sports will have to adapt. Lia is now leading the way as the NCAA navigates this. I feel sympathy for ALL the affected athletes.

Xman
Reply to  CINCOKAT
7 months ago

I don’t understand how this is possible. You have a tiny subset of the LGBT community that is actually trans. And if that tiny subset you need to find people to participate in these sports.

This isn’t like you’re going to take a quarter of people actively participating in the sports and they’re suddenly going to become transgender and move to this division.

Perhaps they do something at the gay games where people from all over the world go (is that still a thing?) But I feel like it in an event like that they’ll just let everybody compete however they want.

Mark Torres
7 months ago

Has anyone been able to find quality video of her groundbreaking swims? It’s odd in this age of YouTube and Instagram to not be able to see her swims.

Terry Watts
7 months ago

Where was all this fuss when Schuyler Bailar was swimming at Harvard???

Lol
Reply to  Terry Watts
7 months ago

Isn’t it obvious? Schuyler took no ones place. Most people are arguing that mens teams are or should be “open” to anyone. Schuyler improved his personal performance but was no where near competitive at the same level he was when he was a woman despite hormones and surgery. If transitioning makes you worse in competition but improves your life personally, no one is going to harp on how you have an unfair advantage and the rules need changing.

Terry Watts
Reply to  Lol
7 months ago

So we should have different rules for different people depending on perceived “unfair” advantages?

Lol
Reply to  Terry Watts
7 months ago

Well – it’s a little stronger than just a “perceived advantage” when it comes to sex. But, no, different rules need not apply. Compete as a biological woman or in the Open division – that keeps it fair. I actually do think trans men and trans women should keep records though. It would be interesting and fair. There would be an interested audience too.

Last edited 7 months ago by Lol
CA Swimmer
7 months ago

They need to file a lawsuit against the NCAA, and the school, and possibly FINA, IOC, and USA Swimming

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  CA Swimmer
7 months ago

‘Dear IOC, there is a new girl on my daughter’s swim team who is too fast and its not fair and you’re 3956 miles away and dont make any rules for the league she’s in but i hereby declare lawsuit against you.’

There are a bunch of comments mentioning legal action on these threads. Is there a real possibility of this in Lia’s case, or is it just people thinking “lawsuit” is like the super duper version of demanding to speak to the manager?

Lol
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
7 months ago

If you can file a lawsuit against any entity for ignoring the plight of an individual (bullying, special needs, hairstyle, choice of clothing, coercion, participation, emotional or physical distress), then I’m pretty sure you could sue some of these places as soon as there is any evidence of harm as a result of discrimination. Generally it is best to protest and speak up for rule changes before taking things to court but sometimes people and organizations don’t listen.

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
7 months ago

Thanks for the article. Interesting arguments in there:

“The plaintiffs argue that the rights of cisgender girls under Title IX are being violated in Connecticut by being forced to compete against what they term “biological males.”
Plaintiff attorney Roger Brooks, from the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the law guarantees girls “equal quality” of competition, which he said is denied by having to race people with what he described as inherent physiological advantages.”

The Problem With The World
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
7 months ago

I honestly don’t care one way or the other if Lia races or not.

What I worry most about is that fringe/radical groups are going to use this very hotbutton issue to sort of wean people towards broader transphobia or other very problematic positions on things.

I’ve seen a lot of people who should NOT be getting shares from decent, civilized people getting a lot of social media action by posting anti-Lia-Thomas things. When you look through the rest of their timelines and see what else they support…it’s…a…problem.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, for example, has also espoused stances like “the homosexual agenda will destroy society,” as well as supported laws that advocated for forced sterilization of marginalized groups.

I’m not… Read more »

S. Bart
7 months ago

This situation is heartbreaking for the women who have trained so hard. Their rights are being taken away. If a transgender athlete wants to compete they should do so as a male, or as a separate transgender swimmer. Biology is clear that you cannot go through puberty and life as a male- then suddenly decrease some hormone- and body changes to female. Women have rights too, and this situation is wrong.

Swammer
7 months ago

Lia is following the rules. There is nothing anyone can do about this right now. NCAA created parameters that need modifying. She wanted to swim in college as herself – she’s not registered with USS. I’m sympathetic to everyone involved but I think the NCAA and others are aware the rules need modification. Everyone speaking out is going to hurt themselves long run. It’s 3 more months and an experience that will make you stronger as opposed to being canceled in the workplace or on campus or misunderstood. Life is not a bowl of cherries. Not everything is going to be fair emotionally.
Lockdowns probably coming again to the ivies and north east anyway.

Anonymous
Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago

Yes, she is following the rules…but does she seriously feel like she is fairly winning all these events at meets? She expressed gratitude to be able to do what she loves after transitioning, but it’s as if she does not feel any sort of remorse for the biological females being impacted and sidelined. It doesn’t matter how much gratitude she expresses; her presence in the women’s events is selfish and unfair to the other women competing.

Little Mermaid
7 months ago

The names will come out eventually of the swimmers and parents who are responding to the NCAA, they are not thinking of the full ramifications it can have on their futures in the workplace (called discrimination) which is worth much more than a 4 years of swimming!

Lol
Reply to  Little Mermaid
7 months ago

Discrimination against who – transgender women or biological women? There is a strong case here that biological women are getting far more marginalized (spaces removed) than the transgender woman.

The two arguments are that one group is being discriminated against on the basis of sex and the other on the basis of gender identification.

george brostanza
Reply to  Lol
7 months ago

There is an argument there…but it’s not a good one!

If we’ve learned anything from the American judicial system, it’s that all arguments that exist are not good arguments.

Lol
Reply to  george brostanza
7 months ago

Which argument isn’t good, George?

Terry Watts
Reply to  Lol
7 months ago

Arguing that we need to discriminate against one set of Americans in order to make sure we don’t discriminate against another is never a “good” argument.

Lol
Reply to  Terry Watts
7 months ago

Way to extrapolate incorrectly – It was never an argument that we need to discriminate against one for the other – it’s that one of those groups is facing discrimination… your perspective (based on which side you are on for this instance) determines just which side that is.

My opinion is that if Lia doesn’t get to race biological females as a biological male, there is no discrimination. Allowing her to race women discriminates against biological females displacing them from fair representation.
The other side is that Lia is facing discrimination because she is not allowed to compete in sports with her gender identification- if it were to someday be found unfair and the rules changed…

Last edited 7 months ago by Lol
Terry Watts
Reply to  Lol
7 months ago

That’s funny.

You posit that “[i]t was never an argument that we need to discriminate against one”, then state that allowing Lia to swim with girls “discriminates against biological females”, and also “Lia is facing discrimination because she is not allowed to compete in sports with her gender identification”.

Lol
Reply to  Terry Watts
7 months ago

Seriously – reading comprehension.
I was explaining that each side was going to see discrimination (as happens in almost every discrimination case) depending on the rule in place. But sometimes where one perceives discrimination it isn’t discriminatory. Ie (just bc I want to compete somewhere but can’t doesn’t mean I’m necessarily being discriminated against)

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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