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Not the gender police

What’s wrong with this headline.

Too easy, I know. BZZZZZZZZZZT. Lia Thomas is not a female athlete. Lia Thomas is a male athlete systematically, and laughing all the way, cheating female athletes out of the prizes and rewards they’ve earned.

After that we get a row of three photos: woman, Thomas, woman. Thomas’s photo is bigger and, all too obviously, so is Thomas. Those shoulders.

We’re told about Olympic runner Helen Stephens, who was framed as not girly enough in the 1930s. Definitely interesting, but nothing to do with Lia Thomas – the opposite of Lia Thomas.

While much has changed for female athletes since Stephens’ day, suspicion surrounding their gender and sexuality — from offensive remarks to sex verification tests — remains. Several historians argue that the heated debate surrounding transgender college swimmer Lia Thomas, whose record-breaking season has thrust her unwillingly into the national spotlight, is a continuation of that century-old legacy.

But it isn’t, because he’s a guy.

Decades after Richards became the first, only a handful of trans athletes have managed to break sports barriers. In 2019, track star CeCé Telfer became the first openly trans person to win an NCAA title. And last year, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first out trans woman to compete in the Olympics, where she did not win any medals. Fewer than 30 trans athletes have competed openly in the NCAA, according to the LGBTQ sports publication Out Sports, and few have made headlines. 

But men aren’t “breaking barriers” by transing their way into women’s sports, not even if they’re genuinely dysphoric and have “transitioned.” It’s not a barrier in the sense of arbitrary and unreasonable for women’s sports to exclude men, including men who are trans. Women need their own sports because of sexual dimorphism, which puts women at a huge disadvantage. It’s not a good thing or an unjust barrier falling that CeCé Telfer won an NCAA title or that Laurel Hubbard cheated Samoan women out of the Olympics.

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