Puff puff puff

The Sports Illustrated interview with Lia Thomas slobbers all over him.

Fresh off her final practice of the week, the most controversial athlete in America sat in the corner of a nearly empty Philadelphia coffeehouse with her back to the wall. Lia Thomas had done some of her best work this season while feeling cornered.

Aw diddums. Imagine how the women feel – then laugh a callous laugh and go back to fawning over Lia.

The shy senior economics major from Austin became one of the most dominant college athletes in the country and, as a result, the center of a national debate—a living, breathing, real-time Rorschach test for how society views those who challenge conventions.

He’s not “challenging conventions.” Quite the opposite – he’s exploiting a new convention in order to cheat his way to medals and records. Also, obviously, if he were genuinely shy he wouldn’t be doing any of this.

In her first year swimming for the Penn women’s team after three seasons competing against men, Thomas throttled her competition.

Interesting choice of word.

When she swims at the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, which begin March 16 in Atlanta, Thomas is a favorite to win individual titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, and also has a shot in the 100-yard freestyle. She has an outside chance to break longstanding collegiate records held by Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, two of the most beloved American Olympians of this century. 

Outside chance? From what I’ve seen it’s considered inevitable. He’s a man.

Thomas’s story has also become a right-wing obsession, a regular topic of discussion on Fox News. Conservative opinion sites have called her a man and deadnamed her, purposely using the name she went by before transitioning. Her moves have been minutely tracked by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, including once with cruel detail about her habits in the women’s locker room provided by an anonymous teammate.

Cruel? What about what he’s doing to those teammates?

“I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team,” Thomas says. “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.”

And what possible reason could we have for not believing a word of that?

Every day this season felt like a challenge to her humanity. Part of her wanted people to know her journey to this moment, to know what it felt like to be in a body but not be of that body. She wanted people to know what it was like to finally live an authentic life and what it meant for her to finish a race, to look up at a timing board and see the name lia thomas next to the names of other women. What it meant to her to stand on a podium with other women and be counted as an equal.

Now let’s talk about those other women, the only actual women on the podium – let’s talk about what it meant to them to have him standing there towering over them.

29 Responses to “Puff puff puff”