Lia Thomas, the Penn swimmer whose teammates tried to get her banned from competition because she’s trans, turned in a dominant swim at the Ivy League championships Thursday. Her performance, along with that of Yale’s Iszac Henig, sparked coverage by the Daily Mail, and writer Alex Hammer provided a master class on twisting language to serve an agenda.
Incidentally, it turns out she has far more supporters than detractors and will be allowed to race at the NCAA championships.
This is a delicate issue, one in which there is a legitimate and ongoing discussion about hormone levels, testing, standards, and fairness, both to trans athletes and their competition. Just on a basic level, you can see where it would be ludicrous for Thomas, a woman, to compete in men’s swimming, and also where the women she’s dominating would have gripes. So, the Mail casually smashes any potential nuance with a sledgehammer. (Sorry, Alex, but also not sorry because this is insidious.)
The implication here is that their transness makes them unbeatable.
…with one smashing a record and both leaving their biological female competitors in their wake during the second day of events at Harvard University.
This is where things get a little dicey for the Mail. Reflexively, talking about trans athletes in women’s sports, the reactionary terminology is “biological female,” again, to imply that trans women are not women, and that there is inherent unfairness in allowing them to compete.
But Henig is not a trans woman.
Meanwhile, Henig, who swims for Yale and is in the process of transitioning from female to male but is allowed to compete as a woman because she has yet to take any testosterone, beat the pool record in the 50-yard freestyle by just nearly three-tenths of a second with a time of 22.05.
Isn’t Henig, then, a biological female? And if Henig hasn’t taken testosterone, what’s the big deal? Wouldn’t the consistent position be that this is where Henig should be competing? After all, the Mail is referring to Henig as “she,” which…
Henig, 21, who uses he/him pronouns, has yet to begin taking hormones and stripped down to briefs after cruising to victory in the race while wearing a women’s bathing suit.
So, the Mail is deliberately using the pronouns that the subject of its article does not prefer. In the captions to their photos, you can also see where it’s made their little transphobic brains explode.
Henig, 21, who swam topless and uses he/him pronouns, wore a pair of men’s swimming briefs Wednesday but donned a women’s suit Thursday during her race. He took of his top after the race was finished.
Thomas celebrates with his fellow Penn State [sic] swimmers. Less than three years ago, she was apart [sic] of the school’s men’s team.
The Mail does not care one bit about the specifics of the Ivy League swimming championships. The entirety of their purpose in covering this is to paint trans athletes – and by extension, trans people – as a threat. By sloppily trying to add Honig’s story, but providing no evidence that anyone has had a cross word to say about him, Hammer gives up the game.