University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has become part of the debate over inclusion for trans athletes and fair competition. Thomas, who formerly swam for Penn’s men’s team, began transitioning in 2019 and has taken testosterone suppression treatment. She started swimming for the women’s team this season, breaking multiple school and league records.
But her circumstances, and those of other transgender athletes, raise a host of difficult questions about fairness in sports, inclusivity, rights for trans athletes to compete and what a “level playing field” looks like. While the science guiding these debates and policies is still evolving, some of the conversation has been weaponized as fuel for anti-trans rhetoric, discrimination, and legislation. This hour, we explore the complex issues and science around the question of transgender athletes and fair play.
JOANNA HARPER, a visiting fellow for transgender athletic performance and Ph.D. student at Loughborough University. She’s also a transgender athlete and the co-author of the book, Sporting Gender:: The History, Science, and Stories of Transgender and Intersex Athletes. @fondofbeagles