The Importance of Celebrating Transgender Accomplishments


22-year-old Lia Thomas, a student at Penn State University, and a swimmer under the NCAA, recently secured a massive victory for the transgender community. On March 17th, 2022, she became the first transgender athlete in any sport to win a Division I national championship. However, her victory was soon turned into a nationwide scandal. Protests erupted, people voiced their outrage, and what should have been a celebratory moment became the center of one of the most heavily debated topics in our society: should transgender people be allowed in sports?

Regardless of what one’s personal answer is, the fact remains that transgender people are allowed in sports. There are guidelines in place that permit the participation of transgender people in sports and ensure fairness across all participants. Yet, many people argue that transgender people, especially trans women that are born biologically male, should not be allowed to compete with the gender opposite of what they were born as. The argument relies on the claim that since biological males have higher testosterone levels than biological women, they are at a natural advantage. However, the scientific evidence backing said argument is very low. Physical performance does not solely depend on hormones, but also on stamina, training style, and multiple other factors. Additionally, the NCAA requires transgender women athletes to be on testosterone suppressions for at least one year before competing. The NCAA, as well as all major sporting corporations, have guidelines set in place to ensure fairness. Even so, many people still maintain that transgender people competing in sports is unfair. Breaking apart the argument on the side against trans people in sports, you’ll find that their problem does not reside in the fairness of it, but rather the simple fact that transgender people even get these opportunities. The argument is not rooted in fairness, it is rooted in transphobia. 

The arguments on fairness are the ones being used against Lia Thomas in the many attempts to invalidate her win. But there’s only so much an average person can do. At the end of the day, she still won, and the typical social media outrage isn’t enough to undermine that. What is enough, however, is someone in a position of power partaking in that outrage. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis released a statement regarding Lia Thomas’ win. The statement, which was posted on the 22nd of March to the official Instagram account of Governor DeSantis, is a blatant act of disrespect towards Thomas. In it, DeSantis states that he does not recognize Thomas (though he never actually says her name) as the winner, and instead recognizes second place winner Emma Weyant, a native Floridian, as the winner. While this does not officially replace Weyant as the winner, its implications are just as heavy. Throughout the statement, DeSantis refers to Thomas as a man, and also does not include her name anywhere, as to ensure there is no association between her and the victory. With (currently) 138,233 likes, and very little backlash, the statement shows how determined people are to undermine the accomplishments of those they do not like.

Lia’s victory is still hers, no one has taken that away officially. But with the insurgence of articles, statements, and posts in defiance of her win, Lia’s victory has been twisted into something it shouldn’t have: a scandal. And with so much focus on debating Lia’s victory, the transgender community is suffering. The trans community is no stranger to the backlash, it’s something the community is faced with daily. However, it is vital that discussions be had about the impact of the consistent backlash. Trans youth are growing up seeing people just like them become the center of nationwide scandals simply because of how they identify. It creates a dangerous mentality that trans youth then adopt and live by. This mentality is putting trans youth in danger. Data shows that suicidality is highest among trans youth, and violence towards trans youth and the community as a whole is still a rampant issue. 

It is the responsibility of those in positions of power to maintain the ideologies of equality. It is the responsibility of those in positions of power to protect trans youth. It is the responsibility of those in positions of power to ensure future generations get the same chances as the people around them. Equality is an overall idea, and when you begin placing restrictions on when, where, and how equality perseveres, it is no longer equality, but a relapse of the society we used to be.