Lia Thomas’ win at NCAA women’s swimming championships in Atlanta draws protesters

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Women’s rights protesters were furious after trans athlete Lia Thomas was dubbed the NCAA women’s swimming champion on Thursday.

“There’s a man, called Will Thomas, who changed his name to Lia Thomas, who competes in women’s swimming,” Kellie-Jay Keen, head of the Standing for Women organization, said in an interview with Fox News. outside of Georgia Tech athletics. center where the competition takes place.

“Women are not considered full human beings,” she continued. “We can’t be, otherwise men wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete in women’s sports.”

“Women aren’t considered full human beings. We can’t be, otherwise men wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete in women’s sports.”

— Kellie-Jay Keen, Stand Up for Women

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Thomas, 22, of the University of Pennsylvania, won the 500-meter freestyle at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships on Thursday, becoming the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship in any sport.

The UPenn athlete is also scheduled to swim in the 200 and 100 yard freestyle heats this weekend.

Transgender athlete Lia Thomas, left, of the University of Pennsylvania, steps onto the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle while fellow medalists - from second left, Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde – pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, March 17, 2022 in Atlanta.  (Getty Images)

Transgender athlete Lia Thomas, left, of the University of Pennsylvania, steps onto the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle while fellow medalists – from second left, Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde – pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, March 17, 2022 in Atlanta. (Getty Images)

“He’s a man who moves women,” Annabelle Rutledge, director of Concerned Women for America, told Fox News. “The female who came second today is the real winner.”

“Only women can win a women’s swimming and diving championship,” she continued.

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Thomas beat Virginia Cavaliers rookie Emma Weyant by more than a second and Texas Longhorns rookie Erica Sullivan by at least two. Brooke Forde, who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Summer Olympics last year, raced for Stanford Cardinal and finished fourth.

counter-demonstration

Counter-protesters were also on hand Thursday to show their support for Yale’s Thomas and Iszac Henig, another trans athlete competing, who will swim the 50-yard freestyle.

Members of Georgia Tech's

Members of Georgia Tech’s “Grad Pride” club attended Thursday’s protest to show their support for trans athletes Lia Thomas and Iszac Henig.
(Digital Fox News)

“We support Lia and Iszac,” Nikey Kafenzakis, president of Georgia Tech’s graduate LGBTQIA community, Grad Pride, told Fox News.

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“They’re not breaking any rules, are they? They have to compete at this elite level with the stress of knowing it’s on the outside, and we just want to let them know that we really support them. “said the trans activist. continued.

Policy change

The NCAA updated its transgender participation policy in January to rely on guidance from each sport’s governing body. The NCAA announced that its policy would go into effect in March, beginning with the Division I women’s swimming and diving championships.

USA Swimming updated its policy shortly after requiring transgender athletes who compete at an elite level have low levels of testosterone — half of what Thomas was allowed to compete with — for at least 36 months before dying. be eligible, but the NCAA said weeks later that the Administrative Subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CMAS) decided it would not change its testosterone guidelines.

“Implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships in 2022,” the organization said. in a press release.

But Keen of Standing for Women said she opposed the change.

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“There is absolutely no possible way that a man competing in a women’s swim race is fair or just. There is absolutely no possible way that this is an act of gross cowardice on the part of the NCAA,” said Keen at Fox News.

Kafenzakis called those protesting against Thomas dishonest.

“Dog whistle”?

“They so frequently use these ‘save women’s sports’ as a dog whistle for transphobia,” she said. “They have these simple messages about fairness and competition, but like competition and fairness aren’t necessarily part of it. I mean, sports are competitive, aren’t they? There are differences between people.”

Groups protesting the participation of transathletes in women’s competitions said they received overwhelmingly positive feedback and encouragement from swimmers and parents attending the event.

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“Overwhelmingly, it’s the gratitude of the female athletes who came out, as well as the many parents and passers-by who thanked us, gave us a high-five,” Rutledge said.

Keen said that of all the women’s rights protests she’s attended, “this one has had more support than I think I’ve ever had before.”

Teny Sahakian is associate producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Follow her on Twitter @TenySahakian

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