A “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right” Episode For The Ages: Trans Female Swimmer Lia Thomas Is Finally Beaten…by a Trans Male Swimmer…Competing As A Female

What ethical principles are we supposed to glean from this crazy story?

Lia Thomas, a biologically male swimmer who has transitioned to female, has been unfairly crushing all female collegiate competition while being allowed to compete as a transgender athlete. Ethics Alarms has covered the story in more than one post. Lia herself is unapologetic, and her Machiavellian coach is reportedly thrilled. Thomas’s teammates and opponents are not so thrilled, but so far have lacked the courage to take any meaningful action to preserve the integrity of their sport, fearing to end up like J.K. Rowling but without all the money.

So was ex-man Thomas unbeatable as a current woman? No! Yale female swim team star Iszac Henig defeated her in the women’s 100-meter freestyle with a time of 49.57 seconds. In fact, Thomas finished fifth with a time of 52.84 seconds. (How did THAT happen? Sounds like she “took a dive” to me, no pun intended…) In the 400-freestyle relay, Henig completed her leg in 50.45 seconds versus Thomas’ 51.94.

There is a catch, however. Henig is also a trans competitor, except that she is in the process of transitioning from female to male. In order to illustrate this with a dramatic gesture, the 20-year-old pulled down the top of his swimsuit to reveal the absence of breasts, which she-soon-to-be-he has had removed. A UPenn parent remarked, “I wasn’t prepared for that. Everything is messed up. I can’t wrap my head around this.”

Neither can I. Henig’s triumph is supposed to be fair and square because (she says) she hasn’t begun taking male hormones yet, or at least hadn’t as of June, when she wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, saying then,

“As a student-athlete, coming out as a trans guy put me in a weird position. I could start hormones to align more with myself, or wait, transition socially, and keep competing on a women’s swim team. I decided on the latter.I value my contributions to the team and recognize that my boyhood doesn’t hinge on whether there’s more or less testosterone running through my veins. At least, that’s what I’ll try to remember when I put on the women’s swimsuit for the competition and am reminded of a self I no longer feel attached to.”


So “she” regards herself as male, but still thinks that competing as a female is honest and ethical, and his/her coach and team let her, or him, compete as a female anyway. Got it.

That’s unethical, though confusing. The theory that there is no material difference between a woman becoming a man and a man who has become a woman is bizarre at best. Moreover, the fact that Thomas finally lost in a swim meet to another transgender swimmer going in the opposite direction, figuratively, not literally, since if she were swimming in the wrong direction…oh never mind…doesn’t make Thomas’s unfair inclusion among woman and more ethical

This week,the Ivy League issued statements supporting the inclusion of transgender swimmers in women’s competitions. Of course it did: the entire group of elite colleges has lost its collective mind, and would rather be woke than fair or logical.

As swimmers, Lia and Iszac should compete against each other, or not at all.

Bonus Quiz 1: Can you guess which of the Yale swimmers above is Iszac? I did.

Bonus Quiz 2: And you think Ethics Alarms has a lot of typos! Read this account of the Lia and Iszac story on “BO News.” I was curious because of the incomprehensible headline: Male transgender swimmer Iszac Henig got here out to teammates final 12 months – and did NOT take testosterone.” It turned out that this was just a prelude. Here’s my favorite section, but the whole thing is like this:

Later, inside the ladies’s 400-yard freestyle relay, Henig as quickly as further crushed Thomas and his fully totally different rivals, ending in 50.45 seconds, giving Yale the primary spot contained in the opponents on the vitality of his leg of the race. Thomas inside the meantime completed her leg of the race in 51.94 seconds.

What’s going on here?


15 thoughts on “A “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right” Episode For The Ages: Trans Female Swimmer Lia Thomas Is Finally Beaten…by a Trans Male Swimmer…Competing As A Female

  1. I guess top middle. As far as the poor writing is concerned, it appears to me that the article is written by someone for whom English is a second language. Maybe. A bigger question for me is why there was no proof read of the article before being published?

    • Is “BO News” a Borat joke? Something out of “Rocky and Bullwinkle?” “The Russians are Coming?” “Everybody to get from street?” A newsletter for retired East German steroid developers?

  2. This story is head-spinning. I too can’t help thinking the Penn guy went in the tank in an attempt to lessen the heat he’d been getting.

    I think the big point of this story brings into focus something I’ve thought for a long time: Masculine women have an inherent advantage in women’s sports. We’re all masculine and feminine to varying degrees. Some guys have a lot of feminine (In his heyday, I always thought Bruce Jenner ran like a girl.) in them and some women have a lot of masculine in them. If you’re a guy with lots of feminine in you, you don’t play sports; you go into acting or sing in musicals. If you’re a woman with a lot of masculine in you, you play sports and you have a tremendous advantage over women who have less masculine in them. This has always been the case. Babe Didrickson* and most all the other dominant women golfers are lesbians. Same in tennis. Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova, among others, have dominated. Same with soccer and basketball and softball. Anyone who denies this is delusional.

    Sports are physical and are best performed by the physically gifted. This transgender stuff with its weird orthodoxy and drugs and surgery has been layered upon an already fraught situation. In the past, the lesbian woman would just be a lesbian and would simply dominate for the Yale women’s team. But now, with surgery and drugs, she’s able to become a guy. The only equitable solution is the dismantling of sex-based competitions. It’s time for just golf and tennis. No more women’s golf or women’s tennis. Let the best golfers and tennis players win. Sorry girls. Gender is a choice. You’re screwed.

    *Famously reputed to have defeated Ben Hogan in a scratch money game.

    • I remember watching a documentary on Lance Armstrong where, as a young man (he started as a triathlete in his teens), a researcher at a local university enrolled him in a study of some sort that included measuring VO2 max (a measure of how well the body uses oxygen). He measured at the extreme end of the distribution. He went on, of course, to win one of world’s hardest endurance events 7 times (since revoked due to PED use — but these were widely used in the sport at the time).

      So, elite athletes all start with characteristics in the extreme right-hand “tails” of the normal distribution of that set of characteristics over the population (the particular set of relevant characteristics varying from sport to sport). In many of these characteristics (upper body strength or the above mentioned VO2 max) there is simply no overlap between the right-hand tails of the female and male populations. A masculine female may be able to beat 95% of men at one of the sports where men excel (most sports), but not the other 5%.

      Your description of “masculinity” as being a characteristic that is unevenly distributed among the population of women (and, similarly, “femininity” among men) is exactly how I see the situation as well. I suspect that if this concept was more widely embraced, many of the people who feel compelled to go to extreme lengths to transition from one gender to the other would feel comfortable staying whatever gender they were born with (perhaps being lesbian/gay — or perhaps not).

      A pet peeve: we need to stop telling young people: “you can be whatever you want to be”. No they can’t. They can do the best they can with what they’ve been given.

      P.S. greatly enjoying your collection of short stories, particularly the dialogue between young and old people — masterful

      • Holy cow! Thanks d_d. A reader! Fiction. What a baroque way to communicate ideas. Should have been an essayist like our host. Yes. Knowledge simply does not migrate between generations, does it. A theme I picked up teaching the Old Testament to ninth graders. It’s basically the main theme of the Old Testament, as near as I can tell. Cultures are always at risk of back-sliding and having to learn the same lessons each generation.

        I always thought “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” being a gay/lesbian anthem (and Judy Garland being an icon of the same demographic) telling because of the line, “Birds fly over the rainbow, why, oh-oh why can’t I?” To which most anyone would respond: “Because you’re not a bird?”

        A very dear high school friend couple have a twenty-something or so daughter who’s transitioning to being a guy. I can remember when Robin was younger, a tomboy, and clearly wanted to be her Daddy’s little boy (there was only her and her older sister). I guess I’m not qualified to say it, but I sure wish she’d have been or become perfectly content being a lesbian in her OEM body. So torturous, for what?

  3. Top row 2nd from the left?

    Thomas was also beaten in this race by 3 garden-variety women. She either was told “ease up” a bit, or was having a bad day.

        • The more I think about it, the results of the various events these two swam in may have been completely fixed to counter the “trans women competing in women’s sports is unfair” push. I can certainly imagine the Penn coach on the phone with the Yale coach and the Yale coach saying, “Guess what I’ve got on my team: a massive woman who’s turning pretty good times. And she wants to be a guy! How perfect is that! We can have her/him beat the hell out of him/her.” “Perfect,” says the Penn coach, “I’m on board. The publicity will be perfect. Email me the times my guy, er, girl, needs to do.”

          • I find that plausible. His coach might have suggested he take one for the team as it were.

            I also find it plausible that Thomas is not a sprinter, which is what happens in 100 meter/yard swim events across all four strokes. For instance, Katie Ledecke is a monster middle to distance swimmer but she is slower in the 100 meter/yard swims, and is still slower than Thomas.

            Our 17 year old son is a middle to distance (200, 500, 1000, and 1650 free and fly [though the maximum fly is 200 meters/yards]) swimmer and is an above average swimmer in the 100 meter/yard lengths. Our son’s times are equal to our faster than Thomas’s times. (The 400 meter IM, though is a brutal oddity as it is considered a sprint event with 100 meter sprints across all four strokes.) So, if Thomas is a middle to distance swimmer, it is not surprising he ws outperformed by other women swimmers, especially if the Yale swimmer is a sprinter.


  4. Wait. Why aren’t there any BIPOC women on the Yale team???? They’re all lily white to the point of looking feminine and downright WASPY! How can this be? Yale Athletics must be run by white supremacists!

  5. “Bonus Quiz 2”

    I’ve encountered this before. These sites appear to be run by bots that scour the news wires for stories, and use Google Translate to translate them into a target language, and then translate it back to English. My only guess is that it is either straight up incompetence, or a scam to avoid paying royalties to the wire services. Both are of course unethical practices.

    The first story I had was about the Long Island Railroad, which was a nearly incomprehensible mess. I later found the original story on the NewsDay website in perfectly readable English, with a perfect 1:1 ration of mistranslated to comprehensible sentence.

  6. The article is written by AI.

    There are many software options you can use to do this for content generation and there are websites that are nothing but this (to generate ad dollars)

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