Wimbledon tennis champion Martina Navratilova lashed out at Lia Thomas after the transgender swimmer accused her former teammates of supporting her transition but not her ability to compete as a woman.
Thomas, who last year became the first transgender athlete to win a first-division NCAA national championship, called out her fellow University of Pennsylvania swimmers for “half-support” hiding behind the idea of feminism to “make transphobic push beliefs’.
She made the accusation on the “Dear Schuyler” podcast, hosted by Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA swimmer.
Thomas’ comments prompted 66-year-old Navratilova to tweet in response, “Stop explaining feminism to feminists.”
“Lia, it’s not fair. We don’t have to explain it to you over and over again.’
Thomas is pictured with host Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA swimmer, during Monday’s “Dear Schuyler” podcast
Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, 66, has targeted transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for berating her teammates for using feminism to support transphobic beliefs
The former collegiate swimmer was on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania, but joined the women’s team after her transition.
Thomas said of her naysayers, “they say, ‘We respect Lia as a woman, as a trans woman, whatever, we respect her identity, we just don’t think it’s fair.’
The former collegiate swimmer, who swam on Penn’s men’s team but joined the women’s team after her transition, said she believes that instead of being barred from sports, trans women should be “celebrated” for their achievements.
On the podcast, Thomas told Bailar that she is “proud” of her achievements, claiming that transgender athletes are “almost not allowed to celebrate our achievements.”
“I felt I didn’t want to invite more negativity,” she said of her decision not to speak out about her past victory, “but I think trans women should be celebrated.”
Thomas went on to say that critics of transgender athletes in sports “check the female body,” comparing the drive to exclude transgender female athletes from sports to historic efforts to exclude black women from participating in women’s sports.
“They’re using the guise of feminism to push transphobic beliefs,” she said.
“I think a lot of people in that camp kind of have an implicit bias against transgender people, but I don’t think they want to fully manifest or voice that. And so they just try to play it off as this kind of half support.
“You can’t do that, you can’t kind of break me into little pieces as a person.”
Bailar agreed with the controversial athlete, saying “they’re coming out… this whole protecting “protect women’s sports” thing, (which) has become a very big movement and that they’re doing it under the guise of feminism. “Oh, we’re just feminists, we just fight for women,” and when someone says that, I always say (like), “Okay, you’re fighting for women by excluding women, so that’s not fighting for women.” ‘
He went on to say that feminism has become “warped” and “turned to excluding women” and reducing them to “reproductive ability.”
The nine-time Wimbledon champion and long-time advocate in the gay community has spoken out about her stance against transgender women competing against biological women in sports.
In March, she applauded World Athletics for adopting a policy to exclude transgender female athletes from women’s competitions, calling it a “step in the right direction.”
In the same month, Navratilova also announced her cancer-free status after being diagnosed with breast cancer and throat cancer in November 2022.
She announced the news during an emotional interview with Piers Morgan, saying she feared she “wouldn’t see next Christmas” and that overcoming the disease was the “hardest thing ever.”
Thomas and Bailar have been friends for a long time. Bailar was recruited to Harvard’s women’s team and joined the men’s team after his transition, according to The Harvard Gazette
The 26-year-old host, whose full name is Schuyler Miwon Hong Bailar, was recruited to the women’s team at Harvard and joined the men’s team after his transition. The Harvard Gazette.
He was the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer and publicly documented NCAA D1 transgender man to compete in any sport as a man.
He introduced Thomas as an old friend.
“For cisgender people, many have expressed a desire to be inclusive, but can’t imagine the ‘advantage’ that trans women can have in a particular sport,” Schuyler said. ‘
“Meanwhile, trans people want to be able to access sports in the same way as cis men and women, without jumping through hoops or feeling like an outcast among teammates.”
“Ultimately everyone – under a true feminist – everyone is trying to come together to kind of break down these patriarchal ideals of what a woman is and who can be a woman and open that up to the very wide range of possibilities that are out there, Thomas said.
In his conclusion, Bailar argued that there are inherent differences between athletes – using Michael Phelps and Caster Semeny as examples.
“I know most people will just use the ‘biological advantage’ argument, saying that some alleged biological advantage makes it unfair for trans women to compete with other women,” he began.
“But let’s look at a few points: Biological diversity exists everywhere in sports, in every demographic of people and every demographic of women. That’s kind of what sport is based on,” he argued. “I mean, if everyone was exactly the same, there wouldn’t be any competition.”
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas speaks with her coach after winning the 500-meter freestyle during a meeting with Harvard on January 22, 2022 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Sport depends on bodies being different and performing differently.”
Bailar further argued that male athletes don’t get the same level of criticism when their body type gives them an advantage in their sport.
‘If there are those differences in the men’s category, most people don’t care. In fact, they praise those differences,” he said.
“Let’s look at Michael Phelps, the winningest Olympian of all time. You probably know who he is. He’s super tall. He has a very long upper body and a very wide wingspan – all of which are specific advantages for swimming. He also produces half as much lactic acid as the average athlete. Not the average person, the average athlete. And all of these things give him a huge biological advantage.
“But his biological differences are celebrated. When they look at him, they say, “Wow, what an amazing biological anomaly.”
Does it have biological benefits? Absolute. But do people say that is grounds for disqualification? “Oh, Michael Phelps is too tall” or “wingspan is too long” or “his lactic acid is too low, so we have to disqualify him.” No, people don’t. They let him have his body as it is.’
On the other hand, let’s look at the women’s category. Maybe Caster Semenya – as a black, queer, cisgender (not a transgender woman) who is also intersex,” Bailar said.
She’s an Olympic champion. But when she won, people accused her of being too masculine and demanded that her body be examined.
When they discovered she was intersex, they instituted rules that required her to change her testosterone in order to compete. Under the most recent rules, she must undergo hormone suppression for six months before being allowed to compete internationally.
“Michael Phelps gets to keep his body as it is and, in fact, he’s celebrated for all of its biological benefits. But Caster Semenya and other women like her are excluded.
This also applies to transgender women. If a trans woman is different, it is immediately called unfair. But the reality is that there are so many women who might be “too tall” or “too strong” or “too fast”, and so this debate isn’t really about fairness.
“The attempt to exclude transgender women means that you actually have to know which ones are transgender and that requires you to keep an eye on the entire women’s category, ie all women.
“The legal forces that oversee women’s bodies in sports will destroy the women’s category. Not the inclusion of transgender women.”