The 22-year-old broke her silence on Good Morning America on Tuesday where she also revealed hopes to compete for America in the Olympics.
It comes after a wave of doctors suggested she – and other trans female athletes – will always have an unfair advantage in some sports because they cannot undo puberty, when their biological male bodies were flooded with testosterone.
Speaking on Tuesday, Lia admitted she is ‘no medical expert’ but she said some cisgender females have more testosterone, bigger hands and feet and are taller than their competitors – so why should she banned when they aren’t.
‘I don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself,’ she said.
She also said anyone who says she isn’t allowed to compete is a woman is transphobic, whether or not they support her right to transition.
‘You can’t go halfway and be like “I support trans people but only to a certain point.”
‘If you support transwomen and they’ve met all the N.C.A.A. requirements, I don’t know if you can say something like that.
‘Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport,’ she said.
Scroll down for video
Lia Thomas appearing on Good Morning America on Tuesday where she said she hopes to swim for America in the Olympics
Thomas began transitioning in 2020 aged 19. Doctors say that even though she has met hormone replacement therapy requirements, it is not enough to reverse the effects of puberty as a male to the extent needed to level the playing field
She dismissed the controversy surrounding her place in the women’s category, saying she is now happy.
‘There’s a lot of factors that go into a race and how well you do. The biggest change for me is that I’m happy and sophomore year where I had my best times competing with men, I was miserable.
‘Having that be lifted is incredibly relieving and allows me to put my all into training and racing.’
Thomas (pictured in 2017) formerly competed in the men’s team and started taking hormone therapy in 2019-2020. The pandemic gave her a break in the sport and she proceeded with transition therapy
She insisted that she did not transition to perform better in the league tables, explaining: ‘Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and to be ourselves.
‘Transition to get an advantage is not something that factors into our decisions,’ she said.
She also said she was prepared to give up her swimming career in order to transition and wasn’t sure she would be allowed to compete as a woman.
When she started taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), she said she immediately became slower in the water.
‘I’m not a medical expert but there’s a lot of variation among cis female athletes. There are cis women who are tall muscular and have more testosterone. Should that also disqualify them?’
Doctors say that Lia does have an unfair advantage that cannot be reversed because she went through puberty before she started taking hormones to become female.
While the hormones reduced her levels of testosterone, some experts say a year or even four years of the therapy is not enough to reverse what happens to the male teenage body.
‘There are social aspects to sport, but physiology and biology underpin it. Testosterone is the 800-pound gorilla,’ Michael J. Joyner, the Mayo Clinic doctor, said yesterday in an interview with The New York Times.
He added on Tuesday on Good Morning America: ‘Body size, hand size, foot size, bone density [are all factors] but the main thing is the interactions of exercise training and muscle.
‘I think that evidence so far would suggest a period of a year, two, three or even four years [of hormone therapy] is insufficient.’
Shrugging off the doctor’s comments, Lia says she hopes to compete in the Olympics.
‘It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time. I would love to see that through,’ she said.
Lia Thomas after winning the 500 yard freestyle in March. The runners-up posed together
Dr. Michael Joyner, left, and Dr. Ross Tucker, right, both say the biological advantage is inescapable
‘Lia Thomas is the manifestation of the scientific evidence. The reduction in testosterone did not remove her biological advantage,’ Dr. Ross Tucker, a sports physiologist added.
Their comments confirm the fears of Lia’s competitors, who were literally blown out of the water after she started transitioning from male to female when she was 19.
She has since soared to the top of the women’s league tables, whereas she was unheard of as a male athlete.
The swimmer’s teammates at Princeton have anonymously fought to have her excluded from the category.
Martina Navratilova says Lia has an unfair advantage
They are too frightened to speak publicly about the issue for fear of being kicked off he team or lampooned by LGBTQ activism.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Lia defended her position saying: ‘I am a woman, just like anybody else on the team. I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer.
‘It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love. ‘I get into the water every day and do my best,’ she said.
In the Times article, one of the teammates revealed she had been rejected from a social eating club at Princeton because she had branded ‘transphobic’ for questioning Lia’s place in the sport.
Her place has divided the world of sport.
Some say she should be allowed to compete in the category she identifies with whereas others, including tennis legend Martina Navratilova – who is gay – say it’s unfair.
Navratilova was admonished for tweeting about Lia’s situation and suggesting that she should compete with an asterisk next to her name.
She told the Times: ‘I played against taller women, I played against stronger women, and I beat them all.
Caitlyn Jenner has also deemed Lia’s place in the women’s category as unfar
‘But if I faced the male equivalent of Lia in tennis, that’s biology. I would have had no shot. And I would have been livid.’
Trans tennis player Renee Richards transitioned from female to male in her 40s.
She said in an interview in 2012 that she had changed her position to acknowledge that male biology gives trans female athletes an advantage.
‘Having lived for the past 30 years, I know if I’d had surgery at the age of 22, and then at 24 went on the tour, no genetic woman in the world would have been able to come close to me. And so I’ve reconsidered my opinion.
‘There is one thing that a transsexual woman unfortunately cannot expect to be allowed to do, and that is to play professional sports in her chosen field. She can get married, live as woman, do all of those other things, and no one should ever be allowed to take them away from her.
‘But this limitation—that’s just life. I know because I lived it,’ she told Slate in 2012, years before Lia transitioned.