Metro Weekly

Trans swimmers smash records at Ivy League Women’s Championships

Iszac Henig and Lia Thomas both secured victories during the NCAA swimming event

iszac henig, lia thomas, trans, swim
Iszac Henig (left) – Photo: Yale University Athletics; and Lia Thomas – Photo: UPenn Athletics.

Transgender swimmers Iszac Henig and Lia Thomas have both set new records at the Ivy League Women’s Swimming Championships.

Henig, who swims for Yale, won the 50-yard freestyle and set a new pool record in Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool, with a time of 21.93.

Besting defending champion Nikki Venema, from Princeton, Henig secured his first ever Ivy League title with the victory.

While the Yale swimmer set a record, he also lost one, in the Women’s 100 Freestyle, to fellow trans competitor Lia Thomas from the University of Pennsylvania.

Thomas smashed multiple records with her 47.63 second swim, claiming the Ivy, meet, pool, and Penn records, Swim Swam reports.

She not only bested Henig’s 47.80 record, which he had set earlier that day during morning heats, but also Henig himself, who came in second with a 47.82 swim.

It was one of three individual victories Thomas secured. The Penn swimmer also claimed 1st place in the 200 and 500 freestyle events, setting new Ivy League records for both events.

Thomas also helped her teammates secure a victory in the 400 freestyle relay, claiming the University of Pennsylvania’s first ever relay title in the program’s history.

Henig similarly helped his team secure victory in the 200 freestyle relay, with Yale setting a new Ivy League Record in the process.

While Thomas and Henig have faced criticism for competing in women’s events, both athletes are eligible under current NCAA rules.

Despite being a transgender male, Henig — who has undergone top surgery — has delayed starting hormone therapy in order to continue competing.

“As a student-athlete, coming out as a trans guy put me in a weird position,” Henig wrote in a column for the New York Times last year.

“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.”

Henig continued: “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.”

Thomas has faced criticism from anti-trans activists, who claim that her participation in women’s events is unfair for cisgender swimmers.

John Lohn, the editor-in-chief of Swimming World, compared Thomas to a “doped” athlete, while Thomas’ teammates had allegedly considered boycotting a swim meet last month due to her inclusion.

That criticism comes despite Thomas adhering to current NCAA guidelines, which require transgender female athletes to undergo one year of testosterone suppression treatment prior to competing in women’s sports.

However, the NCAA last month updated its guidelines to allow individual sports to set their own rules regarding transgender athlete participation.

Adding further fuel to the fire, USA Swimming — the national governing body for swimming in the U.S. — changed its rules last month, requiring a panel of medical experts to determine whether trans athletes can compete based on physical development and testosterone levels.

The policy, effective as of Feb. 1, applies to transgender female swimmers and covers those aged 13 and older who wish to set American records. However, it currently only applies to elite-level athletes, exempting Thomas while she competes in NCAA events.

“USA Swimming has and will continue to champion gender equity and the inclusivity of all cisgender and transgender women and their rights to participate in sport, while also fervently supporting competitive equity at elite levels of competition,” the organization wrote.

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!