Over in the US, there has been a big d̶i̶s̶c̶u̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ media frenzy about transgender college athlete Lia Thomas over the last few weeks.
It's seen broadcasters stir quite the moral panic. They've even managed to get the most decorated Olympian of all time to weigh in on the matter. So what's the deal?
Who is Lia Thomas?
She's an excellent swimmer, who's been making headlines because she's winning, a lot. She's also transgender, and it's seen the media swirl around and put her at the centre of a national debate.
It's all-around guidance for transgender female athletes from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This states:
“A trans female treated with testosterone suppression medication may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one year of testosterone suppression treatment.” - Issued in 2011
Lia has done this and complies with the rules. It's why she's backed by the Ivy League and her college Penn. - NBC
Though in a classic example of transphobia in the press dividing and conquering: Following the media buzz, the NCAA has now announced they're going to review the guidance. - The Independent
What's the real story?
We thought this quick Instagram scroll by educator Schuyler Bailar unpacks this story perfectly.
In a nutshell, Lia is a great athlete because she's trained so hard to be one.
And while the debate is questioning her biology, it's key to remember elite sport depends on biodiversity.
So even though Michael Phelps who took great care when being asked about Lia this week:
"It’s very complicated. We all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin. But I think sports should be played on an even playing field.” - Michael Phelps on CNN
What is important to consider is how Phelps (a cisgender man) is often described as a biodiversity phenomenon by news media. Indeed, celebrated for it.
But when transgender athletes, and indeed women, defy norms like this? The conversation often frames this as 'unfair'. So what's really at play? (Your usual run of the mill transphobia.)
If you're talking to friends about this story, remember biological sex isn't binary. Like many things we talk about in QueerAF, it sits on a spectrum.
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