News & Politics

Male Swimmer Dominates UPenn's Women's Swim Team

AP Photo/Robin Rayne

Will Thomas was a moderately successful swimmer on the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swim team for three years. But then he took a year off, reemerged as transgender, and started dominating the women’s swim team.

“One of my big concerns for trans people is feeling alone,” he told Penn Today. “Even if you don’t pay attention to the news … [about] states proposing and passing vicious anti-trans legislation, it can feel very lonely and overwhelming.”

“The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that’s usually really solid. Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?”

He added, “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.”

Related: The Olympics Punts on a New Framework for Transgender Athletes to Compete

According to, during a meet with Columbia University last month, Thomas, now going by the name Lia, “took home a pair of gold medals in the 200 free and 100 free with margins of 5.4 seconds and 1.3 seconds.”

She He contributed three first-place finishes and a second, winning the 200 free (1:46.92) and the 100 free (50.35) and contributing to the winning 200 medley relay (22.76 anchor) and runner-up 200 free relay (22.74 anchor). Her His 100 and 200 free times were not far off the Penn women’s team’s records (49.37/1:45.69), and her his time in the 200 free ranks her him 9th in the NCAA so far this season.