, 2022-12-23 10:00:00,
At this time last year, then-University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas had become a national story. A couple weeks before, she put up the nation’s-best times in various freestyle swimming events at an otherwise obscure invitational meet at the University of Akron.
Iszac Henig was at the time unknown to most, but quite valuable in the eyes of his Yale women’s swimming teammates. He had chosen to hold off starting hormone replacement therapy after coming out as a transgender man in 2021, because he wanted one last ride for an Ivy League championship with the teammates who supported him.
“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,” he stated in a Pride Month article in the New York Times last June. “At least, that’s what I’ll try to remember when I put on the women’s swimsuit for competition and am reminded of a self I no longer feel attached to.”
The ripples of their success last season extended far beyond the swimming pool and in many ways defined the growing debate surrounding inclusion. Their exploits in competition and how those affect sports as a whole are what make both Thomas and Henig Outsports Transgender Athletes of the Year for 2022.
They became linked at a twin-dual meet between their schools and Princeton in January at Penn. They met head-to-head in the 100-yard freestyle. Henig won. Thomas was sixth.
After the meet, the Penn and Yale seniors gathered for a picture. The meet would be Thomas’ last at Penn.
The two transgender student-athletes stood next to each other not knowing how linked they would be going forward.
Since putting up NCAA automatic qualifying marks in the 200 and 500, Thomas was a hot topic. Much of the discussion came from those who saw her as someone who would “destroy women’s sports”.
Varied pundits, certain women’s sports advocates, and traditionally anti-LGBTQ lobbies tried to paint her a monster who would crush the sport. The fear of her rise may have been the catalyst of the NCAA, USA Swimming and, later in the year, FINA to make sweeping changes in regard to regulations for…
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