Lia Thomas’ Biological Edge ‘Not the Problem’

Lia Thomas’ Biological Edge ‘Not the Problem’

Susan Shaw, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Oregon State, wrote a recent Forbes op-ed titled “Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’ body isn’t the problem.”

But this title rests on a fallacy that is increasingly recognized by the public as such: Lia Thomas’ body is precisely the problem.

Unsatisfied with stealing the NCAA Division I 500m freestyle championship from a woman in 2022, Thomas is now suing World Aquatics at the International Court of Arbitration for Sport over its refusal to allow Thomas, who was born male, but “identify” as transgender, compete in the women’s division in elite swimming events, such as the US Olympic swim team trials.

Their heavy regulation? World Aquatics only allows transgender women to compete in women’s events if they have transitioned before the age of 12 or before one of the early stages of puberty.

Shaw believes deep divisions over transgender athletic participation are not based on research evidence of trans athletic advantages, but rather on “our deep and largely unexamined assumptions about biology and gender.”

But these supposed assumptions are supported by hard scientific research referenced in the joint statement of the International Federation of Sports Medicine and the European Federation of Sports Medicine Societies, which showed that the International Olympic Committee – with its trans-inclusive sports regulations – had failed to take due account of “scientific, biological or medical aspects”.

In particular, he ignored that “high concentrations of testosterone, whether endogenous or exogenous, confer a basic advantage on athletes in certain sports … and should be mitigated.”

World Aquatics later convened its own group of scientists in order to develop sporting regulations for transgender sport. In findings to be filed under “I told you so,” the scientists reported that “biological sex is a key determinant of athletic performance,” with men outperforming women in sports (including aquatics) that are largely determined by neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory function. and anthropometry including body and limb size.

The Independent Women’s Forum compiled some of the most compelling research on the physiological differences between men and women in its “Competition” report, available on the group’s website.

So yes, Lia Thomas — at 6-foot-1, with broader shoulders, greater muscle mass, greater bone density and longer legs — has a distinct athletic advantage over even the most trained female aquatic competitors in the world.

Like other feminists, Ms Shaw emphasizes the “illusion of difference” between the sexes, claiming that if “women cut their hair like men, wore ‘men’s’ clothes and didn’t shave their legs and armpits, wear make-up, or pluck their eyebrows, they would not look so different from men as they do.”

But there is a differential gulf between looking the same and being the same. And for decades, feminists fought against the tired terror that women should be distinguished (from men and each other) primarily by their looks. This is a surprisingly reductionist argument for a supposed feminist to rely so heavily on superficial expressions of womanhood.

Femininity is not makeup, hairstyles, dresses or high heels. And even critically-thinking gender zealots should know better.

A favorite tactic of the anti-biology crowd is to force a conflation of the sexes and paint immutable differences as artificial, ensuring that women’s equality can be destroyed sport by sport, bathroom by bathroom, program by program.

Shaw tries to argue that we “can’t even define biological sex that well.” Of course we can. Sex is determined by sexual reproduction and sex cells called gametes. Biologists know it. Other professors know him. Teenagers know it. Federal judges know it (though perhaps not all Supreme Court justices do). Even small children, observant as they are, understand that boys and girls are different.

Why else would there be a need to proselytize these same children to a world where gender unicorns, drag queens, and subjective self-identification take the place of what their eyes know to be true?

The driving force behind the significant civil rights gains for women was the realization that while men and women are different, opportunities for each should be equal. Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote as much in her 1996 majority opinion in US v. Virginia: “Physical differences between men and women, however, are enduring: ‘[T]the two genders are not interchangeable; a community consisting exclusively of one [sex] is different from a community composed of both.”

In the battle for women’s athletic equality, the male body will always be an issue.

Originally published on

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