You might have heard about Lia Thomas, a swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania who, after swimming on the men’s team for three years as Will Thomas, now competes on the women’s team. The results have been predictable.
As of December, Thomas had recorded the fastest times in women’s college swimming in the 200 and 500 freestyle and won a 1,650 meter freestyle event by nearly 40 seconds. It turns out men are very fast women.
The reaction has also been predictable. Yes, a few see it as a sign of “progress,” but most people instinctively recognize the injustice and insanity of it all. The crowds have been known to sit silently after Thomas completes a race and wait for the first female swimmer to finish before applauding. Although the NCAA insists the emperor’s new clothes are beautiful, it seems the onlookers aren’t buying it.
Those who are most frustrated might not fully appreciate how this all came to be. One female Penn swimmer has expressed her frustration anonymously out of fear of retribution. She told The Washington Examiner that “I am typically liberal, but this is past that. This is so wrong. This doesn’t make any sense.”
Apparently, she sees no connection between her “typically liberal” values and what she now experiences on her swim team. That’s a mistake.
Thomas’ teammate likely equates being “liberal” with being “tolerant” and “nice.” She probably grew up encouraging people to live “authentically” so they could be happy. But now, those chickens are coming home to roost.
Another anonymous teammate explained in a different interview how the situation is affecting the team. “They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got. Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”
It’s helpful to remember how we got here. Ten short years ago, same-sex marriage was illegal in most places, but the campaign to legalize it was going strong. At that time, few were claiming boys can become girls. In fact, the movement mocked the idea that same-sex marriage diminished the two halves of humanity in any way. They said this was just about the freedom to “be who you are” and “love who you love.”
Two things happened during the national debate over marriage that the Penn women’s swim team would do well to think about. First, our society embraced the idea that living “authentically” is the greatest thing a person can do. Second, we accepted the notion that the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough for the law to be concerned about.
For the transgender movement, the most difficult work was already done. Americans had been convinced that denying someone else’s truth made you a bad person, and along came Lia Thomas expressing the desire to live “authentically” while also claiming the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough to be concerned about.
Thomas’ new teammates want to object, but they agreed with the premise long ago. Either truth is personal, or it isn’t. Either we all have the right to live “authentically,” or there are ultimate truths we need to understand and embrace lest we destroy ourselves. These are binary choices, and many who took the path most traveled are becoming upset when they find out where it leads.
We all should have known better, and some of us did, but, in general, we were too busy feeling to think. The slogans were too easy to agree with and the social credit associated with being on the “right side of history” was irresistible. It was intoxicating to dream of a world just over the horizon — after we eradicated all the Neanderthals — where everyone could do what made them happy without judgment, bigotry and hate. People were personally so excited about the potential of being able to do whatever they wanted that they did not adequately consider what might happen if everyone else did whatever they wanted, too.
In this case, they joined the swim team and beat you by 40 seconds. But it can get worse. Unless Thomas’ teammates and everyone else who enabled the status quo reevaluates what we’ve been doing for the last decade, they will long for the day when their greatest concern was men on their swim team.
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.