Former teammates of successful trans swimmer, Lia Thomas, have spoken out over their discomfort at having to undress next to her "18 times a week".
A highly contentious issue in America’s culture wars, the debate over trans participation in women’s sport has spilled over from the pool and into the locker room.
Addressing the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Thomas’ former teammate and NCAA Division I swimmer, Paula Scanlan, told lawmakers that complaints fell on deaf ears.
Scanlan said: “My teammates and I were forced to undress in the presence of Lia, a 6-foot-4 tall, biological male, with fully intact male genitalia, 18 times per week.
Paula Scanlan addressing the The Dangers and Due Process Violations of Gender-Affirming Care committee meeting
House Judiciary GOP
“Some girls opted to change in bathroom stalls and others used the family bathroom to avoid this.”
When teammates raised the issue with the university, Scanlan says they were offered counselling to “reeducate” with the intention of making them “comfortable with the idea of undressing in front of a male”.
Addressing the committee meeting, called The Dangers and Due Process Violations of Gender-Affirming Care, Scanlan said: “To sum up the university's response, we, the women, were the problem, not the victims.
“We were expected to conform, to move over and shut up. Our feelings didn't matter. The university was gaslighting and fear-mongering women to validate the feelings and identity of a male.”
Thomas had previously competed on the male swimming team, before beginning the transitioning process in 2019 and joining the female team in 2021.
Lia Thomas (left) with trans swimmer Schuyler Bailar (right) posing for a photo in January 2023
Competing in the men’s team for the 2018-2919 season, Thomas ranked 554th in the 200 freestyle, 65th in the 500 freestyle, and 32nd in the 1650 freestyle.
In the 2021-2022 season, those rankings improved when competing in the women’s team to fifth in the 200 freestyle, first in the 500 freestyle, and eighth in the 1650 freestyle.
Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming title at the Ivy League Penn, and was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award 2022 as a result.
Looking back, Scanlan told the committee:”'Lia formally had personal best times in every freestyle event that were faster than the women's world records.”
She added: “Today, any discussion maintaining the sanctity of women's spaces is labeled transphobic, bigoted and hateful.
“What's bigoted and hateful is discrimination against women and the efforts to erase women and our equal opportunities, dignity and safe spaces.”
The hearing came after another swimmer, Riley Gaines, expressed the opinion to Fox News that the National Collegiate Athletic Association should create separate locker rooms for transgender athletes.
Gaines, a 12-time All-American and five-time SEC champion, reflected on her discomfort at being exposed to Thomas’s male genitalia after a meet.
She said: "We were not forewarned beforehand that we would be sharing a locker room with Lia.
“We did not give our consent, they did not ask for our consent, but in that locker room we turned around, and there’s a 6’4" biological man dropping his pants and watching us undress, and we were exposed to male genitalia.”
Gaines added: "Not even probably a year, two years ago, this would have been considered some form of sexual assault, voyeurism.”