Paula Scanlan, a former teammate of swimmer Will “Lia” Thomas at the University of Pennsylvania, recently spoke out about her experience with the transgender athlete swimming on the women’s team. In an interview with EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders,” Scanlan shared that she initially refrained from speaking out due to fear and a lack of courage.
Scanlan, who appeared anonymously in the Daily Wire documentary “What is a Woman?”, felt compelled to reveal more details about how UPenn handled the introduction of a male-born athlete to the women’s swim team. She expressed disappointment in the lack of debate and negotiation surrounding the issue.
She explained that in the fall of 2019, the team was informed that a member of the men’s team would be transitioning to the women’s team. At the time, there were warnings about male-born athlete Will Thomas entering the women’s locker room. However, two years later, there were no warnings, and Thomas was present in the locker room daily. This inconsistency confused Scanlan, who questioned whether declaring oneself as a woman was enough to warrant access to women’s spaces.
Scanlan and other critics turned to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rules for guidance. These rules required male athletes to undergo one year of testosterone suppression treatment before competing on a women’s team. However, Scanlan argued that these rules did not consider significant physiological differences between men and women, such as skeletal structure, muscle mass, lung capacity, and heart size.
Thomas’s success in competitions against women further highlighted the concerns raised by Scanlan and others. In March, Thomas won the NCAA championships in the 500-yard freestyle race, beating out Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant by over a second.
When Scanlan and her teammates started discussing the unfairness of the situation, they were accused of transphobia and hate speech. The university, aiming for inclusiveness, reprimanded the team for speaking out and even restricted their thoughts and conversations on the matter. Scanlan recounted how the university warned them not to speak to the media and that they would regret doing so.
In response to the growing discomfort within the team, UPenn officials brought in psychological experts and urged team members to seek counseling if they felt uneasy about the situation. Scanlan found this approach concerning, equating it to a form of re-education. She also noted a broader shift in campus culture, with less room for dissenting viewpoints and the suppression of conservative voices.
Scanlan’s belief in engaging people with different viewpoints comes from her family history. Her grandfather, a journalist, reported on the 2/28 Incident, a period of political suppression in post-World War II Taiwan. This experience of suppressing dissenting voices and opinions left a lasting impact on Scanlan and motivated her to speak out.
Overall, Scanlan’s account sheds light on the lack of debate and negotiation regarding transgender athletes and its impact on women’s sports. She questions the fairness of allowing male-born athletes to compete in women’s sports without considering the physical advantages they may retain.