Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been nominated for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Woman of the Year award.
Thomas is a former University of Pennsylvania swimmer who sparked nationwide debate about the fairness of transgender biological male athletes competing against biological women and girls.
According to the NCAA website, the award “recognizes female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in their community, in athletics and in academics throughout their college careers.”
“This year’s nominees represent all three NCAA divisions, including 248 from Division I, 127 from Division II and 202 from Division III. Of the 577 nominations, 23 sports are represented, with 125 student-athletes competing in multiple sports,” the website says.
Thomas will be competing against 576 other graduating student-athletes for the award.
Over the last year, 18 states have passed legislation requiring student athletes to play on teams that match their biological sex.
In February, sixteen of the women who played on Thomas’ team signed a letter saying that they support the student’s right to transition, but that it is unfair for them to have to compete against someone who went through male puberty. The letter was asking the NCAA not to challenge new rules set by USA Swimming that would make it more difficult for transgender swimmers to compete against women.
“We, 16 members of the Penn Women’s Swimming Team and our family members, thank USA Swimming, for listening to our request to prioritize fairness for biological women in our elite competitions,” the letter said. “We ask that Penn and the Ivy League support us as biological women, and not engage in legal action with the NCAA to challenge these new Athlete Inclusion Policies.”
In March, the organization Concerned Women for America (CWA) filed a Title IX civil rights complaint against the University of Pennsylvania for allowing Thomas to compete and “refusing to protect the rights of college female athletes under federal law.”
“Thomas is anatomically and biologically a male with physical capacities that are different from anatomically and biologically female athletes, which extends an unfair advantage and strips female student-athletes of opportunities afforded to them by law,” CWA said in a statement at the time.
The complaint also cites reports that Thomas’ teammates have complained about UPenn “allowing a hostile environment to fester in its locker room.”
“The future of women’s sports is at risk and the equal rights of female athletes are being infringed,” said Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America. “We filed a formal civil rights complaint against UPenn in response to this injustice. “Any school that defies federal civil rights law by denying women equal opportunities in athletic programs, forcing women to compete against athletes who are biologically male must be held accountable.”
According to a report from The Hill, “a selection committee will choose 10 student athletes from each division, determining the top 30 honorees that will be celebrated at the NCAA 2023 Convention in January in San Antonio, where the Woman of the Year winner will also be announced.”