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Lia Thomas just proved Transgender athletes don’t always win

Stanford swimmer Taylor Ruck won her first individual NCAA championship and puts her in a tie with former Stanford star Simone Manuel

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Lia Thomas was in Lane 5, the fifth swimmer from the top. (Photo by Dawn Ennis)

ATLANTA – Lia Thomas, the controversial college swimmer who won the NCAA DI National Champion trophy in the 500-freestyle Thursday, finished a distant fifth in the 200-yard free Friday night. 

The winner, two-time Canadian Olympian Taylor Ruck of Stanford, set a pool record with her winning time of 1:41:12. In fact, California swimmers were dominant in the final.

Thomas, who won the preliminary race earlier Friday with a time of 1:42.09, finished more than two seconds behind Ruck and lagged the entire race, even from the starting blocks. She wound up in a tie with Riley Gaines of the University of Kentucky, at 1:43:40.

At the halfway point in the final, Thomas was languishing in seventh place, then managed to pass USC’s Laticia Transom. In the final 50 yards, the Austin, Texas native even pulled even with Gaines, and her pattern has been to build slowly and pour it on in the last laps. Not this time; She was never able to catch Ruck and Cal swimmer Isabel Ivey, who dominated the first 150 yards of the race.

As Swimming World’s David Rieder noted: “Thomas’s 100-yard split of 50.34 was actually much quicker than her halfway time of 50.87 in prelims. But after Thomas split 25-mid efforts on the third and fourth 50s in prelims, she was almost a second slower on each of those splits in the final.”

The result is more proof of what Outsports reported in 2019: Trans athletes do not always win. 

Protesters Boo Thomas

Steady rain and thunderstorms for most of the day kept anti-trans activists, as well as inclusion advocates, from demonstrating outside the McAuley Aquatics Center. But a devoted and loud group of protesters sat in the stands across from the pool, and booed when Thomas was introduced before the race, and again when the University of Pennsylvania senior appeared on the podium as the 5th place finisher.

Activists from Save Women’s Sports boo Lia Thomas at McAuley Aquatics Center in Atlanta, Ga on Friday, March 18, 2022.  (Photo by Dawn Ennis)

As Thomas left the pool deck, there was no mob of supporters as she walked alone across the aquatic center. Then she smiled and waved to her friend, Schuyler Bailar, the first trans athlete to compete in DI. Bailar swam for the Harvard men’s team in 2015. 

(Photo by Dawn Ennis)

Stanford Celebrates

In contrast to their reaction to Thomas, the crowd cheered loudly for Ruck and the other cisgender women who finished behind her. A large group of Stanford teammates greeted Ruck in celebration as she climbed out of the pool. This victory puts her in a tie with former Stanford star Simone Manuel, the fourth-fastest swimmer in NCAA history.

Ruck’s winning time was a fraction of a second faster than her closest competitor, Ivey, who was a close second throughout the heat. The Gainesville, Fla. native was also a close second to Thomas in Friday’s prelims, just a half second behind her. 

This is Ruck’s first individual NCAA title. As Swimming World reported last year, Ruck has struggled with life outside the pool, battling eating disorders, a not uncommon problem plaguing student-athletes.

“It certainly has been a journey since then,” Ruck told reporters at a late night news conference on Friday. “Lots of downs more than ups. But I think the past few years have just been very hard for everyone, and everybody just has their own path and journey through it. Mine happened to be with an eating disorder. I’m happy to say that I’m on the other side of that struggle and I’m hoping if anybody else is going through the same thing, it does get better.”

Being back at Stanford following the pandemic has been very meaningful to Ruck, she told me, especially given that it’s been her dream school since she was a girl. Not just because of the great weather, but because of the people there, and the opportunity she saw on a family road trip long ago.

“We used to drive up the coast from Arizona,” she said. “I grew up in Arizona, so we used to drive up every year to where I was born, Kelowna, in Canada. We stopped at Stanford this one year, and I just remember walking past the pool in the aquatic center and seeing all the girls like practicing. I’m probably like 10, and I don’t know, it’s just like ingrained in me, like, that’s where I wanted to go. Just the awe that I felt in that moment.”

I asked Ruck her thoughts on Thomas. She said she heard “the chatter” about her, but was focused only on her own performance and apparently didn’t consider it unfair for Thomas to compete. “Competition is competition,” said Ruck, who added that she relished the challenge Thomas represented. “I was excited to race against someone who swims so fast.”

What’s Next for Thomas?

Since she didn’t finish first, Thomas was under no obligation to speak to the news media Friday. Michael Mahoney, Penn’s spokesperson, told me Thomas has decided to not speak to any reporters “until it’s all over,” which will be tomorrow here in Atlanta.

That’s when she and trans man Iszac Henig compete head-to-head in the 100-freestyle, the first time in NCAA history that two out transgender student-athletes will compete in the same championship race.

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Editor’s Note: The preceding article was a media share between Forbes.com & the Los Angeles Blade.

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Carrying a Pride flag- protester interrupts World Cup game

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East

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Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

LUSAIL, Qatar – During a World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay Monday, a lone protester ran across the field waving a LGBTQ+ Pride flag moments after the second half kickoff.

Video and still images show the man wearing a blue T-shirt emblazed with the Superman symbol and the phrase “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back.

Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

Qatari security personnel chased him down and then frog marched him off the playing field. Israeli Public Radio correspondent Amichai Stein tweeted video clips of the incident:

FIFA had no immediate comment on the incident the Associated Press noted reporting that in the first week of the tournament in Qatar, seven European teams lost the battle to wear multi-colored “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone was welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

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Blinken criticizes FIFA over threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ+ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

DOHA, Qatar — Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ+ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Far right angry U.S. Soccer honors LGBTQ+ people for World Cup

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country

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USA Soccer team media area Qatar (Screenshot/YouTube Sky News Global)

CHICAGO – The decision to support the global LGBTQ+ community by the U.S. Men’s soccer team with a redesigned logo incorporating the LGBTQ+ Pride flag to its badge which will be seen at the USA Soccer team’s hotel, media areas and parties throughout the Qatar World Cup, has angered far-right homophobic groups in the U.S.

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country with up to seven years in jail, while queer Muslim men, under Sharia law, can be punished with death.

The World Cup begins on Sunday on November 20 and the US team is slotted to play against the team from Wales on Monday the 21st.

“Our rainbow badge has an important and consistent role in the identity of US Soccer,” A US Soccer spokesperson said. “As part of our approach for any match or event, we include rainbow branding to support and embrace the LGBTQ community, as well as to promote a spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming to all fans across the globe.”

Media Matters reported that Daily Wire Host and transphobic/homophobic host Matt Walsh in a rant on his daily show said:

“The corporate gay pride stuff is just sheep’s blood on the door signaling that they are the chosen people so the angel of cancellation passes them over. But as far as symbolism goes, I think it is appropriate that they should change the colors of the American flag with the colors of the LGBT flag.

“I mean, it’s horrendous, it’s traitorous, it’s treasonous — if I was in charge of the country, they wouldn’t be allowed back into the country — but it’s also appropriate.

“Because the LGBT nation, LGBTistan we may call it, is, after all, the country that corporate America as well as the United States government seeks to represent.

“Now some people predict that we will eventually in the future become two countries, there’s going to be some civil war. But the point is we’re already two countries. There’s one that salutes the Pride flag and despises the American flag, and one that salutes the American flag and has no use for the Pride flag.

“At this point, it’s only a matter of making the split official, I suppose. Something that we will probably never do, but we should.” 

During a press conference Gregg Berhalter, head coach of the US men’s soccer team, said: “I think that when we are on the world stage and [we’re in] Qatar, it’s important to bring awareness to these issues, and that’s what Be the Change is about.”

Berhalter was referring to the campaign launched in November 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, to put a spotlight on human rights abuses and social injustice.

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No disputing winner: Jacob Caswell is first in nonbinary category

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ

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Jacob Caswell/Instagram

NEW YORK – For the first time in the history of the six major marathons around the world, organizers of the New York City Marathon awarded cash prizes to the top nonbinary runners. 

Jacob Caswell, 25, of New York City, finished first in their category on Sunday, earning $5,000, for running the 26.2 mile race in 2:45:12. 

“None of this would be possible without so many people putting in amazing work so that I and all future runners have a more inclusive space to run in,” Caswell posted on Instagram. “A major thank you to everyone!”

This was Caswell’s first time running the NYC Marathon, but they’ve been training by competing in a half-marathon in Brooklyn—winning the nonbinary category—and as well as the New York Road Runners 10K in Queens this past June. 

“Being able to not even win but just compete as yourself, it’s just been freeing,” Caswell told The New York Times.

In the NYC Marathon, they finished 172nd overall and 24 and a half minute ahead of this year’s second place nonbinary runner, Zackary Harris of New York City. Last year, Harris, 27, finished first in the nonbinary category, but at that time there were no cash prizes. Justin Solle, 28, also of New York, finished third of the 45 nonbinary runners. 

While most of that category’s runners hail from the Greater New York metropolitan area, there were also nonbinary runners from Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington State and even from Germany. 

This race was only the second time a World Marathon Major race registered nonbinary competitors. Marathon organizers in Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin followed New York’s lead; Only the Tokyo Marathon has not, according to NBC News.

The Times reported the Philadelphia Distance Run became the first organization to offer equal prize money to nonbinary athletes in September.

Photo by Da Ping Luo for NYRR

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ. According to The Times, Front Runners New York is working with groups like New York City Runs to offer more opportunities for nonbinary, trans and trans nonbinary runners. 

“Nonbinary runners have been here this whole time,” Harris told the newspaper. “We’ve been forced to run in categories that don’t match our gender identities, and now we’re seeing a shift in sports to actually recognize us.”

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Black player makes history: He’s Out at Hampton University

HU’s student body is predominately Black and female with over 83% of students from out-of-state or from other countries

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Byron Perkins (Los Angeles Blade/Instagram)

HAMPTON, Va. – In an exclusive interview with Cyd Ziegler of OutSports magazine, a football athlete at Hampton University, a private, historically Black, research university spoke about his coming Out as the first openly gay athlete at the university.

In his interview, Byron Perkins, a defensive back, said; “Especially at an HU, young Black gay men need an outlet. They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.”  

HU’s student body is predominately Black and female with over 83% of students from out-of-state or from other countries. The football team, the Hampton Pirates, compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Perkins, who is a junior, had transferred to HU from Purdue University and according to his stats has played two seasons with the HU Pirates. So far this season he has been credited with 16 tackles and two deflected passes. The Pirates current season standing overall is 4-2.

Speaking with OutSports Perkins outlined his views on coming Out and his growth as a person, a gay Black male in particular as he charts a new course in his life.

“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” Perkins said. “I thought it could be just football and school, but there was a component missing. And recently I’ve been able to figure out that I haven’t been fully happy because everyone didn’t know who I was. Authenticity is everything to me.”

Perkins also posted to Instagram revealing his sexual orientation, “I have come to understand that life is precious and I could be gone at any moment, therefore, I will no longer be living a lie. No one should have to live a life crippled by what society thinks.”

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