In Lia Thomas's victory, transgenderism reaches its logical and inevitable conclusion.
Among the best episodes of the original Twilight Zone series is Rod Serlings adaptation of Jerome Bixbys Its A Good Life, a 1953 short story about a small town held captive by a magical and murderous child. The Twilight Zone adaptation of the same name follows residents of an Ohio backwater who live in perpetual fear of Anthony Fremonta capricious six-year-old with telepathic and telekinetic powers. When the townsfolk think bad thoughts or utter idle words in Anthonys presence, the child strikes them mute. When hes really angry, he banishes them to a nearby cornfield where they meet their demise.
Thats why everyone smiles around Anthony, his father says in a voiceover narration. Because you cant take the risk of making the little boy angry. You just cant take that risk.
The episode is centered around a surprise party for Dan Hollis, one of the Fremonts neighbors. The party begins with the towns lone hour of weekly televisiona dinosaur cartoon for young children, the only show Anthony will allow on the towns airwaves. Anthony sits enrapt before the screen as the neighbors sit nervously behind him. As soon as the show is over, the neighbors tell Anthony that the cartoon was goodvery good.
Oh, it was wonderful, Anthony, one neighbor says, visibly shaken. Wasnt it wonderful, everyone? Wasnt Anthonys television wonderful tonight? It was much better than the old television.
All agree. Hollis then unwraps his giftsa bottle of brandy and a Perry Como record. Upon opening the record, his voice cracks as he says he hasnt heard Perry Como sing in years.
do you think we could play it? Hollis pleads. Gosh, what Id give to hear some new music
just the first part, the orchestra part, before Como sings?
Mr. Fremont advises against it. After all, Anthony may not like the song. Mrs. Fremont insists that a neighbor play the piano instead.
Its good that I cant play it here, Hollis affirms, even as he clearly believes the opposite.
As one of the neighbors plays the piano, Anthony hovers over the pianist to ensure his favorite song is played. In the back, Hollis begins to drink the gifted brandy, and eventually downs the whole bottle. As the music plays, a look of despair comes over his face. He throws the bottle against the wall and shattered glass is cast across the floor.
You monster you, Hollis raves at the boy. You dirty little monster. You murderer!
Anthony looks at him, scowling.
Youre a very bad man. And you keep thinking bad thoughts about me, Anthony yells. He points his finger at Hollis, and with a flash, Hollis turns into a human jack-in-the-box. The neighbors scream. Anthony banishes Hollis to the cornfield as his wife looks on aghast.
its a good thing that you did that to Dan, Anthonys father stammers. Its a very good thing.
Everyone knew what Anthony was. But they had to lie. Otherwise, they would end up like Hollis. Silent acquiescence was not an option, either. Throughout the episode, each of the neighbors had to vocally affirm that Anthony was goodvery goodin spite of his manifestly evil behavior.
And so must we strain to avoid noticing the obvious about Lia Thomas, the hulking six-footer who began his college career as the nations 554th-ranked male swimmer in the 200-meter freestyle and finished that career last Thursday as the womens 500-meter freestyle champion. As he stood on the podium at the NCAA Championship hoisting the first-place trophy, the second- through fourth-place finishers huddled on the far right block, leaving an empty space between themselves and their broad-shouldered, square-jawed, obviously still-endowed competitor.
The race was a farce. Everyone seemed to know it. But almost no one objected to the lie at the heart of Thomass victory. Even Fox News used the feminine pronouns in their write-up of the event. Like Anthonys neighbors, they slavishly affirmed what they knew to be untrue.
In his journey from middling male swimmer to womens national champion, no one in a position to do so told William Thomas, with all due compassion and respect, that a man cannot change his sex. If someone had, Thomas might have been spared years of disfiguring hormone treatments. Instead, the people in power lied to him.
In a YouTube interview late in 2021, Thomas said he first realized he was trans the summer before his chemical transition in 2018. Thomas finished the 2018-2019 season on the University of Pennsylvania mens team without announcing to his teammates that he had realized he was transgender.
And that caused a lot of distress to me, Thomas said. I was strugglingmy mental health was not very good. It was a lot of unease, about basically just feeling trapped in my body.
There can be little doubt that Thomas was distressed. He would not have gone on to take testosterone suppressants and estrogen otherwise. But rather than tell him the truth, people in positions of power did everything they could to appease Thomass delusion. They came up with half-considered rules, requiring Thomas to undergo one year of hormone-replacement therapy. They let him practice with the womens team and change in the womens locker room. They used his preferred pronouns. Almost everyone in popular media did the same. The world was retrofitted to ensure Lia Thomas would never have to confront the fact that he is a man, up to and including allowing him to compete in, and win, the womens national championship.
Their failure to speak honestly about Thomass sex subjected the athletic world to a years-long debate about testosterone suppressants, the effects of male puberty on athletic performance, and the optimal balance between competitive integrity and inclusion. And these debates spawned legislative efforts to protect the integrity of womens sports, prompting responses like this from former Olympic swimmer Erica Sullivan:
Many of those who oppose transgender athletes like Lia being able to participate in sports claim to be protecting womens sports. As a woman in sports, I can tell you that I know what the real threats to womens sports are: sexual abuse and harassment, unequal pay and resources and a lack of women in leadership. Transgender girls and women are nowhere on this list. Womens sports are stronger when all womenincluding trans womenare protected from discrimination, and free to be their true selves.
Whatever the merits of her point about the dearth of women in leadership, Sullivan is closer to the substance of the debate than those hyperventilating about fairness and competition. At root, this debate has nothing to do with the competitive integrity of womens sports. It has everything to do with the fact that Lia Thomas is not a woman.