University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas made history last week when she won the NCAA 500-yard women's freestyle swimming championship event, besting native Floridian Emma Weyant of the University of Virginia.
But Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis—one of the most rabidly anti-LGBTQ politicians in the country—issued a statewide decree declaring Weyant as the "rightful winner" because Thomas is trans.
The cartoonishly childish and transphobic move—which amounts to little more than a temper tantrum affixed with the state seal because DeSantis has no power over the NCAA—has drawn widespread criticism.
See DeSantis' announcement below.
By allowing men to compete in women's sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud.\n\nIn Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle.pic.twitter.com/tBmFxFE3q6— Ron DeSantis (@Ron DeSantis) 1647968594
"By allowing men to compete in women's sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud."
"In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle."
The decree he issued on behalf of the state of Florida read in part:
"Florida rejects the NCAA's efforts to destroy women's athletics, disapproves of the NCAA elevating ideology over biology, and takes offense at the NCAA trying to make others complicit in a lie..."
"...[S]ince she is a native Floridian from Sarasota, I, Ron DeSantis, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby declare in Florida that Emma Weyant is the rightful winner of the 2022 NCAA Division I Women's 500-yard Freestyle."
Thomas' win—the first trans athlete in any sport to win a NCAA Division I event—reignited an ongoing debate about whether transgender girls and women should be allowed to compete in sporting events based on their gender identity.
Oddly, the conservative backlash against transgender people once again ignores the existence of trans men and nonbinary people while targeting trans girls and women. Trans women, especially women of color, face the highest rates of transphobic violence and murder.
Science on the issue is as yet inconclusive due to a dearth of solid studies on the matter. But the data gathered so far shows trans women's physiological advantage over cisgender women dramatically declines and for some athletic pursuits disappears entirely after just two years of hormone therapy.
Nevertheless, Republican politicians across the country have launched an all-out assault on transgender female athletes, with several states passing laws banning them from sports teams that align with their gender identity. This includes DeSantis, who signed such a law last January.
On Twitter, DeSantis' tantrum left many people disgusted and mystified over his hubris.
ron desantis hands out participation trophies to please bigotshttps://twitter.com/GovRonDeSantis/status/1506315576674865153\u00a0\u2026— Oliver Willis (@Oliver Willis) 1648046478
@GovRonDeSantis -- Hey Death Sentence, read about what happens to the male advantage when testosterone is removed from the equation and replaced with estrogen. \n\nYou are an effing idiot who likes to ignore science and it's getting people in your state unalived.https://twitter.com/GovRonDeSantis/status/1506315576674865153\u00a0\u2026— SCPO\u2019s Combination Cover Speaks (@SCPO\u2019s Combination Cover Speaks) 1648052714
Time for the NCAA to examine whether athletes can be treated fairly in a state where the Governor uses & encourages hateful speech regarding transgender athletes. Should the NCAA hold any tournaments in such a state? I think not. (I am particularly referring to Florida & Texas.)— Cathy H (@Cathy H) 1647991065
Lia Thomas is a woman\nRon DeSantis is violating the 14th Amendmenthttps://twitter.com/GovRonDeSantis/status/1506315576674865153\u00a0\u2026— theBEnote (@theBEnote) 1648034169
As a citizen of Florida, I acknowledge that Lia Thomas is the true winner of women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle.\n\nAs a citizen of Florida, I also acknowledge that Ron DeSantis does not get to declare a winner just because he is not satisfied with the results.— Saphaia (@Saphaia) 1647993845
"In Florida, we..."? I am a Florida resident. Ron DeSantis doesn't speak for me, thank you very much.— Rosa Sophia (@Rosa Sophia) 1647981956
pic.twitter.com/2OGHwrXDwO— \u201cI Love This Post\u201d \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08\ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@\u201cI Love This Post\u201d \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08\ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1647973726
This is getting unhinged.\n\nDeSantis just used his power as governor to declare that within Florida, Lia Thomas didn't win her race at Georgia Tech & Emma Weyant was the winner instead.https://twitter.com/GovRonDeSantis/status/1506315576674865153\u00a0\u2026— Frances_Larina (@Frances_Larina) 1647974407
I wish I had a governor who is not running for a Fox News presidency— Rev. Jared M (@Rev. Jared M) 1647980126
DeSantis' absurd proclamation also comes as Florida's Republican sponsored so-called "Don't Say Gay bill"—which makes discussion of sexuality and gender in elementary schools illegal—awaits DeSantis' signature.
He has vowed to sign it into law.