Sympathy & Empathy & Hierarchy

Lia Thomas
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Whoopi Goldberg was suspended from The View for saying the Holocaust was not a racial issue, but she was only elucidating that without race as the fuel the fires of social justice burn less bright and hot. Google the 2021-22 University of Pennsylvania’s Women’s Swimming and Diving roster and you’ll find 40 of the 41 swimmers are Caucasian and Asian, and one who is of ambiguous ancestry. Color me cynical, but I can’t help but think that since this isn’t a story of women of color being excluded so that Lia Thomas may be included, the Left can’t acknowledge that anyone has any valid grievances (and in the context of college admissions, Caucasians and Asians certainly enjoy “privileged” status). Certainly, straight, white women are not very high on the victim totem pole.

I haven’t seen anyone on the Left acknowledge that Lia’s teammates are entitled to feel the way they feel, but I’ve read plenty of articles that posit absurdities like, Lia is a trailblazer for biological women; Lia will help cause spectators to finally take women’s sports seriously, and competition plays an outdated role in collegiate sports.

Could Lia’s teammates who have taken issue with Lia being on the team just be transphobes, or jealous? Are their concerns not valid? Are they just unreasonable, full of hate, and superstitious? Remember when people were mocked for worrying about trans people sharing public restrooms? They were treated as just irrational transphobes dreaming up an unserious complaint, but some of Lia’s teammates have said they are uncomfortable sharing a locker room with Lia since Lia still has male genitalia and is attracted to women. Should those teammates be gaslit into believing they are not uncomfortable?

This isn’t about awards, championships, or broken records and barriers; Lia’s dominance in the pool is only what drew mainstream attention to her.

This is about swim team coaches and college bureaucrats ignoring the complaints of Lia’s teammates, and that those teammates felt they could only speak out anonymously for fear of backlash. It is important to the trans community that their feelings and beliefs are legitimized, but must that legitimacy come at the expense of others?

This is about major media outlets running cover for Lia, from the banal, like airbrushing photographs so Lia appears more feminine, to the ludicrous, like Lia is comparable to Jackie Robinson. According to her teammates, Lia has leaned into Jackie Robinson comparisons. I have a hard time believing (though it may be true) that Lia is such a narcissist as to have come up on her own that she is comparable to Jackie Robinson. Delusion is often amplified by other voices.

This is about a hierarchy of victimhood. This is about experts and intellectuals telling those who are upset that they shouldn’t be upset, as though they are the arbiters on who gets to be hurt and/or outraged and why. It’s silly enough the Left wants a centrally planned economy, but Lia Thomas shows the Left also wants a centrally planned emotional economy.

This is about state legislatures passing bills banning trans women from competing in female sports, as if this is a problem so prevalent that government needs to stick its nose in.

This is about men and women being radicalized into TERFs; about trans people and their allies conflating valid concerns and criticisms with bigotry; about how activism can mission creep away from its initial goals; about how some people can only respond to Lia and trans people like her with visceral revulsion instead of sympathy; it’s about hyperbole and pretzel logic crowding out common sense, cool heads, sympathy, and empathy; it’s about innocent athletes and their friends and family becoming unwitting combatants and attrition in a never-ending culture war.

I don’t take issue with Lia Thomas as much as I take issue with her advocates and enablers, but it would be nice if Lia expressed some humility and empathy for her teammates and competitors from other schools.

I have sympathy for Lia; she suffers from mental illness and is doing what she thinks is right for her to cope with it. I have a mental illness: depression, borne from genetics that I worsened with drugs and alcohol abuse, but my treatments do not make me a target for criticism and ridicule as do Lia’s, and none of my coping mechanisms burden anyone else. College can be confusing and dispiriting at various times for students who find themselves in the middle of an identity crisis, so imagine undergoing hormone treatment and enduring just as much ridicule from strangers as praise. It’s never easy to work on resolving psychological problems responsibly and proactively you are not to blame for having, but Lia has tossed a rough wake that has thrown a large number of people off course. A more responsible and accountable person would not seem so indifferent to her teammates.

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Dillon Eliassen is a former Managing Editor of Being Libertarian. Dillon works in the sales department of a privately owned small company. He holds a BA in Journalism & Creative Writing from Lyndon State College. He is the author of The Apathetic, available at He is a self-described Thoreauvian Minarchist.