Politics

NCAA Championships Swimmer Wrote ‘Let Trans Kids Play’ on Arm for Race


  • The 2022 NCAA Swimming Championships have received outsized attention.
  • Penn’s Lia Thomas, a trans woman, has been at the center of the debate over trans athlete inclusion.
  • Another trans swimmer — Yale’s Iszac Henig — wrote a message of support on his arm ahead of his race.

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has been thrust into the center of a nationwide debate over the fairness of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports.

The three-time Ivy League champion won the 500-yard freestyle race at NCAA Championships Thursday, beating out two Olympic silver medalists to become the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA title. But as protesters seeking to “save women’s sports” gathered outside of Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center with their attention focused on Thomas, another transgender swimmer was busy preparing for his own race inside.

Iszac Henig at a February 2022 meet.

Henig at a February 2022 meet.

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports


Iszac Henig — a Yale Bulldogs junior who is a trans man — offered a powerful, timely message for anyone paying attention to his women’s 50-yard freestyle race Thursday evening.

“Let trans kids play.”

Henig, who has delayed his hormonal transition so he could finish out his collegiate career competing on the women’s side of the pool, inked the four-word note on his arm ahead of his first of three events at the 2022 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. Fans and cameras alike caught a glimpse as he dove into the pool for the one-lap race:

Henig dives into the pool.

Henig dives into the pool at NCAA Championships.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


Henig’s message — and the backlash Thomas has faced — comes as legislators across the United States introduce bills intended to exclude transgender people from athletic competitions at all levels, including as early as grade school.

The Yalie wasn’t the only person supporting Thomas’ and other trans women’s rights to compete during the first day of championships. While there were more people on hand rallying against the cause, roughly a dozen counter-protestors gathered on Georgia Tech’s campus Thursday in support of the Penn star and other trans athletes, ESPN’s Katie Barnes reported.

Thomas has two additional events remaining on her schedule at NCAA Championships. She’ll compete in Friday’s 200-yard freestyle event — where she is the favorite — as well as Saturday’s 100-yard freestyle race. She won Ivy League championships in both events, as well as the 500-yard freestyle.

Henig, meanwhile, will compete in Friday’s 100-yard butterfly. He’s also set to face off against Thomas in Saturday’s 100-yard freestyle.



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