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Tipsheet

Transgender Yale Swimmer Struggling After Joining Men’s Team

John Bazemore

Iszac Henig is a biological female who identifies as a transgender man and competes on the men’s swim team at Yale University. Previously, Henig won races while competing on the women’s team. In an op-ed for The New York Times last week, Henig acknowledged having "about the same" numbers as last season, but not being as successful competing against men.

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Growing up in California, Henig’s relay team broke a national age group record and she qualified for the 2016 Olympic team trials. At age 18, Henig was one of the top 20 high school swimmers in California and one of the top 100 in the nation. 

Now, as a senior on the Yale men’s team, Henig placed 79th out of 83 in the 50-free race at a men’s swim meet in November, according to Outkick. Reportedly, out of the swimmers who placed below Henig, one was born without a left forearm and two specialize in breaststroke.

Previously, Henig “went mostly undefeated” on the women’s team, winning an individual Ivy League title and coming in fifth place at an NCAA championship meet, earning All-America honors, according to The Times.

“Now I’m a senior, swimming with the men. I’ve been taking hormones for almost eight months; my times are about the same as they were at the end of last season. Right before Thanksgiving we finished a meet against Ohio State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and others. I wasn’t the slowest guy in any of my events, but I’m not as successful in the sport as I was on the women’s team,” Henig wrote for The Times.

Henig took a gap year during the pandemic to “focus on improving my mental health,” which included speaking to a therapist and “[diving] deeper into queerness.” In 2021, Henig got “top surgery,” which is a double mastectomy.

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When Henig returned to Yale, the coaches gave her the option of joining the men’s or women’s team. Henig noted having fast enough times to qualify as a walk-on for the men’s team. But, Henig decided to compete against women (The New York Times):

Initially, I decided to stay with the women. I had made a commitment to that team. It was familiar, and I loved my teammates. I knew that transition didn’t need to include taking hormones; N.C.A.A. regulations require that athletes on testosterone-based hormone therapy compete on a designated mixed or men’s team. ‌‌‌‌

I also understood that I would have been closer to the bottom of the pack on the men’s team.

Despite competing and winning on the women's team throughout the season, Henig had already decided it would be her last. Henig had already decided to compete on the men’s team the following year and had begun lifting weights with the men.

Townhall covered how Henig previously beat transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. Thomas made headlines for being a biological male transgender athlete competing, and winning, against women. 

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Townhall reported how Thomas, who competed on the men’s swim team at University of Pennsylvania for three years, switched teams and competed against women for senior year. Thomas won races against women, including an NCAA Division I Title, and robbed them of opportunities to compete at the NCAA championships last year. On top of that, female swimmers who spoke out anonymously to media outlets said that Thomas was allowed to use the UPenn women’s locker room, which made them feel uncomfortable.

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