ATLANTA — The women on the Princeton University swim team spoke of collective frustration edging into anger. They had watched Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who swam for the University of Pennsylvania, win meet after meet, beating Olympians and breaking records.
On Jan. 9, the team met with Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League athletic conference. The swimmers, several of whom described the private meeting on condition of anonymity, detailed the biological advantages possessed by transgender female athletes.
To ignore these, they said, “was to undermine a half-century fight for female equality in sport.” Ms. Harris had already declared her support for transgender athletes and denounced transphobia.
In an interview, she said that she had replied that she would not change rules in midseason. “Somehow,” a swimmer recalled, “the question of women in sport has become a culture war.” The battle over whether to let female transgender athletes compete in women’s elite sports has reached an angry pitch, a collision of competing principles: The hard-fought-for right of women to compete in high school, college and pro sports versus a swelling movement to allow transgender athletes to compete in their chosen gender identities.