ACU’s Schlapp sparks values debate, saying trans swimmer Lia Thomas ‘deserves our compassion’

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American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp set the conservative world atwitter with a compassionate tweet Sunday about University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.

Born a biological male, Thomas now identifies as a woman and has driven plenty of controversy in competing with — and winning with ease against — female athletes, yet Schlapp tweeted that the swimmer’s “story deserves our compassion.”

“No matter what one thinks of Lia’s ability to swim with women her story deserves our compassion. It will be interesting to hear Lia’s pov in 30 years,” the ACU chairman wrote.

The reference to 30 years into the future could suggest that Schlapp believes the country may likely be in a different place then, perhaps where the concept of gender identity being a social construct is no longer accepted as rational thought or that the issue has played itself out in such a way that those who pursue a gender different from their birth today have other alternatives to address gender dysphoria.

The problem for Schlapp is that he seems to imply that Thomas bears no responsibility here, a position that flies in the face of one of the bedrocks of conservative thought, that being personal responsibility and accepting the consequences of one’s decisions. It also buys into the notion that gender is fluid.

But in responding to the controversy, Schlapp made it clear that compassion was his motivation — the right may have had their fill of compassionate conservatism with George W. Bush.

“All I am saying is in the end trans people deserve our love and compassion. We should defend girls sports against competing w men aggressively but in the end remember that all people deserve respect,” he tweeted, in response to a comment from former Trump campaign legal advisor Jenna Ellis.

Schlapp also tweeted a statement in support of female athletes not having to compete against biological males, saying the “left’s war on gender must be confronted,” which came across as trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Dan Schneider, executive vice president at ACU, which is responsible for the annual CPAC meetings, also chimed in to support his boss.

“We have always taken a principled position on marriage and identity. We also maintain our view that ALL people are deserving of dignity and respect,” he tweeted. “This is the heart of conservatism (both classical conservatism and classical liberalism). It is also what Jesus taught.”

The irony here is that Thomas doesn’t seem to feel that compassion is a necessary commodity, based on a recent full-length feature in left-leaning Sports Illustrated.

“I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone,” Thomas told the magazine. “They don’t have to choose between who they are and the sport they love.”

Thomas told SI that being transgender is “an amazing and beautiful experience. . . . I’ve been reinvigorated. I’ve been swimming for 17 years, but for [only] a short part of that time have I felt fully engaged.”

The athlete, who said “the very simple answer is that I’m not a man, I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team,” is grateful for the kindness people have shown and appreciates their support, the article noted, adding that it gives Thomas hope for the future.

“After coming out and being my authentic self, I could really start to see a future,” Thomas said. “Before I came out, I couldn’t visualize a future.”

Of all the responses to Schlapp, a tweet from John Stemberger, founding president of the Florida Family Policy Council, offered some clarity: “It’s not the ‘story’ of personal deception that needs compassion. It’s the person. And there is a big difference. Those suffering from dysphoria need counseling and serious help. We need to be able to respect people & also respectfully disagree with denials of objective reality.”

But there were plenty of folks on the right not willing to go down the path of the “preferred pronoun” game, as seen here:


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