In the Locker Room with Lucas Draper, Diver Making a Name For Himself


Courtesy of Oberlin Athletics

Lucas Draper takes a breath during a swim race at Robert Carr Pool.


College third-year Lucas Draper is a diver on the men’s swimming and diving team. Although he originally competed as a swimmer on the women’s team, Lucas started to compete for the men’s team after he broke his hand in 2020, and he began transitioning as a male athlete. Out of the pool, Draper gained national attention after publishing an op-ed in Swimming World Magazine defending Lia Thomas and other trans athletes in sports. He’s been featured on OutSports, Forbes, and most recently appeared on a CBS News Sunday Morning segment

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


What has been your experience on the Oberlin swim and dive team? 

Oberlin itself is very accepting and it’s one of the best places to be a trans athlete. I feel like there are not a lot of places where it would be this accepted, and I have been helped and supported through this process. The NCAA’s regulations can be tricky to understand and there are a lot of hurdles to go through to be able to compete. I think that going from female to male in this process is the “easier” transition. Not that it is in any way, but logistically and through the world’s perspective, it is less stigmatized and criticized. There is less of a concern about the level of hormones that I’m on, whereas the other way around, male to female, they care a lot more about what your levels are. 

I have to wear a women’s suit because I haven’t had top surgery, so there are situations where I go to meets and people look at me and are like, “Oh, a women’s suit — must be a woman.” There was one instance at a meet where a diving coach came up to me and two other Oberlin divers. Before the meet, you have to write down what dives you’re going to do and give it to them. He was like, “I’m missing one of your women’s dive sheets.” They assumed that they were missing a dive sheet when they weren’t. I said to the coach, “I’m Lucas, I’m the male diver.” He looked confused and walked away, but there wasn’t any confrontation there.

I haven’t had anybody try to stop me from competing, but I carry around all the documentation I have in a little plastic pocket — every letter I’ve received from the NCAA, every blood test I’ve ever had — in case anyone ever questions me.


What compelled you to write the op-ed for Swimming World Magazine ?

I was a journalism intern for Swimming World before. When the Lia Thomas situation happened, I reached out to the editor-in-chief at Swimming World to ask if I could write something. He agreed because he wanted an article written by somebody in the trans community. I wanted to publish it because, while I know I can’t necessarily change the minds of people who are transphobic, I wanted to give them a bit of the information on where the legislation comes from and remind them that it’s not right to take it out on Lia. Dawn Ennis, a journalist and a trans woman, also reached out to me. She wanted to interview me about my perspectives as a trans athlete because she’d seen what I’d done for Swimming World, and she wrote the Forbes article afterward. 


Did you expect the reaction that the piece got? 

Swimming World is one of the main swimming news outlets. I wasn’t expecting a response to the op-ed I wrote, but I was expecting the comments to be negative. When I would see those comments, I kept telling myself that the people who agree with me aren’t going to be the ones commenting. It’s the people who disagree, so there’s going to be a disproportionate amount of negative responses to what I wrote simply because of the nature of people. 


What are your goals for the future, activism-wise as well as athletically and academically?

Athletically, I’m going to keep diving and be the best diver that I can be. Academically, I’m an honors student. I’m starting my Computer Science honors project this semester and I’m finishing it next semester. Finally, I want to be a resource for people who are still coming to terms with their identity, continue to be a positive role model, and help continue the fight of trans athletes to get equality.


Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m not a trans woman, so I can only understand parts of what they experience [as transgender athletes]. Their struggle is a lot greater than mine. I want to recognize that and not take the spotlight away from trans women because they are the ones at the center of this controversy. I just want to spread awareness and be someone who can advocate for those who don’t feel confident advocating for themselves.

The main thing that people are arguing about is the concept of fairness. Sports are not inherently about fairness, they’re about who’s the best, and it’s difficult to determine a fair playing field. There was an article last week in the Review that Leo Ross, OC ’21, wrote. They mentioned many cisgender athletes who have inherent advantages. So the concept of fairness is not something that we can necessarily argue, and that’s something I think is very important to this discussion.