Schuyler Bailar, a 19-year-old swimmer recruited by Harvard’s women’s swim team won’t be swimming with the rest of the squad come this fall. Instead, Bailar will compete with the men’s team, becoming the first transgender individual on a collegiate swim team in the history of the United States.
The Washington Post reports that Bailar, who’s 19 and starting as a freshman at the Ivy League university, will be balancing both his freshman year at the school as well as his identity. The swimmer, who the Post points out with be a living embodiment of society’s changing views on trans individuals in sports, has come out about his gender identity only recently and so far everyone, including the college and his family have been supportive. When Bailar told his Korean grandma that he was trans, she told him she already knew and imediately accepted him as her grandson. And Harvard’s women’s swimming coach, Stephanie Morawski (who recruited Bailar), was the one who suggested that he try swimming with the men. The response of the men’s coach? “We don’t see this as a big deal. Another kid to coach.”
For Bailar, being his authentic self meant that in addition to dealing with identity issues as well as surgery, he’d have to give up on some of his immediate goals and reconfigure his aspirations.
Switching squads meant that Bailar would go from being one of the school’s strongest female swimmers to possibly the back of the pack on the men’s team. “It meant giving up the goals I had set for myself as a swimmer,” Bailar said. “But I had to let go of those goals. This isn’t a choice.”
And no matter how Bailar does, both he and the people around him know this is the right decision. Morawski points out that Bailar hasn’t ever been as happy as when he’s identifying as male and Bailar’s parents have pledged undying love and support to their child. Bailar’s only swimming goal now is to continue improving. The NCAA has accepted Bailar’s petition to join the men’s team and now he’s working on how to balance school, sports, a social life, and the fact that he’s learning to live as a man at the same time.
“I can’t live inauthentically anymore,” Bailar said. “So do I give up my goal of being a great women’s swimmer to be a decent male swimmer at best? Yes. There is pride and glory in this path, too.”
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