Schuyler Bailar Joins Harvard Men's Swim Team And Becomes First Openly Trans Student In Collegiate Swimming
There is one recruit to the Harvard women's swim team who won't be competing with them this year. Instead, Schuyler Bailar will be swimming on Harvard's men's team after coming out as trans and beginning transition. This makes Bailar the first openly trans collegiate swimmer to compete on the team of the gender as which they identify in United States history. Progress happens every day.
Schulyer Bailar is 19 and originally from Virginia. He only recently came out as trans, but says that his friends, family, and coaches have been supportive. In fact, Stephanie Morawski, the head coach of Harvard's women's swim team, encouraged Bailar to try swimming with the men's team, even though switching teams would cost her one of her best athletes. The men's head coach, Kevin Tyrrell, was happy to go along with the idea. “We don’t see this as much of a big deal,” Tyrrell told the Washington Post. “Another kid to coach.”
Swimming with the men's team will be an adjustment, of course. On the women's team, Bailar was one of the strongest swimmers. On the men's team, he's possibly much further down in the rankings. However, his coaches think that he might surprise people on that point. “Schuyler is a very hard worker,” Morawski said to the Washington Post. “He will challenge himself and be a great teammate and push those around him. Who knows what might happen?”
Bailar apparently struggled with his identity for a long time, which in turn led to wrestling with body image problems, an eating disorder, and suicidal thoughts. He achieved good grades throughout high school and excelled at swimming, but until beginning transition, he says that none of the good things in life really made him happy. Today, however, things are much better, and he's looking forward to the chance to swim on the men's team, despite its challenges.
The NCAA, which makes the rules for college athletics, adopted trans-inclusive policies in 2011. According to their official policy, trans men who are using hormone treatments may compete on men's teams, and trans women who have been taking testosterone blockers for over a year may compete on women's teams. So far there have been comparatively few trans athletes who have taken advantage of the policy, but several have, including Kye Allums, a basketball player at George Washington University, who became the first openly trans athlete to play Division I sports.
Although the gender-segregated world of sports makes it difficult for trans athletes to find a place, such athletes deserve just as much of a chance to train, compete, and be part of the team as their cisgender counterparts. So even though Schulyer Bailar is the first trans swimmer in collegiate athletics, hopefully he won't be the only one for long.