Like many transgender athletes, there was a time when swimmer Schuyler Bailar wondered if he could still compete in the sport he loved if he came out about his authentic gender. Now, as Swimming World reports, Bailar knows the answer: He will be competing on Harvard's men's swimming team when he enters college this fall.
The news comes a week after trans male triathlete Chris Mosier became the first known out trans athlete to join a U.S. national team, breaking down a barrier for trans athletes that echoes Bailar's.
Starting to swim at age 4, Bailar immediately showed talent, and by his teenage years became part of the group that broke the record for the 15-18 U.S. National Age Group in the girl's 400-yard medley relay in 2013, according to Swimming World. But as the now 18-year-old shared, he struggled with knowing he was more than the "tomboy" he described himself as — he was a boy. He experienced depression, an eating disorder, and self-harm, he says — all of which were finally alleviated when he accepted his true self and began a medical transition in 2014, after graduating high school.
Nearly a year later, this May, Bailar came out publicly on social media, declaring to family and fans that "I'm sure you've noticed changes in my appearance, my clothes, my gender expression. I am no longer girly or feminine; my chest is flat; I wear ties instead of dresses. This post is to affirm your suspicions: I am transgender."
Still, after the relief of being accepted online, Bailar had one more hurdle to face: He was originally recruited to Harvard to compete on the women's swimming team, where he had the potential to break swimming records. He told Swimming World that the situation kept him in limbo over what to do next, but ultimately he knew he needed to compete with the men, even if it affected his chances to place first in some races.
But would Harvard coaches accept his decision? Yes, as it turns out — an "absolutely, unwaveringly amazing" yes, according to Bailar. As men's coach Kevin Tyrell told Swimming World:
“I want Schuyler on my team for the same reasons I want all of my athletes. I believe he wants to push himself academically and athletically. When all of our swimmers and divers have this mindset everyone improves daily in every aspect of their lives. This process will contribute to them being outstanding members of society.”
Moreover, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has no objections to Bailar competing with other men. According to its policy, any trans man who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is undergoing tesosterone therapy is allowed to compete in men's sports. USA Swimming also has a policy against discrimination based on gender expression, notes Swimming World. At the national and international level of sports, trans male athletes undergo regular testing of their tesosterone levels to make sure they are in the "normal" range for male athletes.
This summer, Bailar says he'll be hitting the gym to get back into shape for swim season, where he hopes to beat the swimming times he set while competing in women's categories. And he has a simple message for other trans athletes: “Come out. Be visible. Don’t be miserable. The world is changing and you do have options.”