Meet the First Trans Swimmer to Ever Join Harvard’s Men’s Team
By Carl Samson
August 30, 2017
A Korean-American trans swimmer has been inspiring people with his story of change — a journey that does not happen overnight but takes takes time, effort, perseverance, and, most importantly, self-love.
Schuyler Bailar, a decorated swimmer, first made headlines when he earned a spot on the men’s team at Harvard University.
Bailar, a Psychology major, was originally recruited to swim for the university’s women’s team in 2013. After graduating from D.C.’s Georgetown Day School, he was set to start as a freshman at Harvard in fall 2014, but took a year off to receive treatment for serious eating disorders — which his mother Terry revealed as anorexia and bulimia in an interview with CBS News.
Bailar eventually recognized that his eating disorders were triggered by being uncomfortable in a woman’s body. It was during his period of recovery that he identified as a man. He soon came out, and things turned for the better.
With complete support from his parents, he underwent breast removal surgery in March 2015 and started hormone replacement therapy in June of the same year.
Bailar’s transition made history, as he became the first openly transgender swimmer in the history of the NCAA. In an effort to keep Bailar in the sport, Stephanie Morawski, the women’s coach who recruited him, asked Kevin Tyrrell, the men’s coach, if he could join the team.
Bailar was met with no objection. He was welcomed by the men’s team with open arms — a heartwarming account of acceptance and open-mindedness.
“One of the things we all noticed — coaches, captains, team members — is that when Schuyler was passing male, he was very happy,” Morawski told the Washington Post in 2015. “Why should gender play a role? Schuyler is a great person. Schuyler wanted to swim and was already accepted to Harvard. . . . Why wouldn’t you want to help?”
Today, Bailar is a beacon of inspiration, not only to the transgender community, but to anyone who dares to change for the better. He chronicles snippets of his life on Instagram, where he has a following of at least 60,000.
A post he shared in May — where he placed before-and-after transition photos side-by-side — was particularly uplifting:
“Change is possible. Happiness is possible. Authenticity is possible. But all of these things take time and effort and perseverance and self love. Still, they are ever possible; so, never forget this, my friends. Never give up on yourselves.”
A post shared by Schuyler Bailar (@pinkmantaray) on
“Also, recognize that this picture is a total simplification of my journey. I did not wake up one day and just become a man, nor was I ever truly a woman. I have always been me — whether dressed in a gown or a tie. Between and before these pictures are hundreds of days of incredibly important discovery and pain and growth that I will never ignore.”