Harvard Will Field First Openly Transsexual Swimmer

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Blake Neff Reporter
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A top recruit for the Harvard University women’s swim team has swapped her gender and decided to swim for the men’s team instead.

As reported by Swimming World, Schuyler Bailar was a top female swimmer in the country in high school, helping to set a high school record in the girls’ 400-meter medley relay. But after graduating in 2014, she took a gap year, during which she came out as transgender and underwent surgery to transition to living as a man. The switch reportedly means Bailar will be the first openly transgender swimmer to compete at the collegiate level.


Schuyler Bailar's gender transition

Schuyler Bailar’s gender transition

While the transition took place back in 2014, it was only in the spring that Bailar fully committed to joining the men’s team instead of the women’s one. Since going public with her new identity in May, Bailar has taken to Instagram to chronicle her journey through a series of pictures and encourage other young people coping with gender identity issues:

Bailar's double mastectomy

Bailar’s double mastectomy

Bailar's new topless body

Bailar’s new topless body

Bailar’s ability to contribute to the men’s team as a competitor will be substantially curtailed. As a woman, she was a record-breaker, but men are substantially faster swimmers, and even with hormone therapy Bailar is unlikely to be as elite as she once was.

Still, Harvard has been fully supportive, and coaches say Bailar has plenty to add to the team, even if it isn’t necessarily in the form of top times.

“I want Schuyler on my team for the same reasons I want all of my athletes,” Harvard men’s coach Kevin Tyrrell told Swimming World. “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.”

Because of the physical advantages enjoyed by men, NCAA rules treat transgendered individuals differently based on their birth gender. Female-to-male transgendered may immediately switch to a men’s team without restriction, as long as they obtain a medical exception for testosterone treatment (as testosterone supplements are otherwise a banned substance). A male-to-female transgender must receive testosterone suppression for at least a year before being allowed on a women’s team.

Bailar acknowledges it will be very difficult to compete at the level she once did, but said being true to her chosen gender identity was more important in the long run. Bailar says she was depressed in high school from trying to fit in to gender norms, and feels far happier now.

Still, she hasn’t lost the fire to win.

“I have no particular goals set like I did on the women’s team,” Bailar told Swimming World. “[But] I’m competitive as hell and I want to do some winning and beating too.”

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