Harvard Just Did Something Huge for the Trans Community

July 1st 2015

Laura Donovan

Schuyler Bailar was in a rough place when Harvard University recruited him to join the swimming team. Bailar, an incoming freshman, is transgender, but the academic institution recruited him to join the women's swimming team before learning of his intent to live as a man.

“Initially the decision was, ‘Do I swim, or do I quit and transition?’” Bailar told student publication The Harvard Crimson. “I really didn’t want to give up swimming, but I also didn’t know how much longer I could do the living as a girl thing.”

The women's coach, however, saw Bailar's struggle and helped him get on the men's team, meaning the 19-year-old is believed to be the NCAA's first openly transgender swimmer.

"I was blown away," Bailar told The Associate Press. "I had no idea how to respond."

Though Bailar felt he could stand out on a women's team, he ultimately chose to set aside his competitive streak to fully embrace himself.

"[I remember thinking], 'I just want to be a boy,'" Bailar said. "I can't live this in-between thing anymore."

Earlier this year, Bailar read a letter on YouTube to his mom, who couldn't be present for his transition surgery:

Bailar also posted this on Facebook in early May:


IMPORTANT PSA: Please read this! Hey everybody! So if you've been following me on social media over the past year, I'm...

Posted by Schuyler Bailar on Sunday, May 10, 2015

At the end of the post, Bailar thanked Harvard for being supportive of his wishes, "A special shout-out to Harvard swimming, my parents, my brother, and my best friend who have saved my life repeatedly -- by loving me and in turn, showing me how I can love myself. I wouldn't be hear writing this today if it weren't for all of them."

Bailar got ample love from friends on Facebook, and Harvard coach Kevin Tyrrell told The Associated Press that the men's team was immediately receptive to Bailar becoming a member.

“We talked about how we're all about character and values, and I kind of gave my two cents: If we're going to say that we care about others, then this is something we should consider,” Tyrrell said. “And basically all the guys said, within 15 seconds, ‘Yeah, let's do it.’”

Five years ago, Kye Allums became the first openly transgender Division I athlete as a trans male basketball player for George Washington University's women's team.

"I was uncomfortable not being able to be myself,” Allums told The New York Times in 2010. “Just having to hear the words ‘she’ and ‘her,’ it was really starting to bother me.”

The NCAA has a policy for the inclusion of transgender athletes, stating, "Over the course of many years, schools have learned and continue to appreciate the value and necessity of accommodating the sport participation interests of students of color, women, students with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. These are all issues of basic fairness and equity that demand the expansion of our thinking about equal opportunity in sports. The right of transgender students to participate in sports calls for similar considerations of fairness and equal access."

For more on issues facing transgender Americans, check out our video on the battle for gender neutral bathrooms:


Why We're Still Fighting Over Bathrooms

Haven't we seen "separate but equal" before?

Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, January 29, 2015