Schuyler Bailar a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, has been swimming since he was 4. But on November 6, he took a dip into the deep end—becoming the first transgender swimmer in NCAA Division I history.
Getting ready for the competition, Bailar told OutSports. “I realized everything is different… I’m wearing a Speedo instead of a woman’s suit. I’m on the men’s team.”
My body feels more like home every day. I'm so thankful for everything and everyone that's helped me to get here and continues helping me continue. I'm not hiding; this is me and me and me. Pure and simple. Vulnerable and unguarded. FAQ answers: 1- no, I do not pack when I swim. 2- yes, I'm getting faster and stronger little by little. 3- yes I started T after top surgery. // 5mo on T; 8mo post op with dr. Garramone.
Well, not quite everything: He’s still getting in the water at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool, still swimming the breaststroke. “In that sense, nothing’s changed.”
At the meet, Bailat finished fourth in both the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, and came in 12th in the 100-meter butterfly. But his fifth place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke scored a point for Harvard and helped the Crimson win 165-120.
Considering it was his first meet since February 2014, it’s a well-deserved victory. “[I was] stoked with the result,” he said.
Originally, Bailar was recruited for Harvard women’s swim team, and admits he was hesitant to transition.
“I was still pretty bent about swimming on the women’s team,” he told SwimSwam. “It was something that I’d worked really hard for… and it was hard for me to think about it differently—to think about my wellness as opposed to the success in the sport.”
But ultimately he decided to begin hormone treatments and compete on the men’s team.
“It was releasing a lot of old goals,” Bailar said. “But it was also opening up the door to sort of pioneering something that hadn’t been done before.”
He says all the Harvard Crimson coaches were supportive. “[Women’s coach Stephanie Morawski] didn’t skip a beat,” Bailar recalls. When he came out as trans to her, “she was like, we’ll make it work. If you want to keep swimming, we’re going to make it work.”
He still has to prove himself in the water, of course—his breaststroke made him a top women’s swimmer, but he’ll have to shave off some significant time to be a threat in the men’s competition.
But with fully coming into his one, comes a realization that it’s not always about being Number One.
“My goals are honestly just to stay healthy and keep on bettering myself in the pool,” he says. “I want to slowly pick people off—I’m starting at the bottom. Hopefully I’ll slowly just get faster one by one.”