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Transgender Swimmer Given Choice Of Harvard's Men's, Women's Teams

Schuyler Bailar will swim on the men's team at Harvard this fall.
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Schuyler Bailar will swim on the men's team at Harvard this fall.

The Harvard men's swim team will have a new swimmer on their team this fall: Schuyler Bailar of McLean, Va. He will be the first openly transgender swimmer in NCAA Division I history, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Bailar swam with a club team while he was at Georgetown Day School where he set more than 10 team records and swam on a team with Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, setting a national record for the 400 yard relay. By his senior year, he had been recruited by Harvard for the women's swim team. Bailar took a gap year after graduating from high school, during which he came out as transgender, writes the Crimson:

"While Bailar has always identified as male, he had not come out as transgender until after graduation. During his gap year he contemplated medically transitioning—something he initially thought might mean quitting the sport he loved.

" 'Initially the decision was, "Do I swim, or do I quit and transition?" ' Bailar said. '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.'

"He came up with a solution: He would get 'top' surgery and swim on the women's team, he informed a supportive Morawski in November."

Bailar didn't know this at the time, but the women's swim coach, Stephanie Morawski, talked to the men's coach, Kevin Tyrrell. Tyrrell told The Associated Press that he spoke with the men's team:

"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 ... And basically all the guys said, within 15 seconds, 'Yeah, let's do it.' "

Morawski called Bailar and said that if he wanted to, he had the option of joining the men's swim team. The Crimson adds: "Bailar's reaction, he said, was positive: 'Wow, OK. Woah. World exploded.' "

A few weeks later, after thinking about it, Bailar emailed the men's team with his decision to join them.

The AP says that Bailar is believed to be the first NCAA swimmer to come out as transgender, but athletes in other sports have come out as transgender in the past. In 2010, Kye Allums was playing for the women's basketball team at George Washington University and asked to be identified as a man. And in 2005, Keelin Godsey came out as transgender. She is a national women's hammer throw champion at Bates College.

The NCAA said four years ago that transgender athletes can often compete on either the women's or men's team, depending on their hormone use, according to the AP.

As of right now, Bailar has started hormone treatments and is training hard — but he has changed his expectation, the AP writes. On the women's team, he would have been one of the best athletes on the team, but on the men's team, his times lagged far behind.

"My goal is just to contribute something to the team, and be a good teammate and a good friend. I have no idea what my body can do," Bailar said, according to the AP.

You can follow Bailar as he documents his progress here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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