Harvard University recruited a female athlete for its women’s swimming team, but got a man instead.
At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Schuyler Bailar, 19, set a national relay record on a girls’ high school swimming team with future Olympic champion Katie Ledecky. But then she decided to become a transgender man, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Harvard women’s swimming team head coach Stephanie Morawski encouraged Bailar to swim with the men’s team when she realized that the “authentic Bailar is a man,” according to the newspaper.
“One of the things we all noticed — coaches, captains, team members — is that when Schuyler was passing male, he was very happy,” Morawski said. “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?”
Bailar said he accepts the challenges of competing as a transgender man. “It meant giving up the goals I had set for myself as a swimmer,” he said. “But I had to let go of those goals. This isn’t a choice.”
Although Bailar had surgery to remove his female breasts and mammary glands in March, and is now taking testosterone, he said he is not considering genital reassignment surgery.
“It is important to understand that ‘fully transitioning’ does not include genital reassignment surgery for everyone,” he said. “Fully transitioning is a process defined by each individual.”
Bailar’s journey was not without anguish. In 2014, as a girl, she spent over 4 months in a Miami treatment center for eating disorders, writing in her journal, “Maybe I hate my body because it’s not a man’s.” By September, she was convinced that she was a transgender man in a woman’s body.
At Harvard, Bailar had planned to live as a male, but swim as a woman. Morawski convinced him to change his plan, perhaps in response to Bruce—now Caitlyn—Jenner’s remark to Diane Sawyer when he came out as transgender, “What I’m doing is going to do some good. We are going to change the world.”
To this generation of youths who have been brought up immersed in gay culture and fluid sexual identities, having a transsexual teammate is no big deal.
“He’s just another member of the team,” said Kent Haeffner, an aspiring sophomore swimmer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “That’s the way we’ve embraced him.”
For college-age boys, having a girl in the locker room is not so bad, even if she is a he.