She was the quintessential recruit for the womenâ€™s swimming team at Harvard University: a nimble breaststroker with a fierce work ethic and sharp intellect. But when Schuyler Bailar jumps into the schoolâ€™s Olympic-size pool this fall, he instead will be a member of the menâ€™s team, the first openly transgender collegiate swimmer in U.S. history.
Emerging from a tortuous year of self-reckoning and a lifelong quest to feel comfortable in his own skin, Bailar, 19, will be navigating far more than the usual freshman challenges; he also will be a pioneer and role model as society openly grapples with shifting mores about traditional male/Âfemale gender lines.
Bailar, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound athlete, struggled for years through depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and a broken back. As a girl, Bailar competed at a high level â€” setting a national relay record on a girlsâ€™ team with future Olympic champion Katie Ledecky â€” but she was confused and pained.
â€œI was a very lost kid who didnâ€™t understand why I spent my entire childhood being a boy but not really, one who focused intently on studies and swimming to distract from anything that came up in my mind,â€ said Bailar, who grew up in Virginia and attended the private Georgetown Day School in the District. â€œI was caught between two worlds.â€
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