Celebrated speaker and activist for inclusion. The first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer. In fact, the first publicly documented NCAA D1 transgender male to compete as a man in any sport.
Featured lessonCelebrating and Defending Trans and Non-Binary Lives
Schuyler Bailar was born in New York City in 1996 and raised in McLean, Virginia. He was solo swimming before his first birthday and competing in the Junior Olympics by age 10. Five years later, he ranked as one of the top 15-year-old breaststroke swimmers in the United States.
In 2012, Bailar broke his back in three places in a biking accident. He recovered and continued to compete, winning all three D.C.-area 100-yard breaststroke championships and qualifying as an All-American. More than just a star swimmer, he was a star student at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C., one of the top private schools in the country. He graduated in 2014, was aggressively recruited by most of the Ivy League, and eventually committed to swimming for Harvard.
Throughout his journey, but particularly in high school, Bailar struggled with issues of body image and self-esteem, often battling with disordered eating and self-harm. In the spring of senior year, he took a gap year to enter therapy, where it became clear that his real struggle was with gender identity. He was faced with a difficult choice: to continue as a possible NCAA champion—on the women’s team—or to transition to a man and be authentic to himself, accepting the consequences and challenges it would entail.
Bailar's decision to transition, to be true to himself, has been recounted globally in thousands of media outlets, from The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” MTV included his story on their list of “2015’s Best Moments for the Trans Community,” and BuzzFeed named him one of the “11 Transgender People Who Are Shifting Our Views in 2015.”
Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA Division 1 swimmer, was awarded the prestigious Harvard Athletics Director’s Award in 2019. He is the seventh recipient—the award is only granted when an athlete demonstrates an outstanding contribution to athletics through education. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, he began working as a public speaker to address issues of diversity and inclusion. He has also been involved in policy work with the NCAA, the IOC, and USA Swimming—he has assisted with and is featured in the USA Swimming cultural inclusion guides for both LGBTQ+ and Asian American athletes.
Schuyler Bailar continues to speak out, advocating for body positivity and dispelling deep-rooted myths about trans and nonbinary people.
“I really just want to be visible so people know this is possible that I exist—not ‘I’ as in Schuyler but ‘I’ as in a trans athlete.”
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