Schuyler Bailar’s Inspiring Journey

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Schuyler Bailar by Sydney Claire Photography @sydneyclairephotography

Seyeon (Kelly) Min, News Editor

In honor of LGBTQ+ Visibility Week, the Pingree community hosted Schuyler Bailar on April 21 to discuss his transgender journey. Bailar’s speech was filled with his experiences and inspiration as an exceptional swimmer. 

 

Bailar, who is Korean-American, graduated in 2019 from Harvard University where he was an athlete on the men’s swimming and diving team. He was also the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team. 

 

Growing up, swimming had been the center of Bailar’s life. He got good grades and was recruited to swim on the women’s swimming team at Harvard. However, even though he believed he had everything under control during high school, he was growing increasingly uncomfortable existing in his body. After his high school graduation, he spent 131 days at a facility in Florida where he got treatment and was watched closely. He described it as painful, but he finally had a chance to talk about how he felt about his identity. That was the first time he remembered being able to think of himself as a transgender man. It took a full year after this experience for him to ask friends to refer to him with male pronouns. This step solidified the expression of his true self, which had been hidden for a long time. On March 16, 2015, when Bailar was 19 years old, he got his subcutaneous mastectomy (top surgery), and he referred to the day as “one of his best days of my life.” 

 

Much of Bailar’s speech centered around his coach, Kevin Tyrrell, who recruited him to swim for the Harvard men’s team. Bailar emphasized the acceptance of his teammates, who he says welcomed him onto the team. When Coach Kevin heard about Bailar’s journey, he said, “‘Well, if Schuyler identifies as male, and I have a men’s team, and he wants to swim, why doesn’t he swim for me?’” 

 

Schuyler talked about being scared to lose all the potential he had as a female athlete and to start his journey as a male athlete in a new community. However, he enjoyed spending time with male teammates, who supported his decision, so he took a risk and swam for the men’s team. 

 

At the end of his speech, Bailar talked about his first book, Obie is Man Enough, which will be released in September. Obie is Man Enough is a coming-of-age story about a transgender teenager named Obie. Obie is aware that his transition will transform his life, and that this will mean leaving his community, which includes his coach and best friends. As he joins a new team, he isn’t comfortable and is bullied in the locker room, but his family remains by the side. Bailar wrote this book to showcase his experiences as a transgender man and a swimmer through the character of Obie. Most importantly, he wrote the book with the support and affection of his mother, an important figure in his life. 

 

His story inspired many Pingree students. Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club leader Lindsey Goldstein ‘22 says, “Something that resonated with me the most about Schuyler Bailar’s assembly was when he talked about how other people’s opinions don’t define his truth. It is an idea that can connect to everyone, especially teens. It is so easy to let others’ opinions affect us a lot, but they don’t know our own truths in reality. Only we can define who we are, not other people.” As Lindsey described, when making decisions, we are often swayed by other people’s opinions because we believe we have to please others. However, in the process of pleasing others, we lose the power of finding the best option for ourselves. 

 

Indeed, last month, the Pingree community acknowledged that many LGBTQ+ students are forced to be silenced when it comes to their sexuality. On April 9th, 2021, more than 100 Pingree students participated in the national Day of Silence to show their support and to spread awareness about the effects of harassment that LGBTQ+ students everywhere have to face on a daily basis.  

 

Lindsey Goldstein shares the reason why she participated in the Day of Silence. As someone who is LGBTQ+, it is so important to me to bring awareness to the issues we face. I myself have been privileged to have a supportive family, but not everyone has that. Having events like the Day of Silence can make Pingree a safe space, especially for those who don’t have it at home. Something that I learned is that when everyone is silent, it is harder for other people to talk because then they stand out. When everyone comes together for one cause, it is harder for people to not support it.” 

 

Check out Schuyler Bailar’s personal website for more information: 

http://pinkmantaray.com/post