Between celeb- and justice-inspired outfits, glammed-up beauty looks, and generally uplifting young-love vibes, prom photos are standing out on social media more than ever before. But an Instagram photo posted on Wednesday by Harvard University swimmer Schuyler Bailar — which shows him before and after his gender transition, in photos just three years apart — is particularly transfixing.
“Change is possible. Happiness is possible. Authenticity is possible. But all of these things take time and effort and perseverance and self love. Still, they are ever possible; so, never forget this, my friends. Never give up on yourselves,” writes Bailar, 21, a psychology major and the first known transgender male NCAA division-1 athlete.
He labeled the side-by-side photos, “Left: June 2014, my senior prom. Right: May 2017, a friend’s senior prom,” laying bare the distinction between when he was presenting as female, wearing a long black gown and flowing hair, and now, as a male with more chiseled facial features, in a tuxedo. But Bailar was quick to point out that the photos told only a tiny bit of his story.
“Also, recognize that this picture is a total simplification of my journey,” he wrote. “I did not wake up one day and just become a man, nor was I ever truly a woman. I have always been me — whether dressed in a gown or a tie. Between and before these pictures are hundreds of days of incredibly important discovery and pain and growth that I will never ignore.”
Bailar, appearing on The Ellen Show in 2016, elaborated on his journey, explaining that he’d been recruited to swim on the Harvard women’s team but had soon taken a gap year to deal with an eating disorder — something he eventually recognized as being triggered by not feeling comfortable in a woman’s body. When he shared his realization with his coach, he says, she was supportive — as was the men’s coach and every male swimmer when it came to Bailar switching teams.
Since switching to the men’s team, he admitted, “I’m not winning anything. But I think that I’m not awful. So I keep up with my teammates and I keep up with the people around me, but I’m not winning anything like I used to and that’s definitely humbling. But it kind of has helped me develop something I was working on before, which was learning to love swimming just for swimming.”
Bailar’s prom side-by-side has more than 5,300 likes and many supportive comments, including, “This is unbelievably inspirational. To have the courage to make such a huge change and to just be yourself without anyone’s judgment stopping you…man…I’m just speechless. Incredible story to say the least and you’ve definitely motivated and inspired me.”
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