First Openly Trans NCAA Athlete Schuyler Bailar Gives Insight on Lia Thomas Competing

In the SwimSwam Podcast dive deeper into the sport you love with insider conversations about swimming. Hosted by Coleman HodgesGarrett McCaffrey, and Gold Medal Mel Stewart, SwimSwam welcomes both the biggest names in swimming that you already know, and rising stars that you need to get to know, as we break down the past, present, and future of aquatic sports.

We sat down with Schuyler Bailar, the first openly trans NCAA DI male athlete, to discuss what being a trans athlete, and trans human, means. This has come to the forefront of news lately in the case of Lia Thomas, the trans woman that is currently competing for the University of Penn women’s swim team. Bailar describes the importance of biodiversity in sport and how we see a discrepancy in how biodiversity is accepted. Bailar explains that while males with biological advantages are often praised for them, women, especially women in marginalized groups such as black or trans women, are received in the opposite way and see harsh criticism for these biological differences.

See Bailar’s Instagram post about this issue below:

Visit Schuyler Bailar’s website here.

Listen to SwimSwam’s interview with Lia Thomas here.

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Music: Otis McDonald
www.otismacmusic.com

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Opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the interviewed guests do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the hosts, SwimSwam Partners, LLC and/or SwimSwam advertising partners.

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Sir Swam-A-Lot
8 months ago

I have a question about the term “assigned”.

Who or what is doing the assigning?

Do we mean “born” rather than “assigned”?

Not trying to be flippant here, or transphobic. Just trying to wade through the terminology and have it make sense. “Assigned” seems like kind of an awkward term, at best, especially if it’s supposed to be an alternative to “born”.

Admin
Reply to  Sir Swam-A-Lot
8 months ago

Yes, most individuals are assigned a gender at birth – by their parents, by the medical staff, etc. This term is used to recognize the concept of “the gender that you were raised as,” but attempting to acknowledge the idea that being transgender isn’t something one “chooses,” even if physically transitioning is a choice. It also tries to capture a concept of intersex individuals.

You can think of it generally as a way to recognize that most children are raised a certain way within certain gender norms as chosen, or assigned, by their parents or doctor, even if they don’t have an internal sense of being that gender as a child.

Lol
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 months ago

Braden – I do not think you are correct based on conversations with friends who are trans and legally involved in these issues, assigned at birth is not, or at least was not, intended as a reference to gender, it is sex. No one is assigned a gender identity at birth, you are biologically a sex and it is observed and recognized. Discussing it as though we can choose our sex bc it was something someone picked for us is misusing language, but acknowledging that there may be a difference between what we are born as and how we identify can be done by distinguishing between what biology assigned us and how one feels/identifies.
The ACLU is currently trying… Read more »

Little Mermaid
8 months ago

Hey Now! One transgender beat another! Fair and square! Izzi Henig at Yale transition from female to male, beat Lia Thomas! Now let’s hear the board comments on this one! Can’t make this stuff up! Come on swimswam let’s see the story you write up on this one!

Last edited 8 months ago by Little Mermaid
Taa
Reply to  Little Mermaid
8 months ago

She must have been lifting weights behind the blocks right before her races.

moonlight
8 months ago

What an articulate guy! I was engaged the entire podcast and he explains the trans experience so well. I think the most important thing from this podcast was simply hearing the minority perspective. Living in a world that is vastly heteronormative and cisgender, it’s rare to hear about experiences like Schuyler’s or Lia’s. Without interviews like these, it becomes very easy for heterosexual/cisgender folks to subconsciously make assumptions about the trans experience and dehumanize trans people, making attacks super easy.

This entire debate of trans athletes is in Inning One. Some of Schuyler’s arguments will prove correct, others will prove incorrect. There is so little information right now and athletic policies/public opinion will undoubtedly change over the next 5 years.… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by moonlight
Nathan Smith
8 months ago

I was disappointed in this interview. I was expecting more swimming specific talk. I guess Bailar just stuck to the general audience script since he has experience in speaking to them. Specifically, is there anyone out there who think men have a significantly better access to quality training than women in swimming?

At one point, Bailar mentions that we don’t have good data on transgender elite athletes. But I thought his arguments hinged on assuming that if we did have the data, you wouldn’t see an unfair difference for people who went through testosterone driven puberty. There was no acknowledgement that the data could end up showing an unfair advantage, similar to PED use, which we already regulate. If… Read more »

Ol' Longhorn
8 months ago

Would love to hear Ledecky’s comments on this. If she says, good for Lia, what’s all the fuss.

Lol
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
8 months ago

This comment is a jaw-dropping insult to both Katie and women as a whole.
Katie is an amazing person and a powerful voice who deserves respect, consideration and the platform she has earned.
That said, it is in no way her responsibility to speak for all the women being impacted by this, nor would her stance, whatever it is, invalidate the position of women who are impacted differently than she. A world record holder is not the only person who has something at stake in this argument.

Little Mermaid
Reply to  Lol
8 months ago

That comment is not jaw dropping? She should speak up (Ledecky) if her records are broken in March NCAA championship! Eventually the question will come up to her in an interview or social media. Or she will speak up when all her endorsement contracts expire.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Lol
8 months ago

On the range of “jaw-dropping” insults to Katie (remember all the bad sport stuff when she lost to Titmus at Worlds when she was, in fact, sick?) and women (I mean, where do I start — how about anything The Former Guy ever said), this isn’t even a 4 on a scale of 10. Seriously? Do you even have a clue? I realize you’re passionate about your stance, but the hyperbolic nature of your comments is absurd and just leads to more polarization. What a clown comment.

Swim Parent
8 months ago

I would like to hear Schuyler address the reason for Lia going from a solid mid-major conference swimmer for 3 years, to a contender for a national championship as a swimmer on the women’s team. This is quite a meteoric rise

N80m80
Reply to  Swim Parent
8 months ago

That for me is the big difference maker. The change is astounding and unignorable especially since Lia is throwing down her times before big taper meets. There’s no way that kind of jump doesn’t come without a massive massive advantage

swimmerswammer
Reply to  Swim Parent
8 months ago

“Solid mid major swimmer” – you recognize that Lia, based on any reasonable projection of progress, would have been an NCAA scorer if she had not transitioned and remained on the men’s team, right?

She’s a better swimmer on the women’s team post-transition than she was on the men’s team pre-transition, no doubt, but my god I’m about to lose my mind over people pretending like she was some second-rate swimmer when on the men’s team.

I expect that nonsense on Breitbart or YouTube. I expect better from a “Swim Parent” on a swimming niche site.

Lol
Reply to  swimmerswammer
8 months ago

This comment makes zero sense and is not based on an understanding of NCAA swimming. Lia was not invited to NCAAs – a bubble swimmer. Maybe a chance to get an invite in mens but the jump to world class that she is in with the women is preposterous.
There is never a guarantee of improvement year over year or even over years.
Had a chance to swim at NCAA as a man – maybe… that’s it.

HJones
Reply to  swimmerswammer
8 months ago

There is zero guarantee she would have been an NCAA scorer on the men’s side, as her times from the 2019-2020 season would not have scored at either the previous or the year after’s NCAA championship.

You’re also completely making up that people on this site are “pretending like she was some second-rate swimmer when on the men’s team”. I’ve seen not one comment of this on SwimSwam. What has been pointed out is that she has become a significantly better swimmer relative to females. Do a USA Swimming “power points” calculation for her times as a female versus her times as a male. The power points from the male swims are good, borderline great numbers (what you’d expect for… Read more »

Steve Nolan
Reply to  HJones
8 months ago

You’re also completely making up that people on this site are “pretending like she was some second-rate swimmer when on the men’s team”. I’ve seen not one comment of this on SwimSwam. 

I can vouch that there have been a number of them. This comment I made on another post was responding to one of them…but SwimSwam axe’d the initial comment while I was replying so mine just got posted by itself.

A lot of the more…inflammatory…comments don’t stick around here long. (Which I think has been a good idea.)

SwammaJammaDingDong
Reply to  Steve Nolan
8 months ago

Most people commenting here understand that a 4:18 500 free is a solid men’s swim, but it would not be unique at a major conference championship meet. It would be a borderline championship finals qualifying time at ACC, SEC, Big 10, etc. and near the top-50 in the nation. I would not call it “second-rate” but it’s noting overly special. Projecting that same time to the women’s side and you have someone winning NCAAs by 15 seconds.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  SwammaJammaDingDong
8 months ago

The comment I was referring to said “bottom 1/3rd swimmer” or something. There’ve been others, but that one’s still fresh in the mind.

Swim Parent
Reply to  swimmerswammer
8 months ago

The description was “solid” which is accurate and complimentary. Swimming as a man, Lia was absolutely a factor at Ivy Champs, but certainly not considered world class. Swimming against women, Lia is at a whole different level.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  swimmerswammer
8 months ago

If you expect better from a Swim Parent on SS, you’re new here.

Zack Perry
8 months ago

“People are positive about male trans athletes but negative about female trans athletes because of misogyny”

Actually this difference in reaction contradicts your entire argument…..They only have an issue when the fairness of the sport is compromised. Male trans athletes have no unfair advantage over their competitors, female trans athletes have an advantage over their competitors.

Troyy
Reply to  Zack Perry
8 months ago

They’d have to be wilfully ignorant to not get this but here you are having to say it.

swimfan27
Reply to  Zack Perry
8 months ago

Precisely!! The reason most people didn’t have an issue with Schuyler competing for the Harvard men’s team is because he wasn’t unfairly beating competitors.

Anna
Reply to  Zack Perry
8 months ago

It does seem like a flawed argument. In fact, it appears the opposite may be true: one argument against the current rules is they are not physiologically fair towards biological women. If it was men’s sport being potentially compromised, would the reaction by governing bodies be different?

I wonder what the reaction would be if male trans athletes had an advantage. I’m thinking for example in a sport where flexibility is key over strength, say rhythmic gymnastic.

Entgegen
Reply to  Anna
8 months ago

Are males unable to achieve flexibility levels the same as women?

Anna
Reply to  Entgegen
8 months ago

Thank you for the question.
On average, that’s correct. Biologically, women are more flexible than men because of the make up of their connective tissue and how their body responds to stretch. Estrogen leads to decreased stiffness of ligaments and tendons which leads to increased flexibility.
Joints structure also plays a role. For example, the spinal lumbar curve is greater in women than men (it extends across three vertebrae as opposed to two). This makes women, on average, more flexible.

Similarly, there are biological attributes that make men, on average, stronger than women.

These are the factors that, in my opinion, should be considered with sport participation and categories in sport and the reason male and female categories… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Anna
A M
Reply to  Anna
8 months ago

Interesting info on the other differences between men/women internally.

Bill Price
8 months ago

Here’s a link to an article that addresses the trans athletes in sport issue a little more clearly: https://sportkid.substack.com/p/transgender-women-athletes-have-an

About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

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