Video via River Region Evening Edition Youtube.
Southern Illinois University junior Natalie Fahey used to think she would have to choose between swimming and transitioning as an openly trans woman. This coming season, she will do both.
“My gender identity is something I’ve kind of struggled with since high school, and it wasn’t ever at the point where I felt like it was something I needed to deal with in the immediate moment,” Fahey told Justin Broom of River Region Evening Edition. “I thought I could put it off until I was done with swimming in college. But, it got to the point earlier this year, in this season, that I really realized it wasn’t something that I could keep putting off, and I couldn’t keep battling with not pursuing who I was while still swimming.”
In the end, Fahey decided that the best course for her was to begin transitioning and continue to compete in men’s events and swim on the men’s team at SIU. Fahey, a distance freestyler, made the B finals last season at the 2018 Men’s MAC Championships in the 200 free (1:41.79) and 500 free (4:35.23), and finished 9th in the mile with 15:49.76.
“It was a really tough battle trying to figure out should I quit swimming and pursue transitioning, or should I not transition and keep swimming,” she added. “Ultimately I decided that the best solution for me was to transition and swim.”
As far as we could find, this makes Fahey the first openly transgender woman to swim at the Division I level. Other notable trans and genderqueer swimmers in the NCAA include Harvard junior Schuyler Bailar (the first openly trans swimmer at the NCAA DI level) and G Ryan of Michigan.
“A big part of [deciding to transition] was self-actualization,” she said. “There is a trans man on the Harvard team, Schuyler Bailar, and he was a big inspiration to me, to see that this is achievable, and to see that people will work with me. There are rules in place, and there’s a whole procedure that is followable. This is a goal that I can do.”
In the interview, Fahey notes that she is excited for the opportunities and challenges of the coming year.
“My goal is to really work on my form,” she said. “I think I have mainly been a physical swimmer, and I haven’t really had the best form. I’m excited to have this new challenge of not having a huge amount of testosterone to rely on and being able to really tweak my form and different techniques with my swimming.”