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Harvard’s trans swimmer preps for sophomore year

Schuyler Bailar on navigating college life after nat’l media spotlight



Schuyler Bailar, gay news, Washington Blade

Schuyler Bailar says Harvard is ‘the first place where I felt like I could be me.’

It’s 6:03 a.m. on a Monday at Harvard University and freshman Schuyler Bailar is just waking up. After taking five minutes in bed to check social media, he is up and on his bike heading across campus to swim practice.

Training starts at 6:30 a.m. and then it is into the pool for a two-hour threshold workout. A quick trip to the training room for recovery is followed by breakfast with his teammates.

There will be some studying, classes, downtime and a nap until lunch, followed by more studying and maybe another class. Weightlifting for an hour leads to night practice in the pool for another hour.

Light stretching to loosen up is completed before he heads off to dinner. The rest of the night is spent studying with friends or going somewhere off campus. Bedtime is at 10 p.m.

That was the typical day for Bailar during his first year at Harvard as a member of its NCAA Division I men’s swim team. His best time in the 100-yard breaststroke at the beginning of the season was 1:03.1. In the final meet of the season he uncorked a 59.4 individually and a 58.6 in a relay. For those unfamiliar with the upper echelon of swimming, that is a huge drop for one season.

“The whole team was up cheering for me and there were a lot of high-fives and hugs,” says Bailar. “I didn’t win, but I had just swum a best time and it was a really cool moment.”

It sounds like a scenario you would hear from many college swimmers in their freshman year though there are some items that need to be added to complete Bailar’s schedule.

There was a “60 Minutes” segment, an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show and requests from every major news outlet. Even though he was just settling into college, living away from home at 19 years old and going from a small school to a large school, he engaged with the media despite everything else on his plate.

He knew it was important to share his journey so that others may learn from it. He had already been reporting it through his Instagram, his blog and his YouTube channel, but now it was going mainstream.

Schuyler Bailar is the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer and also the first publicly documented NCAA Division I transgender man to compete as a man in any sport.

“Everything was crazy last year and I was extraordinarily busy outside of all the other things I was doing,” Bailar says. “It added a different level to my schedule and it was not my style of living.”

While still in high school, Bailar was recruited by the Harvard women’s swimming team but he chose to take a gap year to transition. After transitioning he was also offered a spot on the Harvard men’s team.

Merging into the college athletic experience has taken some adjusting on Bailar’s part. In high school, he kept to himself and his swimming was completely outside of school. Those two aspects of his life never mixed.

“At Harvard, everything is intermingled and everybody is everywhere. I am social and very relational, but I like my alone time,” says Bailar. “I have had to learn to be social with my teammates because I had never done it before.”

In terms of his time drops in the pool during his freshman year, it remains unclear as to what he is capable of doing in the future. He began hormone replacement therapy in June of 2015 and he is going through the same body changes that happen to all Division I swimmers when they step into such an intense training program. Bailar has decided to focus on other aspects of swimming instead of setting time goals.

“I am putting value in feeling good in the water, taking care of my shoulders and being consistent in practice,” Bailar says. “It is a huge mindset shift because I had to relearn how to race people that might be a body length ahead of me.”

Acceptance from his teammates came early on as head coach Kevin Tyrrell called a meeting with the swimmers who number close to 40. They were all on board with him being on the team.

Another topic to consider was the locker room situation. Coach Tyrrell asked Bailar what he wanted and offered his own office as a changing room. His parents, Gregor and Terry, had some safety concerns regarding other teams, but Bailar wanted full integration into the locker room.

“The coach’s office was a nice fallback but segregation is not supportive of me on a human level,” says Bailar. “I needed to be part of the team dynamic. It hasn’t always been easy but it is something I want. My teammates would never let anyone from another team bother me.”

This summer Bailar spent time in Park City, Utah, shadowing an orthopedic surgeon, training in the pool and teaching swimming lessons to people with disabilities. Heading into his sophomore year at Harvard, he is still undecided on what his course of study will be and says for now he is keeping his options open.

When he returned to his home in McLean, Va., in July, he competed at the PVS LC Senior Championships at the University of Maryland. He attained his goal of qualifying for the finals in the 100-meter breaststroke where he knocked off more time from his preliminary heat.

As the swimming season approaches this fall at Harvard, he is in better shape than last year.

“It is a human condition to want to belong. I belong in the pool, I belong in my room, and I want to belong to the team,” Bailar says. “What drew me to Harvard was that it was the first place where I felt like I could be me.”




Celebrating sports history: DC Gay Flag Football’s 25th season

Head of District’s premier league says it’s ‘groovin’ to its silver anniversary



The DC Gay Flag Football’s 25th season is underway. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

What started when gay football fans got together in the 1990s to play their favorite sport is now a D.C. institution with 270 players in 20 teams spread over three fields, playing in both fall and spring. 

“Get off the bench,” shouts the slogan on the league’s website. “Get in the game!” 

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League turns 25 years old this month and is considered not only the premier league of its kind in the District, but is recognized across the country for its players, organization, and spirit.

“The way we run our league and the way we compete make us stand out relative to the rest,” DCGFFL Commissioner Logan Dawson told the Washington Blade. 

For those who don’t know flag football from any other kind, the difference is easy to spot: There’s no contact allowed. As the rules say, “That includes tackling, diving, blocking, and screening. Instead, players wear flags that hang along their sides by a belt. To ‘tackle’ the person in possession of the ball, the opposing team needs to pull one or both of their flags off.” There are a lot more rules, but that’s the one that really sets it apart from tackle football. 

The sport itself dates back to World War II and its origins have been traced to Fort Meade, Md. 

What’s the secret to the league’s longevity? “I think we attract and hold on to great athletes who are highly competitive, not only on the field, but also, in our professional and personal lives,” he said. Dawson, 32, plays flag football as well as manages the league. He’s currently single, but says his first love is the weather. 

“I knew in second grade that I wanted to be a meteorologist,” said Dawson, who moved to the District to be a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

A prolific swimmer since high school, he came out as he started grad school at Purdue University in Indiana in 2012. In an op-ed appearing in Outsports in 2014, Dawson wrote about competing in his first Gay Games in Cleveland along with a group of other gay swimmers from Colorado, and left that experience determined to join a gay sports league. 

He found it in the fall of 2018 in the DCGFFL, the same year the league’s Generals team won Gay Games XVIII. The league supports up to five travel teams, which take part in annual tournaments nationwide. It also hosts a summer tournament each year in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

“There’s a good amount of participation by people who played in the league from the very early days,” Dawson said. “I think we’re just in the sweet spot, where we have a lot of the original participants, a lot of new players, and we’re just kind of grooving right now.”

The first group gathered at Francis Field near Dupont Circle in 1994. Three years later, another group formed to play just steps from the Washington Monument Mall. They came together in 1998 to form what is now the DCGFFL. 

“For the majority of those seasons, we mainly had one division that played that was co-ed,” said Dawson. “This is our second season that we’ve had a Womens+ Division made up of [cisgender] women, trans and nonbinary individuals.” The Womens+ teams are called the Senators. 

Jayme Fuglesten is director of the Womens+ Division and has played in the league in most seasons since 2011.

“The DCGFFL has been a major part of my adult life,” she says. “I came out while playing in the league in no small part because of the love and support of this community.”

Why does she think the league has been such a success to have lasted 25 years?

“I think the league has been so successful because of its focus on inclusion and community,” she says. “I remember being so surprised in my early years when JJ and so many others would just come right up to me, hug me, and welcome me. And that really hasn’t changed in the 20+ seasons I’ve been around. It also continues to grow and respond to the needs and desires of our players. One example of that is the new Womens+ division, which gives an additional space for people who identify as womens+ to play and cultivate stronger relationships.”

DC Gay Flag Football plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a dance party and silent auction at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Next month, the DCGFF will send both Generals and Senators to Gay Bowl XXIII in Seattle. “That’s going to be the first time we’re going to have two Womens+ teams at the Gay Bowl,” Dawson told the Blade. “It’s reflective of the new generation of the league.” 

Earlier generations had trouble attracting new players. As the Blade reported in 2019, what had been a steady number of 20 to 22 teams dropped dramatically to 14, its lowest roster since 2011. The league’s leadership turned it around with new recruiting events, new sponsors, changes in their social event locations, changes to their player draft and a change of venue for league play beyond Carter Barron fields in Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington. 

Brentwood Hamilton Park in Northeast Washington is now home to the recreation division and Randall Field south of the Capitol is the league’s third venue. 

Just like every facet of society, from coast to coast, what happened next hit the league hard. “COVID happened in spring of 2020,” recalled Dawson. “Everything shut down, and we did not play for what amounted to three full seasons for a year and a half.”

But once the world emerged from quarantine and lockdowns, flag football players started flocking to the DCGFFL. “We’ve had probably over 150 new players join our league in the last two years,” he said.

One thing is certain, said Dawson: Despite the name, not everyone who plays in the gay flag football league is LGBTQ+. 

“It’s a really great community. There’s a straight couple that’s married and will be soon having a child in the next month or so,” Dawson said. “They met playing in the league, just like we’ve had gay couples who meet in the league and eventually get married and have children.”

Prominent among the league’s many sponsors is the NFL hometown team, the Washington Commanders. “They are highly supportive of us, not just financially, but also publicly supporting what we are, and our mission,” Dawson said. 

This current NFL season is the first since 2021 without an out gay player on the gridiron. That’s when Carl Nassib became the first active pro football player to come out as gay. 

(Washington Blade file photo by Adam Hall)

While Dawson said, “I’m sure there are more out there” who have not yet come out, Nassib’s retirement makes this anniversary of the DCGFFL even more significant. 

“It’s unfortunate people still feel they cannot be out while they’re playing and doing what they love, but that’s the reason why something like the D.C. Gay Flag Football League is so important,” he said. “To show that there are gay and trans athletes who exist and love playing sports.”

The league plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a dance party and silent auction at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23 starting at 8 p.m. Check the website for ticket information.

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Carl Nassib announces retirement

Openly gay NFL player made history when he came out in 2021



(CBS News screenshot)

Carl Nassib, who made history in 2021 when he became the first active player in the National Football League to come out as gay, announced Wednesday he is retiring at age 30. 

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” the free agent wrote in a post on Instagram. “But after seven seasons and just over 100 NFL games I am officially retiring from football to focus on my company Rayze.” 

Rayze is a mobile platform that connects people willing to give of themselves with those who need it most, born of an experience in Tampa, Fla., where Bucs players volunteered as mentors to kids being held in a nearby juvenile detention center. Rayze’s website says the company serves to “shine a light on opportunities that need volunteers, while making nonprofit engagement, volunteer recruitment and donating as simple and intuitive as possible.” 

“It really feels like just yesterday starting out as a walk-in at Penn State,” Nassib wrote in his post. “Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined. I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.” 

Ever since he came out in 2021, the former defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has become a philanthropist for the LGBTQ community, especially for queer youth, personally donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project. That year, the NFL matched his donation, and in 2022, Nassib himself matched donations dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

According to the Bucs, Nassib played in 99 regular-season NFL games with 38 starts,  recorded 187 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 45 tackles for loss, 59 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception and 19 passes defended. In 2016, he the Cleveland Browns drafted him with the second pick in the third round. At Penn State, Nassib was a star player, leading the nation in sacks and forced fumbles during his senior year with the Nittany Lions in 2015.

“It was not an easy decision. It really, really wasn’t,” Nassib told People magazine in an exclusive interview timed to coincide with his Instagram. 

“This would have been my 23rd football season. I’ve been playing football since I was eight years old, and I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he said. 

Nassib says he began considering retirement last season before becoming a free agent, when he said he was “staying at the Bucs facility until 9 p.m. every night working on Rayze.”

“I feel like it’s my calling and it’s what I’m meant to do,” Nassib says of the app. “I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life and to give Rayze everything that I have.”

In July, he posted that he had accepted an appointment to the board of directors of the local United Way chapter in his hometown of West Chester, Pa. 

Nassib said he is also going to work with the NFL in a new role, in matters related to the league’s philanthropic endeavors and its “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“I think that I can provide a very rare and specific view of how life is for an out gay player, and I think that there are some amazing opportunities that I can also learn,” he told People.

“Maintaining that relationship shows that the NFL is continuing to support me. They’ve supported me so much over the last two years, and I really couldn’t have done it without that support,” he said.

Nassib said the NFL’s offer to utilize him in this new role “continues to show people that you can be yourself and compete at the highest level.”

But what he’s most excited to do with his time now, he told People, is to spend the holiday season with his family and his boyfriend, retired Olympian Søren Dahl. 

“I’ve spent 11 out of 12 Christmases away from my family, many of them alone in my apartment,” said Nassib. “I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my family since 2010, so I am really, really looking forward to spending time with my family, my friends, and those special moments. And that’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for years.” 

That’s one of the many reasons why he wrote on Instagram: “I really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.”

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Close out the summer with Team DC

United Night Out held at Audi Field



A scene from last year’s United Night Out. (Washington Blade file photo by Kevin Majoros)

Team DC and Federal Triangles Soccer Club will host “United Night Out” on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

This event will celebrate the LGBTQ community and cheer on the Black-and-Red as they take on the Philadelphia Union.

Team DC is the association of LGBTQ sports clubs in the greater Washington region with 42 member clubs (including FTSC) with more than 7,000 participants. Team DC sponsors the Pride Night OUT Series, which helps organize Pride nights with all local pro teams. In 2023, Team DC will sponsor 14 different Pride nights, including the United Night OUT. 

Tickets are $30 and can be purchased on Team DC’s website

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