Diversity groups in Naperville, Aurora hosting groundbreaking transgender athlete
The first transgender athlete to compete in NCAA Division I men's sports is set to give speeches at high schools in Naperville and Aurora.
Schuyler Bailar, who graduated in May from Harvard College after competing for four years on the men's swimming team, has booked visits Thursday evening at Naperville Central High School and Tuesday evening at Metea Valley High School in Aurora.
Bailar will talk about his decision to transition before starting college, which came after becoming ranked as one of the top 20 15-year-old breaststroke swimmers in the country and setting a 15-18-year-old age-group record with his 400-yard medley relay team. On his website, Bailar calls it "the most difficult decision ever: whether to continue as a possible NCAA champion -- on the women's team -- or to transition to a man and be authentic to himself, accepting the consequences and challenges it would entail."
His choice to become a man and compete as a man at Harvard, where he had been recruited, has led to awards and advocacy, as well as widespread media coverage.
He has been featured in "The Washington Post," "60 Minutes" and "The Ellen Show." MTV included Bailar's story in "2015's Best Moments for the Trans Community" and BuzzFeed named him one of the "11 Transgender people who are shifting our views."
Bailar is on a speaking tour this fall and plans to start work in October teaching emotional intelligence skills at a company in Seattle.
The Parent Diversity Advisory Council scheduled his appearance for an Indian Prairie Unit District 204 audience at Metea, then reached out to inform Rakeda Leaks, executive director of diversity and inclusion for Naperville Unit District 203, of his plans to come to the area. Leaks said she was pleased to schedule him to speak in Naperville as well, giving the broader community two free opportunities to hear his story in person and to gain a new perspective on gender identity.
"We have students and some family members of our students who are transgender. For some of us, that's a different experience," Leaks said. "We want to make sure we understand each other and we want to provide opportunities for us to learn about and from one another."
To hear a story about an unfamiliar experience like Bailar's, shared live on stage, makes it "easier for us to empathize with each other and to understand and respect each other," Leaks said.
Both events featuring Bailar take place at 7 p.m. and both are free. To register to attend the Naperville Central event, in the auditorium at 440 Aurora Ave., visit schuyleratnchs.eventcombo.com. To register to attend the Metea Valley event, in the auditorium at 1801 N. Eola Road, visit https://www.facebook.com/pdac204/ and click on the events tab.