Three years ago, Schuyler Bailar put on a dress and went to prom. In the photo, we see a happy looking teenager with beautiful long hair and a sweet smile — but, the picture doesn't tell the full story.
Flash-forward to this month, and Bailar, who has since transitioned and now attends Harvard University, is rocking an even bigger smile and a fresh perspective on life. As Yahoo writes, Bailar is "the first known transgender male NCAA division-1 athlete," and is currently studying psychology.
Now, he wants to share a message of hope with others online.
In an Instagram post, Bailar positioned two photos next to each other: one from his prom in 2014, and one from the prom he attended with a friend this May. The photos are are inspiring, but it's the message he penned that really moved us.
"Change is possible," he captioned the photo. "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."
The caption continued:
"Also, recognize that this picture is a total simplification of my journey. 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."
As Bailar wrote, his journey hasn't been an easy one. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Bailar's parents, Gregor and Terry, said that before their son transitioned, he was unhappy with the body he was living in and developed a serious eating disorder.
While taking some time to recover, Bailar realized something else about himself: He identified as transgender. Soon after he came out, everything seemed to change as he was once again filled with hope.
With the love and support from his family, his friends, and his swim team, Bailar now competes at the collegiate level. When he's not swimming, Bailar shares his story and the progress of his transition on his Instagram page.
"3 years ago I was in a residential treatment center for an eating disorder (left) and just realizing that I am transgender," he wrote. "I was terrified — I didn't want to lose competitive swimming [I'd been recruited to Harvard women's swim team] by transitioning but I also wanted so badly to express myself fully.
"Today, I'm so thankful for all the support & opportunities that've allowed me to grow into today. For the ability to swim on the men's team here at Harvard. I'm so proud of the strength I've found within myself to be more than my eating disorder, more than my depression, more than the person (the girl) everyone thought I was supposed to be. I'm so proud of never giving up. I'm so thankful to be able to be myself, unrestrained & whole, all day and every day.
To anyone who thinks it's impossible: It's not. You can be happy. You can be yourself, too. Don't give up."