The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s annual “Bear to Make a Difference” Gala on Saturday, October 9th will recognize inspiring individuals committed to replacing hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance. Few have demonstrated a personal commitment quite like Schuyler Bailar, our 2021 ‘Spirit of Matthew’ Award honoree.
The Spirit of Matthew Award recognizes a young person who embodies the spirit of Matt – kind, forward-thinking, and advocating for their peers. A youth who demonstrates a profound personal commitment to social justice, equal rights, and activism, while showing the same passion to foster a more caring and just world. . . just like Matt.
A swimmer before the age of 1, Schuyler graduated from high school as a top student and award-winning athlete. He was aggressively recruited by most of the Ivy League swim teams and eventually committed to Harvard University. But throughout his journey, Schuyler struggled with issues of body image and self-esteem, often battling with disordered eating and self-harm. Thanks to therapy and the support of a strong family, Schuyler realized his struggle was with gender identity and that he was transgender.
This presented Schuyler with the most difficult decision ever: whether to continue as a possible NCAA champion – on the Harvard women’s team – or to transition and be authentic to himself, accepting the consequences and the challenges it would entail.
Schuyler’s choice – to be true to himself – has been historic. His story hit Facebook’s top-trending news and has been recounted globally in thousands of media outlets from The Washington Post to 60 Minutes.
In 2019, Schuyler graduated from Harvard, having swum 4 years on the most successful Harvard swim team in 50 years. At the end of his swimming career, Schuyler was ranked in the top 15% of all NCAA breaststroke swimmers. During his journey, Schuyler was unable to find examples of trans athletes and vowed to be public about his transition to give youth at least one public example. His advocacy has evolved into full-time work as a DEI Consultant, Life Coach, Advocate and Author.
Join MSF on October 9th in Denver, CO for an evening you won’t want to miss. Additional details and honoree announcements coming soon. For tickets or sponsorship information, visit https://matthewshepard.org/gala.