Growing up, I wasn’t your stereotypical boy who loved Hot Wheels and monster trucks. I always found joy in dressing up and playing with stuffed animals with my neighbors. But I was always told that being feminine was wrong and was restricted from doing more feminine things.
When I was two weeks from turning 16, I had a conversation with a friend and a family member about finally facing my suspicions and things that I was uncomfortable with about myself. I was turning 16 but did not know who I was and had long struggled with not being comfortable in my own skin.
So, on Independence Day 2020, I came out on social media.
“Look I’m not doing this for anyone but myself,” I wrote. “And I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this to be true to myself as well to my LOYAL and LOVING, SUPPORTING Friends!! All of you that are gonna respond with hate go for it, but this is so I can finally be who I am as a human being! And something that is Very Hard to do! And this only proves how strong of a person i can be!
“So yes, I am coming out as a Bi-Sexual and Transgender Human Being! And yes, I have a boyfriend and if y’all are gonna hate, just ask yourself could you ever do this? This takes a lot of strength and I hope you guys can respect and support this! And know that this isn’t a CHOICE. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide this! This is who I am! And if you are supportive let me know, so I know who I can actually trust!! Because I need to be true to myself and others!! Thanks for reading!
After this post, I was showered with love and support from family and friends. But I learned that with love can also come hate and I got a lot of the latter — hate, discrimination and bullying bad enough that I started doing online school and even had a documentary made about it. In the documentary, I discuss the hate I felt, but also stressed that I was not lonely because of the amazing core group of friends I had.
When I came out, I was told that I would never play college sports because I am a person of color and a transgender woman. Those people were wrong.
I worked hard to show people that someone who is LGBTQIA+ can play sports and be successful. Today, I am a Division 1 water polo player on the men’s team at Iona University in New Rochelle, N.Y. I’m also a cheerleader at Iona, an electric violinist in the pep band, all the while studying psychology and neuroscience.
For those wondering why I am on the men’s team, it’s due to the rules and regulations of the NCAA. I did not qualify to compete on the women’s team since I wasn’t far enough along with my transition. I understood the decision and have dedicated myself to live out the life I’ve always wanted to.
It did take some time for my Iona teammates and coaches to adjust to having a transgender athlete. But even with bumps in the road, they have shown me endless support and have made me feel welcome.
For example, at one of our conference games this year, a player on the opposing team directed slurs at me, but I was proud when my team defended me. After the game, they checked up on me and made sure we documented the slurs in order to file a complaint with the conference (no decision has been made yet).
I want to show other LGBTQ people in sports that we can achieve what we set out to do, which is why I wrote this article. I do my thing every day for those who think that they can’t make it and think they will never get an opportunity to show that with work and determination, the sky is the limit.
Schuyler Newberger, 19, is a water polo player and cheerleader for Iona University. She can be reached via Instagram.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Check out our archive of coming out stories.