U of M Swimmer Broke a Record then Broke a Barrier

By | 2016-12-19T09:00:00-05:00 December 19th, 2016|Michigan, News|


ANN ARBOR – G Ryan set a University of Michigan and Big Ten Conference record in women’s swimming on Dec. 2.
Two days later at the Atlanta airport on the way home from the meet, a woman tried telling Ryan to leave the women’s restroom and go to the men’s restroom instead, according to a Dec. 14 report in Outsports.
“I don’t have a good defense,” Ryan said in a phone interview. “I can’t say that I’m a woman, so I belong here. That’s not true.”
What made a retort complicated is that Ryan doesn’t identify as male or female. The bathroom Ryan chooses to use in public depends on what’s likely to cause the least problems based on Ryan’s appearance, circumstances, and attire that day. Ryan identifies as queer in terms of gender and sexuality, and Ryan’s preferred pronouns are they/them/theirs.
So in the pink-tiled bathroom in Atlanta, Ryan’s response that Sunday night after claiming a piece of Big Ten history less than 60 hours earlier was to say, “I understand that this is a women’s restroom, and it’s OK for me to be here.”
That restroom incident marked a low point in an otherwise exciting weekend at the University of Georgia Fall Invitational, which started for Ryan with the 500-yard freestyle.
“That race kind of came out of nowhere, to be honest, at least from my perspective,” Ryan said. “I was focusing on the details and trying to be consistent in my splits, and I was as shocked as anyone at the end.”
Ryan completed the race in 4 minutes, 34.28 seconds. Ryan immediately knew that went below the A-cut time needed to qualify for the NCAA championships in March. Michigan’s coaches later told Ryan about breaking the school and conference records in the event.
“[The Big Ten record] wasn’t a goal I had even envisioned or conceptualized,” said Ryan, who finished ninth in both the 500 and 1,650 freestyles at last year’s NCAA championships. “It’s a great honor.”
Ryan, a junior, previously held the school record in the 500 freestyle until teammate Rose Bi took the record last season.
As the anchor leg on Michigan’s 800-yard freestyle relay, Ryan earned another NCAA championships berth by the relay getting an A-cut time of 6:59.49. In other events from Dec. 2-4 at Georgia, Ryan took second in the 1,650 freestyle (15:57.10), finished eighth in the 200 freestyle (1:46.49), and contributed to the 400 freestyle relay taking eighth.
This swimming season is Ryan’s first season using the name G. Last season, Ryan’s first name from birth appeared in meet results. For academic purposes, Ryan changed to go by G after the 2015 fall semester, but Ryan didn’t take the steps to change the name used for athletics until April.
“The best thing for me is that nobody [within swimming] bats an eye at calling me G,” Ryan said. “There are times when I still get called by my legal name, and I know that it’s not intentional. But sometimes it’s jarring because I don’t think of myself that way.
“There are also times when our team is called a women’s team or we’re referred to as women or ladies. That’s also a challenge because I have to qualify those statements. I have to change the vocabulary in my own head so that I’m included in the conversation.”
Seeking inclusion provides Ryan motivation for talking about being genderqueer. But if a self-appointed women’s bathroom monitor is exclusionary again, Ryan laughed at the possibility of now saying, “It’s OK for me to be here. I own a Big Ten women’s swimming record.”

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.