Sunday, 20 September 2015

Taking the plunge - Swimming

I appreciate that my postings are infrequent and is a reflection on how much less I need to write about. Many times I have mentioned about the difficulties I have faced with where I want to go with this blog. Life is slowly getting to a good state of normality and this means there is little I can write about that is not boring. Life is certainly not boring but there is much less I can write about that concerns transitioning. 

However, swimming is certainly one activity that seems beyond the reach of many trans individuals, especially pre-op. I am full of admiration for those that do manage to go swimming before their surgery but for me this was never going to happen. 

I was able to go swimming from the time my wounds were externally dry, probably sometime in early March. However it never really crossed my mind because I have never had any strong desire to partake in this activity. People often used to look at me blankly when I told them this, particularly in my past life, and I have had to examine why swimming was such a negative thing to me.

Before transitioning, one thing I never liked was displaying a bare chest. It always seemed wrong for me and as I discovered who I really was, it became clear why this was the case. There were a considerable number of years where I was in denial and didn't understand it myself let alone anyone around me. Men would parade around topless in the summer and yet I found it such a distasteful thing to do. Swimming required this nakedness so I found it very difficult and shied away from it all.

Of course, after my surgery, my physical dysphoria was no longer an issue. It would be possible to wear a bathing costume without any of the "wrong" lumps and bumps showing. However, because swimming was such a negative issue before, it took me a little while to get to the point of wanting to go.

Towards the end of March, I attended a disability discussion group and in that meeting, a representative of Taunton Deane Borough Council was there displaying the plans for a new swimming pool. I did ask at the meeting whether there were any plans to try to encourage trans people to swim. Surprise was expressed as to why there would even be problems with this and I had to explain that many trans people considered swimming out of their reach. They were thoughtful and I would be contacted further down the line with a possibility of discussing this further. Typically, I was not contacted but thoughts of going swimming myself were starting to increase and by mid-summer I had decided I would be going sometime soon.

The schools were to soon break up and I felt that it might be better to wait until the children went back to school. The idea of going swimming for the first time in many years with a pool full of screaming kids was not appealing. I decided I had waited long enough for the correct body for this and a few weeks more would not hurt. I vowed that by the end of September, I would face this gremlin.

Fate can be a cruel mistress but I also believe she can be kind as well. I have made a couple of new friendships very recently and one of those happened to enjoy swimming. She seemed quite surprised that I had not been yet when I spoke to her in August and I explained that it was on my list and that I was just waiting for the kids to go back to school. She said she had a spare bathing suit that might fit me and would I like her to come with me the first time? I had already decided I was going to do this anyway but to have someone accompany me the first time was a golden opportunity. The lumps and bumps might be gone but I was going to be displaying a lot of flesh in public.

The bathing suit was a good fit and we then looked at the timetable for the local pool in Taunton. Friday was the day we decided as it coincided with Mandy attending her day centre. 

We dropped her off and then had to wait out a couple of hours before the pool was available for the public. A little wander around town and a coffee got us to the right time and we returned to the car to collect our swimming gear. It was then that I discovered that I had forgotten to put a parking ticket on the car and miraculously I had not attracted a penalty. I then paid for one, thanking my luck.

In we went and paid our money. The changing room was a much different affair that the last time I had been there, probably more than ten years previous. In past times, they had male, female and family changing areas. Now it was all just one massive unisex area with cubicles to change in as well as shower and toilet areas. I found a cubicle and got myself undressed and into my swimwear.

I was surprised at how relaxed I was when I opened the door to the public whilst dressed in this small amount of clothing. Something I had built up to be a massive thing over all these years was actually quite a non-event. My friend had also gotten dressed and we deposited our stuff in the lockers and went out to the swimming pool. I sat on the edge, remembered how cold swimming pools can be and then got in. I thought to myself how easy that had been. 

We then swam to the far end and I found myself quite surprised at how much it made me out of breath. I often go out for very long runs, 9 miles or more but that 15-20 metre swim was hard work! We chatted a while whilst holding on to the edge, mostly about how I felt and then swam back. We continued this cycle for the next hour, talking and swimming and I found myself surprised at how sociable this activity could be. We eventually decided we had had enough and it was time to go. The showers were surprisingly warm and after changing back, we found the changing area even had hair-dryers!

It was a reflective time afterwards, this was such a big issue for me and it turned out to be so easy. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and felt so much enjoyable than it ever had in my life. Perhaps by being so comfortable with myself, I was able to relax properly and partake in the activity. I had always puzzled why people enjoyed swimming so much and perhaps now I can relate a little better to this. I also think that this is perhaps the last thing I had to do for myself since transitioning. There is such a big list of firsts when you set out on this journey and I can't think of much else that is left. This was the final tick-box so to speak! In fact I will be back tomorrow, on my own this time.


  1. What a lovely article, glad it went well xx

  2. Well done, Lucy. I grew up hating my body, particularly my hairy arms, legs and chest, so rarely went swimming - which was really sad for someone growing up in Newquay and living within sight of the beach. Now the body hair has gone, but a bump in the wrong place and the need to wear a wig still keep me out of the water, and perhaps they always will.

    So I'm happy for you, and more than a little envious.

    1. It is difficult to know what to suggest Angie. I was adamant that I would never go swimming until after the surgery and yet after doing so, I felt that perhaps I could have done. If you could get through the bump issue, a swimming hat could be an option?

  3. Well done you.
    Going swimming in a swimsuit ffor the first time is a big thing. I've onky recently done it myself. I still wear a tri-suit when I go and children and their parents are going to be there. Not because of the kids or anything but because you never know how some parents might react.
    It would be nice to have sessions for transgender people although I'm not sure how popularvsomething like that might be in Yeovil as the pool has windows on one side which means snyone walking through the park can see in, even if the path is over 10 yards away.
    I'm not surprised that people involved in planning and running pools are surprised when we raise the isdue of swimming because they never have to consider the issues, for themselves, we have when faced with doing something where you are basically as scantilly clad as you can acceptably get in public.

    1. For me Jenna, it was swimsuit or nothing. As for parents of children, as far as I am concerned, I have as much right to be there as anyone else and if I am challenged then I will just involve the pool staff. I had a meeting with Somerset County Council as part of an equality project and I made a big point of the fact that trans people need to be helped with this stereotype that we are perverts, often made worse by media portrayals.

      I have often wondered about trying to organise something for trans people locally like they have in Brighton, London and other parts of the country. However, I would hate to get the pool reserved for a session only to have no one else turn up. In this part of the country, I do not think there is the demand to justify a whole pool. I do have another disability group next week and ironically, the same department from Taunton Deane is there again. I still wonder if there is anything that could be done. If nothing else, they can explain why they didn't get back to me.

  4. Firstly well done for taking the plunge - literally! Many people are reluctant to show their bodies although not for the same reasons as you. You've been brave and I'm happy you enjoyed swimming. As a fellow runner, you're dead right that you can be fit for land-based sports but swimming's really something else and takes a lot of puff.

    Stella Hammond @ Palm City Pools

  5. You are a very brave person! I can't even imaging the struggles you had as you were coming to grips with this issue. And, at such a critical time in history with all the negativity in the world. You deserve everything good that happens to you. Enjoy your happiness!

    Tony @ ASP Dallas Pool Company