My strategies to navigate swimming by L.
I had learnt how to swim when I was in primary school, but stopped going to swimming lessons by the time I was a teenager. Puberty is a difficult time for most people, but as a teen that was experiencing the usual adolescent awkwardness coupled with a gender discomfort, the whole situation felt impossible. As a result I gradually stopped taking part in school P.E. lessons all together. For me swimming was particularly stressful because of the vulnerability I felt when wearing a swimsuit. I generally felt a huge disconnect from my body and myself during my teen years that lasted until I came out as a trans man in my 30’s.
Another reason that I found swimming in a public pool difficult was the environment. The swimming pool was noisy and chaotic, so even as a little child I never truly got to fully enjoy the experience as it all felt like a blur to me. In April of 2015 I had top surgery. This was life changing for me. Eventually when I had healed I began to think about going swimming, but I wasn’t sure where I could go. I didn’t think I could to a public pool as I was uncertain that being trans I would stand out in someway, and also memories of how loud and overwhelming the swimming pool had been for me.
Some years ago I was diagnosed as autistic. This made huge sense of a lifetime of struggles and difficulties and also helped me to better understand myself, my general wellbeing and sensory needs. With the encouragement of my mother I tried going to the local public swimming pool. I was very apprehensive about entering such an unfamiliar environment. I worried about the changing rooms, the noise, even the various procedures in the building, such as how to use the lockers and the showers. Finding my way around, everything felt really outside of my comfort zone! Somehow I got through my reintroduction to the swimming pool, and actually fell in love with swimming. I even relearned how to swim. Being able to feel the water on my bare chest was a great sense of gender euphoria for me.
The routine of going swimming is a huge comfort to me and I enjoy trying to improve my technique. The leisure centre and public pool remain quite stressful environments for me so over the years I have developed a number of strategies that help me to navigate the experience.
1. I go prepared with everything I need for the session. Trunks, goggles, a
towel, swimming cap, a pound coin for the locker.
2. Take the same route to the leisure centre.
3. Listen to music in the car on the way.
4. Change in the cubicle and put in earplugs or waterproof mp3 player. (I
couldn’t stay in the pool without these as I couldn’t deal with the noise).
5. I try to go swimming at quiet times when possible.
6. I often swim in the lanes but I prefer to swim in a part of the pool where I
have more space around myself If get the choice.
7. I have a playlist of tracks on my mp3 player that help me drown out any
noises and also help me to concentrate on my swimming. This is great for
motivation and fun.
As the years have gone by I go swimming most days, it really means everything
Story by L