Our Secretary and Wellbeing Lead, Jenna, shares her thoughts on our recent LGBT+ Youth Swim, a collaboration with another local charity 2BU.
“Ten years ago, I found myself in the position of having to figure out what I was going to wear when I went swimming. As someone who enjoys swimming, and who was taking part in triathlons, normally that shouldn’t have been a problem. However, as someone with a transgender history and had just transitioned I found myself having to figure out how I went from swimming in just trunks as a male, to continuing to swim as a female. Let’s be honest, as a trans female, once hormones kick in, you can’t very well go swimming topless anymore.
Exercise and keeping yourself fit is so important, not just if you want to take part in sport but also to allow us to do all those things we want to do. Even if it’s going for a walk or spending time gardening. If the pandemic and lockdown have shown us anything, it’s how important even being able to have a half an hour doing something physical away from your home is. For both physical and mental health.
In my case it wasn’t too hard to figure out what to wear. As a triathlete I could swim in a tri-suit, a piece of clothing that can be worn for swimming, cycling, and running. I wore a tri-suit for years while swimming, until I finally reached the point where I felt that I was comfortable going swimming wearing a one-piece swimming costume.
For LGBTQ+ people the idea of swimming can be a challenging one, especially if you are trans or non-binary and you’ve reached the age where puberty has started to have an effect. For the latter what to wear to allow you to go swimming without triggering any dysphoria you experience around your body is one thing you worry about. What will other people think of you when you are in the pool with a partner concerns some people. If you see someone laughing and joking, are they doing that because they are having fun with their friends or is it because they’ve seen you and are laughing at you. All of this is bad enough for an adult, but it’s even worse for teenagers and young adults who are already dealing with the huge changes that they are going through, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Several years ago, before COVID came along, I looked at the possibility of running a swimming session for LGBTQ+ people within the Yeovil area. At the time it came to nothing. Recently, the chance to run a session came up again.
Yeovil Diversity Project were asked by Liz, the manager at Goldenstones, to look at their refurbishment plans so that they could get feedback from people within the LGBTQ+ community, especially with regards to how suitable they would be for transgender and non-binary people. While we were there, we took the opportunity to ask about the possibility of running a private swim session. Liz was behind the idea and offered the us one of their staff training sessions. With a date and time in place we needed people to attend.
Reaching out to 2BU – Somerset, we offered them the chance to invite as many of their LGBTQ+ young people who would be interested the opportunity to swim in a private and safe session where the only people, they would need to be concerned with was the staff, some of the trustees from Yeovil Diversity Project and youth workers from 2BU.
On Saturday 2nd July, Goldenstones welcomed 15 young people, and 8 adults, from across all of Somerset.
Although some of the youngsters were nervous at first, they soon relaxed and were enjoying swimming, splashing each other, climbing on small floats, and throwing balls around. For an hour, the youngsters got to do what some of them hadn’t been able to do for years; enjoy themselves messing about in a public swimming pool.
At the end of the session each of the young people were given a small goody bag by Lou, Yeovil Diversity Project’s chairperson. Each goody bag contained a small pin badge in the shape of a marine animal. Their excitement was a joy to see, especially when some of them found that the colours on some of their badges, when combined, formed the colours of various LGBTQ+ flags. All of them said that if they had the opportunity to come again, they would.
For me, watching the young people doing something that I feel comfortable doing, and have just started back doing at Goldenstones because I’m slowly getting back into triathlons, was pure joy.
This couldn’t have happened without the combined efforts of many people.
First, the staff at Goldenstones, especially Liz the manager there, who gave us the opportunity to host the session at their pool and who ensured that everyone was taken care of and made to feel welcome.
Second, 2BU-Somerset, and particularly Ciara who was the driving force behind getting the young people to sign up to the event.
Thirdly, Lou, Yeovil Diversity Project’s chairperson, who provide me with the opportunity to ask if a session was possible when they invited me to the meeting at Goldenstones.
And finally, the young people who showed huge courage showing up to something that they didn’t feel they could normally do.”