Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Making a Splash

As a transsexual one of the things that has been an issue for me since transition has been swimming. I know its not uncommon issues because I've seen a number of discussions about how to go swimming turn up on the online forums that I'm signed up.

The moment I transitioned I had to think carefully about how I was going to manage to go swimming, especially as I was still training for triathlons at the time.

So what to wear.

Continuing to wear men's swim trunks and going bare-chested would have been possible right up until my breasts began to develop from hormones. Who would know? Without make-up, my hair in a ponytail, flat-chested, wearing swim trunks and with my features; no way would I be mistaken for anything but a man. But it wouldn't have felt right. Besides what if I bumped into someone I knew while swimming, how would they react to seeing me in just a pair of trunks when the rest of the time they see me as a woman.

No, to carry on swimming would mean covering up my top half.

There are several ways to achieve that.

First would be to wear a women's one piece swimsuit. The problem with doing that was that I'd most likely get stared at because I'd still appear like a guy and it would probably result in complaints from the other pool users.

The second option would be to wear a tee-shirt and trunks. A bit more acceptable. The issue with this would be that it would slow me down while swimming and when your training for the swim legs of triathlons then you don't need the additional drag.

The final option, other than to stop swimming altogether, would be to wear something that covered the top half, didn't create a lot of drag and could be worn by men or women. As a triathlete the solution was therefore really simple, a tri-suit.

Tri-suits are designed to be worn for swimming either underneath a wetsuit or on their own depending on whether it is a pool-based or open water race and also the water temperature. They are also designed to be worn during the bike and run legs, enabling a competitor to switch between disciplines without having to worry about changing gear. As a triathlete I have several, of which two are men's and one is a woman's.

A tri-suit also has the advantage of being quite form fitting and so even as my breasts developed they weren't very noticeable.

Eventually though I stopped going swimming because I was more focused on my running. No need to worry about what to wear when doing that, especially as you can wear make-up when running, which you can't when your swimming.

Now that I'm post-op I have to face the swimming challenge once again; especially if I want to start doing triathlons again next year. Once again I have the dilemma of what to wear.

My local leisure center are now doing a pool only membership which I've recently signed up to. I don't need to be doing all the other gym work. I can run and cycle outdoors and any other cross-training I want to do can be done without the need for complicated exercise equipment.

So back to the pool and what to wear.

The tri-suit still works, although now that I've had surgery I have a few bumps in places I didn't used to and a few missing from where they were. The new curves are going to get noticed, especially when I'm not wearing make-up, and even more so if I'm having a bad day and look more masculine than usual.

Having spoken with the duty manager when I set up my new membership the other option is to wear a bathing suit with a tee-shirt over the top. As before this will cause drag which wont help when I'm training but it will allow me to wear a bathing suit but not to be self-conscious about it.

Finally there is the option to just wear a bathing suit and let people react however they will. The duty manager didn't have a problem with it so its definitely something that has to happen at some point.

So where are we now?

I wore the tri-suit for my first time back in the pool. It was a weekday morning and I just wanted to get used to being back in the water without being self-conscious. My first swim went off almost without any problems.

Have way through the session my hand brushed against my front as I was doing front crawl, I'd been doing a mix of breast stroke and front crawl as I knew I'd not be ready for just doing front crawl. As my hand caught my body I felt the zip on my tri-suit, it had come undone and the only thing that was keeping the puppies in place was the built in breast support. A bit of fumbling as I swam and the zip was done up again. Eek!

My second swim was again wearing the tri-suit but this time because it was a Sunday morning and the swim school runs in parallel with the public swim session. With so many children and their parents around I didn't want to have anyone staring, making comments or complaining to the management. Again it was nice to be back in the pool and was as much fun as I remember the Sunday morning sessions being, while navigating around all the other swimmers in a lane free pool.

Eventually I knew I'd have to avoid putting it off and go swimming wearing the one piece bathing suit and that finally happened this week.

Monday morning I got up early, got myself sorted and then headed to the pool for 7am and the early morning swim session. No chance of lots of youngsters having swimming lessons at that time and no parents hanging around waiting for them. Still lots of adults to notice me and possibly make comments.

Removing my outerwear in the cubicle leaving me in just my swimsuit I was nervous. No make-up is not my best look. Bags into a locker and double checking that I could open it again; I've got caught out before when the locker wouldn't open and I had to get one of the staff to come and use a metal rod to bang on the lock to jar it free.

Swim hat on as I looked in one of the mirrors and then it was out poolside and into the water as quickly as I could. Goggles on and off I went.

31 minutes later, according to my swim watch, and I finished my 40 laps. I took a moment to catch my breath and then pulled myself out of the water in as dignified a manner as I could then headed back to the locker to get my things.

No stares, no comments, and as far as I'm aware no complaints. 

Almost a total success. Almost.

At times I think I have some mild and highly specific OCD.

When I go somewhere like the hairdressers I'll check, and double check and triple check and... well I do it a lot of times, that I have the money to pay in my purse.

When I go swimming I check and recheck that I've got my swimming costume on and that my bag has everything I need in it.

This week I did all that and still forgot two things. When I was getting changed after my swim I went to dig out my bra and knickers from my bag and... they weren't there. I distinctly remember putting them on the couch next to my bag when I'd been getting ready to leave the house but I'd not actually put them in my bag. Going bra-less under my tee-shirt was something I could live with. Going commando under my shorts, not something I looked forward to but I'd have to live with it, at least there was no danger that anyone would know. Its not like I was wearing a skirt on a windy day and would be running the risk that the wind would cause my skirt to billow up revealing my secret. At least it taught me that checking and rechecking my bag is not a bad thing.

I still feel a bit nervous about swimming in the one piece. I've gotten over that first hurdle now, feeling totally comfortable wearing a swimsuit to the pool will come with time. I just need to put in that time. Sunday morning swims are still going to involve tri-suits for the time being. Getting to the point of feeling comfortable enough wearing one when there are going to be lots of parents poolside as I get out is going to take a while, and if I'm honest will be something that will take me a while to achieve.

It would be nice if we had a transgender only swim session at our local pool. I don't know what the demand for it would be. There are a few transgender men and women in the area I live, how many of them would be interested in something like that I don't know. It would certainly be a less stressful way for people to overcome that first hurdle, especially for trans women, of swimming in a bathing costume.

So now its over to you. Do you go swimming? If you do, what do you wear? If you don't go swimming but you do like to swim what's holding you back? Is it the thought of what do you wear? Please share your thoughts, and maybe any tips that you have for others in the comments.

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