As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:
I’ve done a lot of swimming this year. Maybe I made a New Year’s resolution without noticing it because I’m getting to be in great shape. Fortunately, I happen to love swimming with the zeal of a demented idiot child. A lot of people associate pools with cold water and chlorine burning their eyes. For me, swimming is like a flying dream I get to have while I’m awake. It’s as elegant as it is athletic.
Unfortunately, swimming presents some difficulties for transwomen. Lots of girls have body issues, so you can imagine how much having gone through male puberty would give a woman to fuss over. I’ve been using women’s changerooms without incident for the last decade so I’m not particularly worried about that. The thing I hate is having to duck into a stall just to get changed. It’s a nuisance.
The law in Ontario protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, but I’m not really comfortable getting naked in there. Most women just aren’t ready to see penises in their citadel of gender privacy, even little ones. It’s their problem, not mine, but I’m not up for pushing the issue every time I just want to get a bit of exercise.
Still, getting naked in the changeroom would be a lot more convenient. That is why they’re there. My solution is a novel one: I go swimming as a guy. To many transwomen this would be anathema, but as I’ve explained in the past, I don’t mind lumping myself in with the boys now and then. It’s an imperfect arrangement but it does make for some funny stories.
There’s nothing quite like the shocked look on a man’s face when what appears to be a woman briskly strides into his changeroom. Keep in mind that I do this dressed as a boy. We’re talking baggy jeans, T-shirts, and hoodies here. I still get taken for a woman. It’s quite a personal triumph.
I’ll hear guys whispering to each other. “Whoah! There’s a woman in the changeroom! Do you think we should tell her? What do we do?” One guy actually called out to me. I called back in the deepest voice I could muster and he pretended to just be saying hi. It was priceless.
Once I’m naked it’s pretty obvious I have every right to be there. You just can’t argue with a penis. For me, that’s the best part; that subversive sense of belonging. I might have painted nails, smooth skin and long blond hair pouring over my shoulders – even a bit of breast growth – but once I’m naked people are forced to accept my presence. By extension they’re forced to accept that some boys really are feminine enough to be taken for women even in the mensroom.
I worry about making women uncomfortable. I identify with them so of course I don’t want to make them feel uneasy. Some of them might just have a good reason for being a bit penis-phobic. But with men, I revel in that discomfort. Forcing men to suck it up and deal with their homphobic assumptions about what it means to be a man never fails to brighten my day.
Another reason I swim as a man is my bathing suit. I prefer speedos because they’re the closest thing there is to skinny dipping. Also, I think that men with the confidence to a rock a speedo are always somewhere between being utterly hilarious and drop-dead sexy. Mine’s hot pink so you can judge for yourself where I might fall on that spectrum.
Now one time when I was at the mirrors putting on my swim cap, there was this big Russian guy shaving at the sink next to me. At first I couldn’t understand his accent but eventually I made out what he was saying, “I vwanted to say you look bvery bveutiful and I like you bvery much!”
“Uh, thanks…” I replied, trying to ignore him. As awkward as this was, I had to give him props for being confident enough to hit on a guy in the men’s changeroom.
His approach next time was far less elegant, “Nice tits!”
And this, my friends, is why we have separate changerooms for men and woman. It’s appalling that we have to assume this kind of impropriety, but since we do, it’d be nice if transwomen felt welcome in the lady’s room. We don’t like being sexually harassed any more than any other woman.