A new transgender swimming club has been established in Glasgow.
The new club – named the Seahorses – has come about as a result of some collaborative work between LEAP Sports Scotland and community activists.
LEAP Sports Scotland undertook a consultation last year in partnership with Glasgow Life, which sought to establish whether there was a need for transgender-specific swimming spaces and what the best model was for promoting transgender participation in swimming.
The consultation found that many transgender people experienced barriers to participation, and that there was not only a need for transgender specific opportunities but also an appetite for a membership-based swimming club among many of the respondents. It found that 50% of transgender people taking part in the consultation who wanted to swim had not done so in the last year – and that 22% hadn’t been swimming in six years.
Seahorses launched on 31st January at Whitehill Swimming Pool in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow, with 11 people taking part in its first session.
Hugh Torrance, executive director of Leap Sports Scotland was present at the launch. He told KaleidoScot: ” As the only non-trans person there I simply did the administration at the desk outside the pool, but I had the opportunity to speak to one person who stepped into the pool for the first time in 16 years. One other person I spoke to on the way out described the experience as ‘amazing’ and ‘liberating’.”
Charlotte McCarroll, a co-founder of Seahorses, explained on the Trans Girls Can blog what swimming means to her personally. She wrote: “Swimming has always been an escape for me. It’s an hour to let my mind be free and my fatigue of the day to be washed away.
“However, during the time [before I transitioned] I was still battling with my inner self, the identity I had but hid from the world and also from myself. I was body conscious, wearing just a pair of black shorts and nothing on my torso. To all around me I wasn’t out of place, just another 20 year old student doing ‘his’ lengths. The changing rooms at my university pool in the early 2000s had no cubicles so changing was not the most pleasant of experiences. I would do my best to change under my towel or time my exit from the pool for when I knew the male changing room was likely to be empty. Over time the battle grew tougher and tougher and I became much more aware of the dichotomy between my actual body I saw in the mirror and the body I saw in my mind. By 21 I was living a double life…the pain of detranstioning after a weekend as myself, or having to expose an incongruent body at the pool became too much so I stopped swimming for many years.”
She continued: “It wasn’t until fairly recently that I gained confidence to go swimming again. I began my fulltime transition in 2014, coming out to work, the friends who didn’t already know and my family. Since starting my social transition and being prescribed HRT my confidence, happiness and overall wellbeing increased dramatically. Finally my body outside began to match the person I was inside. I still lacked the confidence to present my body in a public pool. Swimming is an extremely exposing sport. However, I finally plucked up the courage to dive in so to speak in September 2015. I was very nervous…at first [but] nobody looked at me in a hostile manner, said anything or gave any sign that I did not belong. To all around me I wasn’t out of place, just another 30 year old staff member doing her lengths. Success!”
Charlotte also wrote about her hopes for Seahorses to be a safe place for members of the transgender community to enjoy swimming, socialise and support each other. “We decided a safe space in Glasgow was needed. TAGS had achieved this in England, we wanted something in Scotland. The idea of Seahorses was born. With perseverance on both our parts and incredibly supportive assistance from LEAP Sports, we finally had our first session of Seahorses at Whiteinch Pool in Glasgow. Including [my friend] Kate and me we had 11 people come along. Their stories were all captivating in their differences and also their similarities. What we all shared though, was an inner peace being back in the water in a truly safe space with no eyes on us questioning whether we belonged there, or should we be wearing a swimsuit or shorts or t-shirt or indeed anything other than, did you have a nice swim?”
The next session will take place at Whitehill Swimming Pool on Sunday 28th February, from 3pm to 4pm. All transgender people of whatever swimming ability are welcome to attend.
Further information about Seahorses Swimming Club and its activities can be found on its facebook page.