I was born in Hillingdon, near Heathrow Airport. Recently sifting through various childhood records, a certificate revealed I was actually baptised at Heathrow Airport. This would have made sense since the majority of my family worked for British Airways.
When I was three years of age, my dad accepted a job working for Saudia Airlines, and six month later we joined him in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
We lived in a massive compound which had a generally friendly family vibe, with modest accommodation and noisy air conditioning installed. The engulfing humidity and relentless sun were a welcome change to the grey greater London and the compound boasted a baseball field, a creepy abandoned theatre (as I was later to discover) and recreation centres dotted along every five streets.
The rec centres were usually equipped with a tennis court and a play-ground, (both of which were way too scalding to use) as well as swimming pool and a basic cafe.
Every summer, when it was SUPER SCORCHIO, all the smart families would escape to cooler climates. Often, our family would stay on and we were enrolled in SWIMMING CLUB, which meant that my sister and I, and all the other bored kids, had an hour of grueling instruction (blowing bubbles, kicking our legs and holding onto the edge of the pool) followed by a forced 30 minute *free for all session* which entailed us swimming away, in genuine fright, from the monstrous instructor who, whenever possible, would grab hold of us and bite us. Or tickle us. Scary man…
So I learned to swim quickly although I could never master the butterfly. After reading John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, I fancied myself a free-diver for pearls. In the compound there were two pools which were Olympic size and they seemed ENORMOUS.
I would chuck weighted neon sticks into the pool and dive into the warm water to collect them, holding my breath until I felt dizzy, pushing myself to the limit and thoroughly tiring myself out.
We would also snorkel in the epic Red Sea. My best friend’s family had a membership to beach club there and we would spend hours in the water, avoiding the strange spikey and jelly fish, and marveling at the colours and creatures in this cosmic under-water world.
Once puberty hit, I felt increasingly dis-connected with the shape of my changing body and no longer enjoyed swimming. Lessons during my one year at a grant-maintained boarding school felt like a chore, and I pretty much gave up swimming altogether after that. After a childhood of swimming like a fish I really missed how great swimming feels.
Last week was the first session and was attended by around 10 people. Afterwards four of us guys left the Swimming centre, and we walked together for most of the journey home. The cold outside felt envigorating. Rare to have a trans social event which doesn’t revolve around the pub.
Not everyone opted to be in the photograph, although I hope it’s a feature every week, to document the event and share our fun with the world to perhaps inspire other initiatives like this in the UK and beyond. Swimming is a great way for us to feel better about our bodies in general and to see noticeable improvement in health and wellbeing over the weeks.
A special swimming session for trans partners and friends would be interesting to trial. Perhaps we could sponsor an ally to attend, so everyone is vetted. Integration and variance in individuals makes for a more interesting group, and I would feel comfortable sharing the fun with like-minded, open-minded people.
These Trans Inclusive Swimming sessions are a direct result of Brighton Trans Scrutiny. The reduced rate (£2.55) makes it affordable for most and after the initial 10 sessions, it may be extended indefinitely, if there is enough interest.