Periods, Swimming and Mess

SwimmingTonight I noticed that my pee smelt funny. It smelt metallic. It always does this before my period. It’s funny that being trans has made me more in tune with my body that I was before. I hate getting my periods, but I’m unwilling to put anymore female hormones into my body, so I put up with it. My periods used to go past fairly unnoticed. It’s never been heavy – it would stay for 3 days or so and then go away again, always light. It’s still the same. But now I’m so conscious of it. For a while I was using a mooncup during my period, but this created a ritual around my period – having to empty it, clean it, reinsert it and sterilise it once my period was over – that I found I was unable to bring myself to do this properly. It placed too much emphasis on my period. So now I’ve switched back to non-applicator tampons, because they feel the least intrusive and create the least amount of rubbish.

I dread my period, yet each month it appears, like clockwork. I don’t hate that my body functions properly, merely that it functions on the wrong system. I am quite lucky really, many women don’t have bodies that function quite as well as mine. But I still hate mine. One of the things I used to dread about getting my period was not being able to swim. I was 15 before I managed to insert a tampon correctly, although I’d had my period since I was 11 years old. Swimming has always been something that I’ve enjoyed. Growing up in the Middle East, swimming was as natural to me as walking was for other kids. Swimming has always been a place to escape to, and a place to feel relaxed. But now I cannot swim.

I was brought up to feel proud to be myself. No one chooses their body, but we are given it all the same. I always believed that I was lucky, and that I should be happy to be myself, to be proud to be myself. But I didn’t feel that way. For a long time, I’ve felt unhappy within myself. One of my biggest struggles was coming to terms with this. Accepting that I’m not proud to be myself, that I’m not happy with the body I’ve been given. To me, it matters not that others would love to have my body. I hate how it functions, it’s wrong both inside and out.

So I cannot swim because my body betrays me. In the pool, I’m stripped down to a swimsuit which bares all that I can’t bare to look at in the mirror. I’d love to go for a swim in the morning – I have membership to the local council leisure centre which gives me access to a swimming pool, and I could so easily put on my swimming costume, pretend that I’m ok with using the women’s changing room, and go for a swim. But lying, both to myself and to others, has become more and more difficult. Putting on my swimming costume might allow me to swim, which will make me feel good when I’m in the water. But the process that I have to go through in order to get into that pool, and the way that I look in that swimming costume makes me feel anxious. I really want to swim, but I can’t put myself through that. It’s too much sacrifice with not enough gain.

I’ve tried finding a compromise, some sort of swimming costume that won’t make me feel dysphoric. But even when I think I have a good one, I still worry about what will happen if I go to the swimming pool in that costume and get told that I can’t wear that much on me in the pool, or I get kicked out of the changing rooms for being in the wrong one. I don’t know what to do or how to go about it, and I don’t know what’s safe and what’s not. Worst of all, I can’t even pick a changing room. Neither male nor female is right, and I either choose or don’t take part. And anyway, it’s not safe to exercise in a binder.

So I postpone swimming, despite the knowledge that I will make me feel better in myself. I do intend on helping to set up a trans swimming session in one of the local pools, but even if I do that, it will only be once a month, I think. Still, once a month is better than never.

The “mess” part of the title of this blog is my head. My head is in a mess, and I want to fix it all but it can’t be fixed until my body is fixed. I know that it’s hard to understand the pain of being transgender and experiencing body dysphoria. It’s hard to put into words, but if I had to, I would equate it to the feeling of being unhappy. It’s more than just unhappiness, but it’s a form of unhappiness for me. It an all-consuming unhappiness that I walk around in every single day, because I cannot exist without my body (would that I could!), and my body makes me intensely unhappy.

I’ve been told that I seem like I’m in a lot of pain. I am, but I’m only beginning to realise the extent of it. I suppressed it for so long that I became numb to it, unaware of it because it was ever-present. Now that I draw my attention to it, it becomes a revelation every day to realise that my unhappiness has been coming, not from outside, but from my very existence, from my own body. I’ve learned more about myself in the past 8 months that I have in the last 28 years. And I know that there’s more to come. The only way forward is change, and change cannot come quick enough. And until then, I have to endure. I think I endure well. I’m still here, after all 🙂

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3 Responses to Periods, Swimming and Mess

  1. Jamie Ray says:

    I’ve been swimming this summer, but only in lakes and the ocean – not in pools, precisely for the reasons you cite! At the beach I can show up in my shorts/shirt combo, swim, and not use the changing rooms at all. Zero dysphoria.
    Just the thought of doing that at the pool gives me the willies.


  2. I juts got back from holiday and had to navigate using the pools there. I tried wearing my old bikini top with swim shorts, but I felt so horribly dysphoric. So I wore my binder around the pool and changed into my wetsuit-style top to swim, which binds my chest a little bit and covers my upper torso.
    Navigating all of this can be complex but at least there’s this – not one person looked at me twice for wearing my chest binder around the pool. No side glances, no staring, nothing.
    It sucks that you feel unable to swim, and I hope you find a good solution in the future.


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