Thursday, June 20, 2013
No Pupae Allowed
*Translation: Bad = Bathing/Swimming
The third trimester, apparently felt the need to show up at our doorstep with a suitcase full of depression. Mostly DayDaddy size, but NightDaddy was not left out.
Endless hours of tears, anger that slides effortlessly on a scale of grumpy to homicidal and a void of siphoned off joy have become the general state of affairs. Not fun.
There are a few suspects in the line up: pro-longed anemia, raging hormones, constant physical discomfort, gender dysphoria, lack of exercise, moving-in-together stress, eczema outbreaks on hands and feet and sleepless nights. They've been combined to create the perfect recipe for making me as miserable as possible.
NightDaddy often goes for a swim at the local swim hall. After reading how all the lovely pregnant folks over in the baby bumping corners of the internet have been enjoying their summer swims, I decided to give the idea some thought. If you're new to the world of "Transgender Problems" I hereby introduce you to: The Locker Room Issue combined with The Swimming Issue. The crux of The Locker Room Issue is that swim halls have facilities for showering and changing that are separated by gender. Cisgender folks only ever need to think twice about this set-up when they have small children or are perhaps when they are disabled and in need of assistance. For these situations the problem is "two bodies: two genders" with the two bodies needing to stay together. For transgender people the problem is "one body: two genders." The crux of The Swimming Issue is that swim clothes are also gender segregated and reveal much of the swimmer's anatomy.
While leaving aside the philosophical gender discussion about what it means to be a man or a woman or what the differences between sex and gender are... there is a very practical matter to be faced. Sometimes a person has a body with physical features that are usually classified as male or female and they're combined into the same body. Some of things are simply a matter of presentation like hair style and armpit hair and clothing choice. Some things are more physical like the shape of one's face, muscle contours and the presence or absence of body parts like breasts, a penis or a 29 week old fetus.
Without getting into too much detail: I am a collage of gender features. Whether or not a stranger reads me as male or female is a gamble these days. My stereotypically male haircut, clothing and body hair generally direct folks to drop me in the male box, however having been off testosterone as long as I have now and being ridiculously pregnant-- I've gained some fairly significant curves and a generally feminine physique. Not that I can see what's between my legs any more due to The Belly, but I'm pretty sure what's there is just as gender ambiguous as what was there 29 weeks ago.
Back to The Locker Room Issue. Walking into a locker room is not a problem. If it were simply a matter of walking in, I would always choose the men's room. The need to get naked is what complicates the situation. No, that's not really the problem. Other People seeing me get naked is the problem. No, that's not really it either. Other People deciding to be Gender Police is the problem. Harassment is the problem.
Wallowing in the depths of depression the way that I have been lately, I knew that a good swim would do me good. I was craving painfree exercise. Ever tried taking long walks with toes covered in eczema? If you have, you know that option is already crossed off the list. Round ligament pain (that's a pregnancy thing) also makes it difficult to move my body in ways that I find enjoyable. I really really wanted to go for a swim. NightDaddy agreed to go with me to show me the swimhall.
I wish I could say we then packed our bags and went, but that's not what happened. What happened was an hour and a half of hand-wringing and discussion of how to manage showering and what to wear. Do we call ahead to the place-- tell them about our situation and ask their advice? Do we just go and behave as discreetly as possible and hope nothing happens? I drilled NightDaddy with questions about exactly how the locker rooms are arranged and what the swimhall policies are: are there individual toilets with doors? do you have to shower naked before going to the pool? is it one big open room? are the lockers in a separate area? Then came the swimwear discussion. Do I wear the swim trunks I have in the closet or do we go buy me something else? Should I try a women's bathing suit? Will the dysphoria induced by that be manageable? Or completely cancel out the whole point of going for a relaxing swim? After a while of this, I became overwhelmed and cried on the bed for a while. I didn't want to go for a swim anymore. Swimming is only for men and women. No pupas allowed.
NightDaddy convinced me to put on my trunks and a long tank top. He reassured me that we would just go check the place out and if I didn't like it we could come right back home.
The swim hall is gorgeous. It's also a fitness center with training rooms and sport courts etc. At the front desk I asked to buy a day pass and a pair of goggles. Then I took a deep breath, found my inner calm and said "I'm transgender which means my body is a mixture of male and female. Right now I'm pregnant. Do you recommend that I use the men's locker room or do you have a safer alternative where I can shower and change?"
The employee's response was one of picture perfect professionalism and kindness. I have no idea what kind of customer service training this place conducts: but holy shit he was nice! He kindly informed me that there was a third entrance to the swimming hall through the spa department. The spa department has three changing rooms in it: one for men, one women and the gender neutral accessible changing room. I was welcome to have a pass for going through that entrance.
Ok... that was better than expected.
Off the the spa department I went only to be confronted by a sign on the door that informed that the spa department is for women only on wednesdays. It was wednesday. Fuck. I went back to the front desk and asked about the policy. He smiled and said that it was still okay for me to go in because that is the only handicap accessible entrance. From that I understood that if I were a man in a wheelchair, I'd also be using that entrance on a wednesday.
The spa department was a long corridor with changing rooms with their own doors on the right, divided exactly as he described and rooms with showers on the left also divided the same way. The lights were dim and soothing music played. I went into the third changing room and enjoyed the entire space to myself and happily tossed my bag into a locker. Back out in the corridor again, I passed the sauna area which, as it turned out, had two individual showers with their own doors. I merrily rinsed off in the privacy of my own little shower closet. The last room to walk through on the way to the pool held a big beautiful jacuzzi. I popped into it for a second and then headed on out to the pool.
NightDaddy was anxiously waiting for me. We sat for a bit and took in the hall understanding what was where and chatting about the nice staff. Once in the water-- I felt amazing. There is nothing quite like getting into a giant pool of water when one is pregnant. I stretched out my arms and legs and effortlessly cut through the water. It felt like every muscle was thowing it's own little celebration of freedom and movement. After a few laps, I felt relaxed enough to remove the sopping wet tank top. NightDaddy and I chatted some between laps and giggled a lot. We tried not to be too affectionate. I was happy and he wanted to hug my happiness.
When we climbed out of the pool, he went first and then draped my towel over my shoulders as I climbed out. It was nice to have the scars on my chest and my swollen belly covered. We bought hotdogs and sat outside on the deck in the sunshine. I decided I would buy a membership and come everyday.
Then I had to pee. Pregnant people often do. I waddled back to the spa department. Within 30 seconds of walking through the door, a woman from the jacuzzi started yelling at me angrily. She had a long black hair, beautiful brown skin and a heavy accent. Today is women-only day in the spa area. I should get out.
I was too overwhelmed to find the Swedish words necessary to explain myself to this woman with any coherence. Shocked, I just hurried on past and escaped to the toilet with the big safe wheelchair sign on the door. It took several minutes before my terrified body could relax enough to pee. I took some deep breaths and then I empathized with the woman. Perhaps, she is muslim and having a strange man see her hair uncovered would be deeply upsetting to her. She was of course, wearing a swimsuit, but not all women are comfortable in mixed environments in only a swimsuit. On my way back to the pool, I kept my eyes down and hurried. I don't know if she said anything more.
Back out on the deck with NightDaddy we talked about gendered spaces and what happened. He remembered that the center had a non-gendered policy when it came to staff and this caused some controversey a few years back. Male and female staff members can access all the facilities and perform any of the jobs regardless of their gender. We talked about whether or not it was false advertising to have a women's only day in the spa department if male staff, handicapped clients and transgender people continued to have access. Having attended an all-women's college myself for my bachelor's degree, I am pretty well aware of the need for protected spaces for women. We talked about Swedish attitudes about asexual nakedness and the right for everyone to enjoy good health and fitness regardless of their body type. While far from perfect, the mainstream Swedish attitudes about bodies are still leagues more positive than the small town in the midwest of the U.S. where I grew up.
We both felt for the woman whose spa experience my body had violated. I felt proud of her for speaking up for herself against what she felt was an encroachment on her rights. We pondered the irony of how it is usually people from the most conservative sects of society who are most likely to declare loudly as possible that a person like me is a woman because I have XX chromosomes and can give birth. Yet, they are also the first to judge a person's gender by their clothing and hairstyle. Despite my curvy hips, slim limbs and pregnant belly: all she perceived were my men's haircut and swim trunks. I wonder what her opinions on transgender people are. Had I had the courage to attempting to communicate with her in my shaky 4th language (probably her 4th language too) maybe I would have found her to be very warm and understanding. Or maybe she would label my hairstyle and swimtrunks that I've worn for 5 years because they are mine and I like them, "a disguise." Would she even permit me to be transgender? Or would the only possibility available in her mind be a "woman disguised as a man?"
NightDaddy requested that a staff member escort me back through the spa department on our way out so that I could get my things without making the ladies feel uncomfortable (like I was some kind of pervert invading their space). They gave me a male escort. lol.
In the end, I decided that I would buy a membership and enjoy the hell out of that pool for the remainder of my pregnancy. Just, perhaps, not on wednesdays.