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Dysphoria and The Sea

I am a water baby. Always have been. I grew up near the sea and have been attracted to places on

the coast ever since I moved out of the family home. There is something poetic and magnetic about

the sea. I could get all romantic about it, but that is not really why I’m writing. I steadily confined my

swimming throughout the years to swimming pools on the odd occasions I felt brave enough to

venture in one. You see, I am trans and being in these spaces is often terrifying. Here is why;

Often swimming pools have gendered changing rooms. I do not know if you have seen the news

recently, but you could be forgiven for thinking no one will allow trans people into binary cis

people’s spaces. While this tends to apply more to trans women in women only spaces, it is not

solely these people that are affected. I have had friends thrown out of the gents’ toilets for ‘looking

like a girl’. I have been told not to go into the ladies’ a few times now since going on hormones, but I

have also been told not to go to the gents’ because I do not read quite male enough for some

people. Every time I have this happen, or I hear about it happening to friends, it scares me as it feels

like a brush with violence. Even though it is not intended to be. But try adding these feelings while

being in a situation where your every lump and bump is visible. When your brain cannot stop

focussing on the fact that people can see your chest and can see that you have hairy legs and a lower

voice. The dysphoria becomes incredibly intense and emotional. And made me stop going, despite

knowing I should be doing exercise, both for my mental wellbeing and so that I can ensure the best


It was not until lockdown hit and my brain sort of caved in with dysphoria and OCD that I decided

something had to change. It was summertime and I was done in with the heat and life, if I am

honest. I took a dip with a friend and I felt (briefly) like a happy child. I was back guddling about

without a care. However, with lockdown and pandemic fears and so on, came a dramatic reduction

in anyone’s ability to socialise and I gave up again. That is often how I cope, I just shut down. I do not

react, but I dissociate.

I have now, however, reached a point that I cannot do this anymore. I have reached the end of the

line in terms of running from the abuse that I had suffered over a decade ago. I am at a point now

where the media means that I am hearing about cases of women being raped and assaulted

constantly and I can no longer disconnect and so I remembered that swim 6 months ago. The swim

that gave me peace and the innocence of a child back for a few minutes. Something within clicked

and I decided enough was enough. I started taking cold baths to avoid the shock of walking into the

water unprepped. I bought a light wetsuit (it is warming up and I do not feel the cold like most) and a

tow float, and then I went to the beach with friends. We chattered excitedly on the beach before I

marched into the sea with them and ducked my head into the cold waves. The blood rushed to my

face as I stood up and my lungs clamoured for air when I resurfaced, I felt calm. A reset button had

been smacked and I felt joy and exhilaration coarse through me.

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