The water, to my swim mates and me, is a place where everyone is welcome.
Because of this, it can be viewed as one of many equalizers when it comes to diversity and inclusion, including for the LGBT community of which I am a proud member.
In fact, during LGBT History Month, I have been reflecting on my own journey as a gay individual, including how the water has helped me be more confident and visible.
In year five at school, when I as about 11 years old, I came to realise I was different. I wasn’t sure why, but it was the 1970s in a small town, and I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone.
I went on with age-group and later two years of high-school swimming, going from year to year in school and university, and doing everything I could to try to prove to myself and appear to others that I was straight, even in my first couple of jobs. But by the early 90s, I was exhausted from trying to hide, and I couldn’t sleep.
Then in mid-1992, I decided, on my own, that enough was enough, and I began to come out which, at first, included removing myself from certain situations where I felt I might not be welcome. And while it would take some time before I let my close friends and family know, I began dating and looking to make some gay friends.
In the late 90s, a gay mate at work got me back into swimming again by encouraging me to join the Atlanta Rainbow Trout, a gay-friendly aquatics club. My mother had raised my sisters and me as swimmers, but once I joined the Trout, I started to really love swimming like never before.
This continued when I lived in New York and attended swim practices with Team New York Aquatics which provides aquatics programs for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies in New York City. In essence, both organisations helped me feel the joy of swimming, have a better social life and be more confident.
After I moved to Australia in 2004, I discovered open-water swimming and in 2010 started training for marathon swims. The ocean, including the community of swimmers in it and my coach Charmian Friend, has always been a welcoming place, and this in part has contributed to what I have been able to achieve in the water during my channel crossings.
It’s important to note LGBT History Month is celebrated annually in Australia in October along with National Coming Out Day on the 11th. With this, I would like to express my gratitude to all before me who have worked to advance equality for everyone. It’s also great there are visible elite athletes in the country who help give others the courage to come out and be themselves.
I am also grateful to Zoggs Australia and New Zealand for what it does to help make the water a safe place for everyone, and for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
If you want to find out more about Marty and his swim story, follow him on Insagram @oceansandpoolsguy