We sat down with Eden (@TheTransgenderSwimmer) ahead of the STA (Swim Teachers Association) International Conference to talk about what ignited their passion for swimming. STA conference taking place on Saturday 23rd October 2021. Visit here
Q) What did swimming look like to you growing up?
A) I was taught to swim at a young age in a local leisure center, taken by my grandfather. I swam through primary school where we had occasional lessons but most of my swimming was socially with family and friends. I was lucky to grow up near an indoor waterpark and spent a lot of Friday evenings there with the same two friends riding the slides and getting pulled around by the lazy river.
Q) How did you find getting back into swimming as an adult?
A) When I started swimming for fitness in 2017 I found it quite a daunting experience trying to not only find a suitable pool and swimwear that I felt comfortable in but also somewhere that I could relax. Initially I didn’t swim big distances aiming for 500 or 1000 m before climbing into the accompanying hot tub and saunas for hours at a time. Little did I know only 4 years later I would become the first Openly Transgender Woman to complete an open water marathon (10km)
Q) How did you find visiting leisure and competition pools as a transgender woman?
A) Visiting pools was initially something that I found both empowering and terrifying. Swimming is a sport where women almost always outnumber men, your body is on show and I was desperate to fit in, be accepted by others and not get in anyone's way. Within a year I felt completely at home in any pool, knowing I didn’t need to hide myself away or be ashamed of my body while in or out of the water which really unlocked my new found love of swimming.
Q) How did you get into cold water swimming?
A) By chance in 2017 I became the treasurer of an outdoor swimming club subsidised by the business I worked for. Knowing that we already had some trips at the end of 2018 planned in the Lake District, I was looking forward to swimming outdoors for the first time that summer. A change in my personal health had meant that my much loved saunas and hot tubs were no longer available for me and I turned to the wonderful cold water of the River Thames.
Q) How did the water make you feel when you first swam outdoors and what did you feel it gave you?
A) Cold! My first swim was very short in distance, wearing a short floral wetsuit I slipped myself carefully into the river swimming in small circles for approximately 10 minutes. I remember feeling completely at ease in the water and completely in awe of myself being part of the river. It’s a feeling I still have when swimming in open water throughout the year. Since then the water has been a place to swim socially, reconnect with myself and a place I go to when I need to make a decision in life.
Q) How can swimming organisations and brands become allies to the trans community?
A) For me, simply acknowledging that transgender swimmers exist is one of the best things they can do. Whether this is through creating social media content, blogs (Thank you for having me Zoggs) and where possible ensuring events are accessible and welcoming towards the community. When organisations and brands actively chose to normalise and raise transgender voices in a positive way within the swimming world our lives and swims get easier each time.