My default for the last decade has been a black Speedo one-piece, with a racerback and a “shelf bra”. This is the most neutral women’s swimsuit that a butch can wear. It’s the “women’s swimsuit” that throws me into dysphoria. There is no equivalent of Levi 501s for genderqueer swimming.
Last year, my compromise was to wear a lightweight T-shirt and quick-dry shorts over the Speedo. I changed out of them right before I went in the water. When I got out, I toweled off, and put them on again over my damp suit. This is not an elegant solution, but it works. I don’t want dysphoria keep to me from swimming.
I am fine once I am in the water. It is the distance from where my clothes are to the water that is the problem. It feels like a perp walk. The crime is impersonating a woman.
My dad was hirsute. He had hair on his chest and his back. When I was seven, I pretended to have a hairy chest, just like my dad’s. I imagined myself at the beach wearing trunks with a patch of curly hair going down to the waistband of my navy blue trunks.
Twice in my life I have solved the swimsuit problem. The first time I was ten, at Camp Paragon for Girls, in the Adirondacks. I swam in the lake in a pair of navy blue camp uniform shorts and a dark T-shirt, no underwear. I did this all summer long. The counselors did not say anything. I buried my polka dot bathing suit at the bottom of my trunk, under my fossil collection.
The second time I tackled the problem I was twenty-two. I took a week’s vacation after I finished my Master’s thesis. I went to Provincetown. There was a clothing optional beach where people sunbathed. I swam for a week in a pair of Patagonia Baggies, shirtless. It was my last week of freedom before I started working.
My swimsuit is the last vestige of my almost non-existent femininity. I have a pair of pants with a fly that zips on the left; I wear some shirts that button to the left. It is an odd convention that manufacturers use to prove that their clothes are gender appropriate. I notice the “lefties” but they don’t make me self-conscious the way my Speedo does.
There are alternatives. There are women’s board shorts, tankini tops, and rash guards. There are men’s trunks, rash guards, and T-shirts. I may end up going to a sporting goods or surf shop to see what, if anything, fits. I should have started in January.
If I let myself dream about what I would like to wear at the beach, I go back to Provincetown. A pair of swim trunks, and no top. A masculinized chest. I don’t want to picture myself topless with 38C’s. I can also see myself in swim trunks, and a rash guard or a T-shirt with a sports bra underneath. If all else fails, I will visualize myself in this photograph of surfers from 1932. Another black one-piece swimsuit in the mix.
I didn’t manage to get myself into the water in 2014. You can read about my attempts to procure the perfect genderqueer swimsuit, compression swim top, swimming binder, and butch swim outfit in my 2015 post here.