The Swimsuit Issue

not-a-butch-bathing-suit-in-sightEvery year I make a resolution to do something about my swimsuit. Then the weather gets hot and I think about going to the beach. I have nothing to wear.

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.

Jamie-tries-to-fit-into-the-pictureIf 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.

Update: See this follow-up post from 2014 – “Catch a Wave: My 2014 Swimsuit Challenge”

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.


10 thoughts on “The Swimsuit Issue

  1. RonaFraser

    Ya know how, in an earlier post, you said how you wouldn’t wear floral panties but floral boxers were cool (or something like that). What if you found men’s trunks and a sport tank or T that would match it well enough… You’d maybe still need a sports bra underneath… but maybe because the rest would be men’s clothes, you’d feel more like yourself in them? I know it’s not the same as trunks alone…

    BTW I had to look up 2 things from your post! “Hirsute”, which I did not enjoy, as I am a bit like that… hair everywhere that most woman have it, plus the places some women have extra (chest, lower belly), plus lower back. Argh. No bikinis for me! And “rash guard”. “Related to shaving tender areas?” I wondered… but I see it is clothing with more coverage, for surfing. Who knew?!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes, hirsute is sort of like hair-suit. I inherited my dad’s but it is in the same places as yours. As for rash guards, I started noticing them a few years ago on children because they offer UPF-UV 50+ protection against the sun. Then I started seeing them on adults now and then.

      I could definitely wear bold trunks and some sort of top; I just need to figure it out and then see how self conscious I am in it (is it better to suffer the dysphoria of the Speedo or the self consciousness of some home-brewed swim outfit?).

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you for commenting and the praise. I’ve only gone swimming naked a couple of times; although never in a public place. It would be nice to get my dysphoria under enough control to be able to do it.

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  2. Matthew

    There is actually a historical reason why women’s clothing buttons to the left, other than the manufacturer making a gender-related statement. Back in the days when women of the gentry had their clothing handmade by seamstresses (as opposed to manufacturers), they were also “dressed” by their maids (as opposed to dressing themselves). The closures that seemingly button the “wrong” way are actually buttoning the right way when you picture them being buttoned by the maid (facing her mistress) rather than by the wearer herself. Presumably when mass-produced clothing came into being, the original manufacturers saw no reason to mess with what had already become custom.

    In contrast to that, men’s jackets button to the right because (most men being right-handed) they needed to be able to quickly pull out their sword to defend themselves against highwaymen and brigands when out on the road. This is not to suggest that women and left-handed people would not be capable of defending themselves on the highway using swords — just relaying what I’ve read.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for commenting and providing the information/clarification on “lefties” being a class based holdover. The image I had for men was not of “pulling out their swords”. I find it awkward because I am used to wearing things to the right, so when I do wear something that zips or buttons on the left it doesn’t “feel right.”

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  3. tman13369

    I used to have similar issues when I was pre-op. For many years I wore a one-piece and gym shorts, then for a brief time I added a t-shirt to the ensemble. I was happiest when I discovered that the company that made my binders also made a swim tank of a similar material.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      This is one of the times when my desire for top surgery manifests itself. Thanks for the binder suggestion. I may check out Underworks or Danae binders for swimming. Or I may procrastinate for another summer.

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  4. Pingback: Catch a Wave: My 2014 Swimsuit Challenge | A Boy and Her Dog

  5. Pingback: My 2015 Butch, Genderqueer, Non-binary, and/or Trans Swimsuit Challenge | A Boy and Her Dog

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