Catch a Wave: My 2014 Swimsuit Challenge

It is 10° F in New York. I am surfing the internet for swimsuits. Gracie is curled up on the floor in a patch of late afternoon sunlight. I’d like to know what she is dreaming about.

swimwear-butches-likeI have the perfect wardrobe for January; for 12 inches of snow, slush moats, and arctic windchill. I’ve got high-tech long underwear, three different types of fleece jackets, a down sweater and a down jacket, lightweight and heavy weight Gore-Tex shells, boot socks,  windproof gloves and moisture wicking glove liners, neck gaiters, wool beanies, and insulated waterproof work boots. I can mix and match for any  winter weather condition. If you wanted to throw an outdoor party in January I’d have the ideal outfit. I’m an urban slumberjack.

Last year I waited until June to think about swimming. I swore it would be the last season that I’d wear a black racerback Speedo in the water, topped by a pair of quick-dry shorts and a damp T-shirt on the sand. A black racerback is the butch equivalent of a little black dress. It is elegant and understated, but I don’t wear dresses. I promised myself to start looking for genderqueer appropriate beach wear in January. This is my 2014 swimsuit challenge.

Layers work great in January but are less appealing in June. It is my conundrum. My winter wardrobe hides my femaleness; a swimsuit exposes every last bit of it.

Ready for a pool party

Jamie, are you ready for a pool party?

I’ve lost about 30 pounds since I bought my Speedo. Speedos are stretchy but they only contract so much. I need to replace my size 16 with something smaller. I went to swimoutlet.com and looked at racing suits, triathlon suits, and swim unitards. I am concerned that the unitard will accentuate my curves. I am afraid I will look like a sumo wrestler in it.

If I try hard enough, I can morph my Speedo into a men’s swimsuit from the 1920’s. Until the early 1930’s it was considered obscene for men to bare their chests in public, even at the beach. Public ordinances prohibited it.  Men were arrested and fined for exposing their nipples and their belly buttons.

Psychologically, I’d rather wear men’s gear. It would keep me from feeling like a conservative matron. Realistically, there are limits. I’ve ordered some board shorts from Patagonia. I’m in the anticipatory stage where they haven’t arrived yet, so they are the perfect solution. The problem is what to wear on top. I’m not interested in showing flesh; I’m thinking about a rash guard.

The sentence that aches to be written is “I can’t do that until I have top surgery.” I can try a sports bra or a swimsuit under the rash guard. It is OK if I look like a self-conscious queer. At least the rash guard will be rated UPF-50 and I won’t get sunburned on my shoulders.

I discovered that I am not the only person who is confused about what to wear under my imaginary board shorts. There is a surfing controversy between going commando and wearing some form of boxers or briefs. The commando cons are sand, board wax, and sea lice in your junk, and leaving nothing to the imagination. The layered look cons are feeling like you are wearing a wet diaper under your board shorts, showing panty-lines, and having your underwear band peek out over the rim. I’ll have to take a bath in them and see how they look. And then pretend that surf’s up.

Update: I never went swimming in 2014, but you can read about my purchases of swimming binders, genderqueer swimsuits, and butch friendly swimsuits and compression tops in my 2015 post here.

Note: Here are two short picturesque articles on the history of men’s and women’s swimsuits, and the fight for the right to bare arms.

21 thoughts on “Catch a Wave: My 2014 Swimsuit Challenge

  1. janitorqueer

    I go with board shorts (without underwear) and layers of sports bras and tank tops on top, with a looser fitting one put on last. The only problem is my tank tops are cotton and take forever to dry. Hope you find something awesome that you’re comfortable with!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for posting what you wear to swim in; it is not far off from what I am aiming for. I am not quite comfortable in sleeveless shirts – I associated them only with girls as a kid and I have not been able to re-introduce them into my wardrobe. Even when I think of them as muscle shirts.

      I think I am going to splurge for a quick dry top and an innocuous compression bra/swim binder. I am tired of the damp clingy T-shirt (in my mind it equals girls wet-T-shirt contest even though when I wear it – it is as far as you can get conceptually) and I want to try to minimize the layers.

      Like

      Reply
  2. halitentwo

    I’m with you on this one! And I give you credit for thinking about it in advance (I always wait until I am a sweaty hot mess to wrestle with it). Underworks has a compression swimsuit tank top. It’s pricey, but it may be alright. Keep us posted!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You only think I am doing this in advance. This is a multi-year procrastination. If I could still wear the old Speedo I’d probably be putting off looking for board shorts until July 4th weekend. I may look at the Underworks swim binder- hard to imagine swimming in a binder – but at this point I’m open to trying anything.

      Like

      Reply
  3. hiddeninyoursoul

    I have the underworks top mentioned above and the bottoms too, actually. I usually don’t wear the bottoms though, but they have a built in pouch for packing if that’s your thing. I just go commando with the board shorts. As for the top, the compression isn’t quite as good as my normal binder, but better than a sports bra. The material is pretty thick and the zipper is in the front, so if you wear a fitted rash guard, which I do, you can kind of see that you’re wearing something underneath, but it’s probably not that noticeable if you’re not looking for it. I imagine if you wear a rash guard that fits more like a t-shirt, then it wouldn’t be noticeable at all. The one thing that’s nice is that it’s made to dry fast like other swim gear, so you don’t have that “soggy” feeling when you’re not in the water.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for the review and advice! Looks like 2 commando and 1 sports brief in the comments count so far (but no packers). I’m determined to get into the water in something I am comfortable in, even if I am wearing a binder.

      Like

      Reply
  4. thatlesbianteacher

    This is why I am so grateful that I found your blog. I feel embarrassed now by the fact that I never considered the struggle people in transition, those considering transition, or those that don’t feel comfortable identifying with a particular gender might have with swimwear. I never thought about it. 😦

    Thank you for all of your beautiful posts! And for your tangible sense of humor!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You’re welcome. One of the things that I really like about WordPress is that through the reader I find (am and found by) people I am both simpatico with and different from. I never thought about what the risks are of being a middle school teacher around smart kids who ask too many questions. And congratulations on forming the club at school and your debut as faculty advisor.

      Like

      Reply
  5. micah

    If I am wearing board shorts that do NOT have a mesh, I wear a men’s speedo bottom underneath them. It’s better than underwear because it dries quickly (it’s meant for water!) but it keeps me from feeling too “free” down there. Sidenote: I have always worn shorts over my bathing suit, it drove my mother crazy that I “didn’t show my legs”

    When my top was an issue, I was very much into rash guards. No, they do not compress or hide what you have. For that, I just sucked it up, tried not to get too self-conscious about it, accepted it as something necessary yet momentary, and focused on enjoying the fact that I was at a beach having fun.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I can see that the top combo is going to take some trial and error; but it is useful to know what others have done and are doing. It is hard to visualize what I want, and then to go out and find it (in a size that fits properly). I can’t go into the sporting goods store and say “I’d like a rash guard in a 36 or 38 Trans* please.” Maybe one day.

      Like

      Reply
  6. middleagebutch

    I will wait til summer for the mad scramble for a swimsuit because it’s too stressful to even think about. So, yes, I’ll put off the pain and agony until I have to deal with it. Kudos to you for taking the plunge in January.

    Despite the terror and torture over bathing suits, I’d love to be on a beach right now all warm and toasty. I’m done with the cold weather.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m trying to give myself enough time to exhaust the bad options, and maybe accidentally find the right combination. I’ve been wearing racing Speedos since High School; the only decision was navy or black. I could keep doing it for the rest of my life, but I think I can figure out a happier alternative.

      Looking at vintage beach photos was a good diversion from the snow and cold. And I had no idea that men’s nipples were so controversial.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Alex

    My breasts have always been a problem for me, I hated summer, because it meant wearing t-shirts and a dreadfull swimsuit. I avoided swimming pool and beach as much as possible. But I love to swim in the sea (was born near the sea), so that was always hard for me. Since some years I started swimming in just my swimshort and my black lycra binder when there are not too many people around. Not perfect, but I don’t want to wear a t-shirt over my binder, that’s so uncomfortable. The only time I feel close to being okay with that part of my body and I even feel good enough to swim naked, is on my yearly secluded women’s summercamp. So for me for certain, I know my dysforia has a lot to do with society too.

    Like

    Reply
  8. Jamie Ray Post author

    I saw that Danae makes a swim binder top, and I may contact then to see what the cost is of shipping to the US. My binders are short, and I’d rather wear a racing suit than show my midriff/belly button.
    Whenever you write about your women’s summer camp I hear your pleasure in being able to be comfortable there. It is too bad that we can’t build year round communities that provide that level of safety.

    Like

    Reply
  9. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC)

    You might find something at places that sell swim wear for people with skin conditions, like vitiligo. There is a site, Coolibar.com, that offers mens and women apparel that cover the body. I’ve never ordered from there but it might be a place to get some ideas.
    Good luck! Cheers.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for the tip on Coolibar – if I go for a swim top/rash guard I might try them. Last year I saw a swim “tank top” at Marimacho, but I didn’t order it and they look like they have not re-stocked. Somewhere there is a top for me (literally and metaphorically).

      Like

      Reply
  10. Elliot K. Love

    I avoided swimming for years because I didn’t know what to wear that I would feel comfortable in. I love board shorts though (especially because some have cargo pockets which are infinitely handy). The first few times I wore (women’s) swim suit bottoms under them, but all the guys I know wear nothing under their board shorts so I decided it was fine if I did so too. I usually wear a rash guard on top because I have pale skin and feel self-conscious being shirtless in general public areas.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for throwing your trunks in the ring. I’ve got the board shorts and one “loose fit” rash guard; the problem is what wear under the rash guard. I might invest in a swim binder (or just sacrifice a regular one to swimming).

      Like

      Reply
  11. Pingback: The Swimsuit Issue | A Boy and Her Dog

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s