My 2015 Butch, Genderqueer, Non-binary, and/or Trans Swimsuit Challenge

The GB Swim Teams -1924 Olympics. Men and women's suits are identical and made from wool.

The GB Swim Teams -1924 Olympics. Men and women’s suits are practically identical.

This summer will be different. I threw out my butch standard issue Speedo racerbacks. I’ve hit the point of no return. I didn’t swim at all last year. This year I’m swimming genderqueer. This year I am putting together, as Donna refers to it, a cockamamie swim outfit. Without the cock.

I’m only entertaining swimsuits that appeal to my masculine side. Everyone has an idealized version of what they want to look like on the beach. I have mine. Even if the style is 100 years old. Even if the original was made out of wool jersey, and the style was discarded when swimsuits started to be manufactured from modern materials. 

Swimsuit styles haven’t changed that much in the past 70 years. Men having been wearing trunks since the 1930’s; the bikini was introduced in 1946. Nylon, Lycra, and Elastane changed the color palette and the silhouette. Last summer, I saw kids and adults of all genders wearing rash guards in the water for sun protection, and fashion. This summer, I’m going to join them.

During the past year I have amassed, as yet unworn:

  • A pair of boy shorts from Danae (I also bought a compression swim top). See notes below.
  • A pair of black boy shorts from Outplay and a matching light compression swim top. I have mixed feelings about these. See notes below..
  • A pair of Patagonia ocean blue board shorts (19 inch outseam) and a pair of Saturday navy blue board shorts (15 inch outseam).
  • A navy blue UPF 50+ short sleeve rash guard from Quiksilver.
  • A black and white UPF 50+ sleeveless rash guard from O’Neill.

I’ve got until the end of June to figure out the puzzle. I reserved a cottage for a week in July for the three of us (me, Donna, and Gracie). We will be staying near the beach in a small dog-friendly cottage colony. If I’m not comfortable on the beach I’ll be spending a lot of time in the communal garden reading with Gracie.

Sometimes a hat is just a hat.

Sometimes a hat is just a hat. Getty Images.

The beaches on Cape Ann have rules. No dogs, no alcohol, no bon fires, no camping, no nude sunbathing. I’ve never seen a woman go topless there, not even face down on her own towel. It isn’t Europe.

Men and women are supposed to be equal under the law. The law should not be based on a straight male eroticization of women’s bodies. I’m for nipple equality, and not just because I had top surgery (my surgeon told me to keep my scars covered this summer). I’d like to feel the sun on my chest. This year a rash guard. Next year we will see.

Notes: Lots of notes this week. An interesting article on nipple equality from The Atlantic. If you are interested in a picture history of swimsuits, has a great slide show. If you are interested in the homoerotic history of nude bathing (health) and nude swimming (sport) this website has a ton of information; don’t miss the Life magazine section on boys swimming in the nude. It comes from a lengthy jingoist article on democracy in schools.

Danae is based in Amsterdam; they specialize in binders and swimsuits for trans and gender non-conforming people. I bought a regular binder, a swimming binder, and swim bottoms from them. The binder was too tight (I never liked any binder except for velcro ones). The swimming binder had too much compression – the compression fabric went to the bottom of the shirt and I couldn’t sit due to the pressure on my stomach (this is a theme). The shorts are great (and have a little pocket for a packer). I tried to cut out the back compression panel in the swim top and butchered it – my fault. Danae is willing to make swim tops with compression only in the front, or no compression at all. They are very nice, respond to emails promptly, and ship fast considering they are in Amsterdam. I highly recommend them.

Outplay is a lesbian owned company, based in Miami, with less of a track record. They make board shorts, swim tops, and swim shorts that I would wear. They are trying hard, but they don’t have a lot in stock, and it can take a long time to process orders. They offer a high and a low compression swim top (low works for me) and they said they were going to make a no compression swim top, which would be ideal. Their sizing was initially off, and I had to exchange stuff several times. It all got straightened out, but it was frustrating – by the time they sent me the low compression top I had missed the summer and I was a week away from top surgery. I hope they make it, but be forewarned that it is not like shopping at Zappos.

This is my third swimsuit post. I’m not sure I’m making much progress. My 2013 swimsuit post is here. My 2014 swimsuit post is there.


17 thoughts on “My 2015 Butch, Genderqueer, Non-binary, and/or Trans Swimsuit Challenge

  1. pasunhomme

    My swim attire looks nothing like I would like it to look in an ideal world. A United States beach is like the most gendered space on the planet. Pretty much everywhere else I dress genderfuck, but there is no way to do that with swim attire and not attract the police. So I just got a black rash guard and custom-printed in huge, white, vinyl block letters “SUPPORT GENDER EQUALITY.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I know what you mean. There is a complete double standard for AFAB versus AMAB beachwear. Occasionally you will see a man in a not-quite-masculine beach coverup (like a flowered mumu), or in a pair of pink paisley trunks, but there is no equivalent to the butch board short and bikini/sport bra top outfit (I have too much of a jelly belly to bare my midriff).
      U.S. Beaches are really annoying – but I love the ocean and I am determined to figure it out.
      I was planning on practicing at my local NYC Parks Dept public pool – believe it or not I read the rules and they don’t allow T-shirts except white ones because of “gang colors”. I’m going to go by and see if they will accept a navy blue rash guard.
      I like the custom print concept – beats wearing an advert/logo for a clothing company.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. genderneutral

    I am going to have to check out rash guard tops as I too can not be topless this summer. Our attire is much the same and I definitely find swimming in natural places is easier for me than indoors!! I hope it works for you and you have a great time!!


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. Swim Outlet (on line) has a good selection of rash guards and a good return policy. At one point I ordered a bunch, kept one, and returned the rest. Zappos also has a good selection and return policy. The navy blue one is Quiksilver Mullaway model – it is a loose fit and has a board short loop at the bottom (which you can thread through your board short laces).


  3. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC)

    Is the beach private or semi private? If so, you can look at this as an opportunity to test the waters (sorry for the bad pun) concerning your beach wardrobe. If there are others around, remember it’s all about presentation. If you are comfortable with yourself, no matter how you present, strangers will take their lead from you. Cheers.


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a public beach, lifeguards, a lot of people, but no “scene” – i.e. it isn’t Miami Beach or the Hamptons.
      I think symbolically for me it is about giving up wearing anything feminine or that only women wear – hard to feel masculine/myself in a women’s suit. The board shorts and a short sleeve T-shirt were what I wore last year – but I didn’t swim because of the binder. Shouldn’t feel like a big difference between what I wear sitting in a beach chair and what I wear to swim in, but there it is.


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  7. arshilatayal

    i really like the photos which you have published.
    *PS: by any chance can u just take a look at my blog and give a few tips. i am new to the blogging world… its


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Glad you liked the pictures. I took a look at your blog and it looks good, you may want to read the support page on Tags and Categories – they make it easier for other readers to find your work (e.g. you could tag it with Cricket, Rajasthan Royals, and anything relevant to you. WordPress doesn’t use hash tags for the Reader so it is a little different than other social media. Good luck!


      1. arshilatayal

        thank u so much i am gld u liked it. the ‘#’ is sorta my signature. but yes i will go through tags and categories of; thank you so much once again!!!


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