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Back to Swimming

Ethan Jenkins shares his experiences of our Transgender Swimming project

We're proud to have been involved in the setting up and running of a swimming project aimed at the Transgender community which ran from July through to September this year.

In partnership with Swim Wales, Llantrisant Leisure Centre, Active Valleys and Youth Cymru, we established a 10-week opportunity on Sunday afternoons.

Ethan Jenkins, one of the participants gives his summary of the experience below:

"At the very end of July 2016, myself and two other Trans-identifying friends attended the first ever Trans swimming event within South Wales. This was held in Llantrisant Leisure centre.

We arrived to be greeted by LGBT Sport Cymru and Active Valleys, who were all very lovely and welcoming. We discussed the outline of the sessions, which were a 1-hour slot starting from 5pm. My friends and I had an amazing experience.

Being Trans means physical activities such as swimming are hard to access for fear of being ridiculed and stared at. A Trans-only swimming session meant we were free to wear what we wanted, and have fun without the worry of other people possibly questioning us. We regularly attended throughout the run of the project, and are extremely excited at the possibility of starting it up again.

I personally love swimming, and having the opportunity to do it again after so many years of being too scared to has been a liberating experience for me. It’s amazing to do something you love surrounded by people who understand and accept you. I can’t wait for the chance to do it again – thank you LGBT sport Cymru!"

Ethan (left) with Aaron Northmore from Active Valleys

Zita Cameron, Head of Governance for Swim Wales was pleased with the outcome of the project and is keen to support future projects. She states,

"Participation for Aquatic sport is open to everyone and is an excellent way to keep fit, build confidence and meet new friends.. The sessions were possible through excellent working partnerships. The project was the first we are aware of in Wales; Swim Wales will now be looking to support a rollout to provide opportunities to increase numbers. A huge thanks to LGBT Cymru for advising us, in addition to the participants"

Many of our participants were from the Trans*Form Cymru project, run by Youth Cymru. Rachel Benson, Development Officer for Youth Cymru said:

"Trans*Form Cymru is a project delivered by Youth Cymru which supports trans and non-binary young people between the ages of 11-25. Many of the young people we work with experience barriers when accessing sport and leisure facilities, due to fear of discrimination and lack of appropriate facilities including gender neutral changing rooms. The project alleviated these barriers and allowed trans young people to swim in a safe environment, improving their confidence, health and well-being. A big thank you to all the partners involved who made the sessions possible"

We are also extremely grateful for the support of Active Valleys who staffed the project. Active Valleys is a student-led Social Enterprise based at the University of South Wales.

Active Valleys staff (Hannah, Jess & Aaron) with our Trans Ambassador, Hannah

Aaron Northmore (right) who led on a number of the sessions said:

"Active Valleys members thoroughly enjoyed their experience supporting LGBT Sport Cymru's Trans Swim session, aiming to eradicate the barriers often associated with swimming as a member of the transgender community. It was extremely rewarding to see multiple individuals return frequently, as well as attendees expressing their gratitude for providing accessible sports provision.

Active Valleys would like to thank LGBT Sport Cymru for the opportunity to support this project and hope to assist in the delivery of future programmes."

We are now working closely with Swim Wales to run an extension to this project, possibly in Cardiff. If you would like more information about safe and welcoming sports opportunities for the Transgender community then please get in touch via our home page.

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