Her sporting oasis

Molly McElwee at the Telegraph mourns the fact that a guy who wants to swim with the women isn’t always welcomed.

In women’s sport the phrase “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it” is widely acknowledged, but the reverse has rung true for trans women, according to swimmer Eden Elgeti. The more visible trans women in elite sport have become, the less inclusive the space at grass roots has felt.

Elgeti took up recreational swimming at a local lido when she began her transition in 2017. Within a few years she started wild swimming at local rivers and ponds, and founded an inclusive swimming club, while Swim England appointed her as an ambassador. The sport became her outlet for physical and mental well-being, and a huge part of her social life.

It’s interesting how evasively stated it is already. We’re told Elgeti is a swimmer but not what sex Elgeti is. How are we to understand “when she began her transition”? Transition from what to what? It seems, in light of what we know about how this subject is framed, that Elgeti is a man who now calls himself a woman, but how odd that the reporter doesn’t make that crystal clear from the beginning. How odd that the reporter seems to be carefully avoiding making it clear.

But all that has changed, with the response to high-profile stories of trans women competing in elite sport, such as cyclist Emily Bridges and swimmer Lia Thomas. While the science plays catch up and sports governing bodies grapple with landing on a fair and equitable solution, the fallout has hit grass-roots and community sport. For Elgeti, the increasingly charged conversation has threatened to rip apart her sporting oasis.

What does that mean? How does a conversation rip apart an oasis? The reporter never says – it’s all conditional tense and metaphorical verbs.

“Probably for the last six months, it’s been really difficult to push myself to go and swim with my friends or even with my partner because I don’t feel comfortable,” Elgeti, 27, says. “I’ve been confronted, people who say ‘you shouldn’t be getting changed in here’ or ‘you shouldn’t be at this session’…”

Now it’s Elgeti who’s evasive. He doesn’t mean “people,” does he, he means specifically women, women who don’t want him in their changing room. It’s interesting how mournful he is about not feeling comfortable himself while not pausing to think about the comfort of the women he’s forcing himself on. It’s not new or unusual of course, but still interesting. The manipulation and careful omission of it all is just fascinating, every time. He’s uncomfortable, boo hoo, but what about people who aren’t Elgeti? Is his the only consciousness in the universe? What if the women never wanted him there but didn’t feel able to say so until recently? Why is his discomfort important while theirs isn’t even worth mentioning?

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