Out to Swim – Pride in Sport week

UCL Swimming is committed to diversity and inclusivity.

In lieu of Pride in Sport week, take a look at an insightful article written by our Engagements and Communications Officer, Louis Seller (2nd Year, Medicine).

For Pride in Sport week, UCLSC decided to explore how best to make our club inclusive and welcoming to all. We turned to London and Brighton’s Out to Swim (OTS), an aquatics club for adults founded 25 years ago for primarily LGBT+ people (also welcoming to all adults with an interest in aquatic sport, including disabled swimmers), with the hope they could offer some insight into improving our club.

As Communications and Engagements Officer and LGBT+ rep, I took part in a swimming session with the team and had the opportunity to speak to the Men’s Captain, Andrew Benson, before the session began.

Andrew has been at the club for two years and regularly competes in Masters events with the club, these include ASA British Swimming Competitions as well international LGBT+ competitions. Out to Swim is one of the largest Masters swimming clubs in the UK, and is well represented at these competitions which is reflected in their results.

However, it’s not just the training and results that Andrew thinks is so important about the team, but rather the community that’s been created. Like many teams, members are incredibly supportive of each other and experience comradeship in and out of the pool. Being a swimmer and a member of the LGBT+ community creates a unique opportunity in which like-minded people can come together in an environment where they feel comfortable in a space in which they can be themselves.

Despite this, it hasn’t proven as easy for all members of the community to get involved; gender based changing rooms and costume restraints create limitations. This is an issued shared with UCLSC as we have little to no Trans and non-binary participation within the club. OTS, in collaboration with TAGS – Trans and gender non-conforming swimming group, now have a twice monthly swimming session at Swiss Cottage. The pool has its own private changing for members and OTS provide a coach to help develop swimmers style and technique. We are fortunate at UCL to also provide certain sessions that have non-gendered changing rooms. However, we both agree that there is more to do to increase participation, as there have been no swimmers making the step from their Trans and non-binary sessions to the general OTS sessions available.

On top of this, there are additional boundaries of gendered racing. OTS keep themselves up to date with ASA guidelines and regulations on this, but go one step further with their involvement in LGBT+ competitions. These competitions have less regulation and therefore cater more towards all people included in the LGBT+ spectrum, as well as holding separate races for non-binary swimmers. It’s been important to note the scope of which can be made available and how limited we are within our own swim team currently.

Lastly, Andrew expressed the importance in any sports team that it was everybody’s responsibility to call out discriminatory behaviour. Having someone who’s specifically available for discrimination to be reported to, in cases where it may be inappropriate or difficult to call out behaviour at the time of incidence, would make carrying this out easier. He thought the idea of having an LGBT+ rep to do this was a great step in the right direction.

It was great to meet Andrew and then experience a training session with the team and gave an insight into the importance of having these spaces and how they’re a benefit to the community. The session was hard work and good fun, with members managing to make me feel welcome in the limited time there was to talk during the rest. I hope to be able to train with them again in the future as I thoroughly enjoyed it – if you want to find out more about OTS then please visit their website https://www.outtoswim.org/. See also our other featured Pride in Sports week events.


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