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Why trans people would like an exclusive swim time

Vancouver park board ‘very open’ to the idea, says acting manager

Trans and gender-variant people in Vancouver could soon get exclusive access to a city pool after some people complained about being stared at and mis-gendered by others while using the city’s pool facilities.

A subcommittee dedicated to trans and gender-variant issues proposed the idea to the Vancouver park board in July 2016, after an experimental project allotted a few hours per week to include trans and gender-variant swimmers at Templeton Park Pool in 2015.

But instead of making trans and gender-variant people feel included in the pool and its change rooms and washrooms, it alienated them, says Jaedyn Starr, a member of the park board’s trans and gender-variant inclusion committee and the one who spearheaded the new proposal.

"We’re really excited about this move toward more exclusive space so that we can feel comfortable using facilities and not have to worry about stares or being mis-gendered or interacting with people that are really not aware of how to be gender- inclusive,” he says.

Starr, who regularly attends the inclusive swim at Templeton Park Pool, couldn’t say if there were any specific incidents that led to the revamped proposal.

Templeton Park Pool is located in East Vancouver. (Vincent Matak/Daily Xtra)

The new proposal would see a few hours set aside exclusively for trans and gender-variant swimmers, along with their friends and loved ones, at Templeton Park Pool per week. It will continue until trust is re-established with the public, Starr says.

This could be accomplished through hosting workshops and discussions, installing signage, and distributing material educating pool users about trans and gender-variant issues, he suggests.

"The Vancouver park board has been a trailblazer in working toward trans-inclusive recreation and even if they had waited another five or 10 years there would likely be resistance from communities that are not well-informed and are invested in traditional understandings of gender,” Starr says.

"Safe recreation for trans and gender-variant communities will take time and there will be learning opportunities as people make mistakes and learn from each other."

While city staff are expected to respond to the proposal by the end of August, Darren Peterson, the park board’s acting manager of recreational services, says the board is “very open” to enacting the proposal.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to land on something that’s satisfactory for everyone,” he says, adding the idea may be expanded across the city to other pools once it is fine-tuned.