Although it has unfortunately become a highly politicized trigger phrase, “safe spaces” are important. This is especially true for transgender men and women. After all, despite making tremendous progress, society is far where it needs to be. Trans people are still viewed very much as the “other.” It’s a fact that comes into sharp relief any time some ludicrous “bathroom bill” makes its way into the US news cycle.
The Swimming Club from directors Cecilia Golding and Nick Finegan highlights one such safe space—a literal and figurative oasis for those who just want to go swimming. In this short doc, we meet a group of transgendered people from TAGS, a gender-non-conforming swimming club in the UK. The TAGS participants create an inclusive sense of community in a public pool. Every time they convene, they foster an experience that is miraculously absent of worry, prejudice, and judgement.
As a straight white male, it’s easy for me to simply be unaware of how hard “normal” tasks can be for trans people. In order to understand my privilege, I need to recognize the ways others aren’t privy to it. When it comes to trans people, many feel pressure from society to remove themselves from public space to avoid judgement or confrontation.
As Golding relates to Short of the Week:
“Media portrayals of the transgender movement tend to be sensationalist, gawping and un-representative of reality. We hope that The Swimming Club tells a different kind of story—an empowered and uplifting one—the likes of which is missing from the current conversation.”
The film has a dreamy, calming vibe. Pleasing slow-motion b-roll accents the tranquility of this community space. The close-ups of the various swimmers’ bodies aren’t meant to be shocking. Rather, they help normalize trans figures in a way that isn’t often seen in traditional media outlets. The various soundbites from the attendees are truthful and full of insight—again, giving voice to viewpoints and experiences that are probably foreign to most people.
We wish the film had a stronger narrative through line: structurally, it’s not particularly innovative or complex—just soundbites cut with nice b-roll. But, for this particular topic, maybe that’s enough. We need to hear from more diverse voices promoting inclusion. And, well, The Swimming Club is a perfect representative example of that sort of sentiment.