It’s easy to take for granted the ability to move through public spaces without consequence. But for many marginalized communities, this simply isn’t the reality. “[People] say that we’re unnatural, that we’re perverted, that we’re not genuine people,” says a transgender woman in Cecilia Golding and Nick Finegan’s documentary, The Swimming Club. “It’s difficult for trans people to enter public spaces because their bodies are different—there’s prejudice,” says another.
The film follows members of TAGS (Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Swimming Group), a group of transgender individuals, in London, who swim together in a community pool designated as a safe space. “Swimming is what everyone should have the ability to do,” says Roberta, one of the founders of TAGS. For many group members, this is the first opportunity to self-actualize without fear of reproach for having a trans body. As one person describes it: “It’s like being a complete human being after being fractured for so long.”
After Finegan met Roberta at a techno party in London, he teamed up with Golding to make The Swimming Club. “Neither of us had picked up a camera before—unless you count an iPhone,” said Golding. The duo hoped their documentary would be more than a “fly-on-the-wall journalistic piece”; instead, they wanted to convey the emotional release that the act of swimming provides for the group. “This led us to discussions about the colorful kinetic underwater shots and close-up portraits of the swimmers in action,” Golding continued.
“From the moment of conception [of the project], both Ceci and I were very conscious of our presence as two cisgender filmmakers,” said Finegan. “We hoped we would function as a border-crossing between the marginalized voices of the swimming club and a wider audience that may have no prior experience of trans* and gender-non-conforming people.”
“Because of the way society sees us,” says a trans woman in the film, “a lot of us experience depression and anxiety. That’s not just because we’re trans—it’s because we just want to feel safe, and we’re not.”