The Dilemma of the Changeroom

Lately I have been thinking about changerooms. Particularly pool change rooms. I live in southwestern Ontario, where our summertime is pretty brief. In my town, our public, outdoor swimming pools have a truly short season – they open about July 1st and close on Labour Day (the first weekend in September). If you ask me, that’s a lot of money in infrastructure that is only staffed 2 months of the year. (I would like to see public pools open longer and offer more programming, but that is a different post.)  

Locker room,

So doing aquafit in summer is particularly fun! You go out into the bright sunlight (usually) and get to enjoy the light along with the exercise.  

One part, though, has been a bit of a shocker. I think all of the changerooms at public pools in my town are just large rectangular rooms with a bench running along the side. There are no lockers, no cubbies, no little walls to duck into for privacy. And of course, the changerooms are organized based on binary gender – there are male and female options only, although some offer “family” changerooms, which are just a small area with a locking door.  

This is not a new topic on our blog; we have written about getting naked in public spaces here and here. I found Kim’s reflections in A Tale of Two Locker Rooms to be especially helpful in thinking about what I even have to say about this.  

I have to admit I am not big on stripping down naked with a bunch of people coming and going. My body is bigger than many others’. I have had more than one kid comment about it in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as their mother gasping at their comment did. I have body image issues. Truly, I’d like to meet the woman that doesn’t.  

I prefer a small spot with a curtain or door to pull shut, so I can strip down, dry off and pull my clothes on while my body is still damp and often a little sticky. I find it hard to do that gracefully when I’m around people, honestly.  

Several of our bloggers mentioned the inspiration they felt watching senior women stride around naked in these change spaces, and I admit I have felt that too. I love their quiet confidence and often I have seen a group of older women chatting and slowly getting dressed.  

I also have been fascinated when in swimming situations in Germany. When in east and central Europe, I have often said I didn’t know if I felt more embarrassed by being naked, or being seen as a North American prude by covering up my naked self.  

This week, though, the giant empty rectangle of changerooms jarred me more than it might have in the past. For one thing, the insistence on binary gender is pretty bizarre to me. Where are we asking people who don’t identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’ to go. I don’t like the messaging there.

As well as binary gender concerns, I also have gotten used to my new, all-gender change space at my winter pool. It has pretty fancy, large change rooms with doors that lock, and glass windows everywhere in the space. I had never used a large, all-gender change space before, but I have gotten used to walking around a corner and into a male face.  

So when I went to my summer, echo-y rectangle change room, the room felt… kind of naked. Like there was nowhere to step aside and that just… was not great. I’m still thinking on this – like Kim and others say in past posts, what should be wrong with a naked human form? I mean, we all have them…  

Swimming pool

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