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It’s that time of year again. The bugs are awake and really feeling themselves, SPF is being slapped on with wild abandon, and I’ve gotten heat exhaustion at least once in the past month.
Unpopular opinion: I hate summer. Even with my birthday just around the corner, this season has never felt celebratory. It’s always meant long stretches of boredom and the pressure to pull out the dreaded bathing suit. I remember one summer when I was small, I spent all day, every day, at the pool, pretending to be a mermaid and splashing around with my best friend at the time.
What happened to that person? How did that water baby grow up to be the uninhabitable desert of an adult I have become? Somehow, we’re the same human, but they possessed a magical quality I’ll never be able to get back: a total and utter lack of awareness regarding their own body.
Here are the stages of learning how to despise swimming: Grow older, get fatter, discover the world villainizes bodies like yours, then hide behind an oversized T-shirt and beg to disappear.
Everything has only gotten more complicated since I’ve stumbled out of the closet, and I’ve realized there are new and dreadful ways that society at large perceives a body like mine. Even famous children’s book authors have vicious opinions regarding trans bodies. Besides, what type of bathing suit would I wear now? Swim trunks? A cover-up? Certainly not a bikini. I would rather chew off my own arms than put that much skin on display.
The funny part is that I’ve come to terms with the fat parts of my body, I’ve learned to accept them, and even love how I look. Especially once I pulled on a pair of mom jeans, saw my own reflection, and thought to myself: oh hell yeah, that’s where I’ve been hiding.
I’ve become that fat person. The well-dressed fat person other people see and they’re forced to confront their own internal biases, because if someone like me can look good, surely they can, too. I’m the fat person who shows up to a party, unfashionably late, wearing dark high-waisted jeans and a bright pink short-sleeved button-up shirt with sunflowers on it. The shirt is tucked in, of course. Better to show off my fat rolls and curves. Yes, I am aware of how incredible I look. Instead of begging to disappear, my current self says, I dare you to look away.
I am no longer afraid of the wide expanses of my skin, but I seem to be experiencing a second adolescence in regards to my own gender identity. My fat body? I love it. My trans body, though? Especially my trans body in the summertime, when I can no longer wear the sweaters that hang nearly to my knees that make me feel all-powerful and achingly cool? We might have a problem.
Here’s the thing: you can’t wear your leopard print tennis shoes to the pool.
Part of the process of swimming is baring yourself to others, and not to get too deep here, because you are not my therapist, but I’m not sure how I can do that while remaining myself. How can I enjoy something like going to the pool, when I feel best about myself, about my gender, when I’m all covered up? Finding swim trunks that fit my fat body has been difficult, but wearing a femme bathing suit? I would disassociate myself right out of existence.
It’s strange to grow up, only to relearn how to navigate around parts of myself. Once again, I’ve become that awkward, embarrassed teenager who wants to put on an ugly shirt, hoping they will not be perceived. Body dysphoria is terrible. I’m not ashamed of my curves, of my breasts; I’ve never wanted top surgery, that’s not something for me. However, the thought of wearing something that truly shows off each individual curve … Why can’t I just wear jeans?
Maybe I will. Maybe this is something else about myself I need to fully embrace. Maybe I will become that strange character you see out of the corner of your eye at your apartment complex’s pool. Maybe my next life phase is to become a local cryptid overwhelmed by the heat, strangely overdressed and reeking of chlorine. I dare you to look away.
Regardless of my next transformation, I still despise summer. Some attitudes you can’t change.
— Kimberly Lopez (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary librarian living in the heart of Lawrence. They can often be found reading romance novels or ranting about the validity of boy bands. Their obsession with Harry Styles is “perfectly normal” and “healthy.” Follow them on Instagram. Read more of their work for the Times here.