_As part of my New Years resolution to drop a few pounds--a resolution which has been slow-going, to say the least--my DGF and I decided to join a gym. I've had gym memberships before, and sometimes I've been good about using them; other times I haven't. (Bizarrely, the likelihood that I will use a gym seems to be inversely correlated with the gym's niceness.)
I'm an afternoon or evening workout person. Working out in the morning makes me feel virtuous, with a nice post-exercise buzz, but the habit doesn't stick. Turns out I'd rather loll about in pajamas (on days I work from home) or drive grudgingly to work, down some coffee, and allow my mind to wake at roughly the pace of a banana slug. I covet the virtuosity of Morning People. I spent a brief time as a Morning Person in college, cheerfully forgoing Jell-o shots so I could go to sleep at eleven, wake up at six, lift weights, and run a mile. I have no idea what got into me, and no idea where it escaped to.
All of this is to explain that although I've worked out at gyms in the past, I've never needed to change clothes there. I either change at the office or wear gym clothes under my work clothes. Then right after I work out, I just drive straight home.
But this new gym we've joined has a pool. And for some reason, I have been obsessed with the idea that I want to swim. I do not have a swimmer's physique, nor am I particularly good at it. But surfing is on my bucket list and I need to be in better swimming shape if I want to surf before I hit 40. Also, I recently read Haruki Murakami's South of the Border, West of the Sun (which I liked very much), and the main character is always swimming to clear his mind. Murakami himself also swims, and I am presently a little obsessed with Haruki Murakami, so my burgeoning interest in swimming makes a fuzzy kind of sense.
Anyway, since I don't want to drive home sopping wet after a swim, I need to use the locker room at this new gym. I hate changing in front of other people. It's totally uncomfortable and I avoid it when I can, sometimes even changing in the shower stall. But whatever. I'm an adult. I can handle being embarrassed about my body or my half-nakedness or my brilliantly white day-glo upper arms. Here's the part I didn't anticipate but should have: some women are weirded out by seeing a butch in the locker room. They don't read me as male, but correctly read me as a dyke, and some of them kind of stare and look uncomfortable.
Honestly, I don't blame them. One of the main rationales for having separate men's and women's locker rooms (along with the safety issue) is that people want to be able to change their clothing without worrying about being looked at as sexual objects. I get this. And since I'm obviously a lesbian, some of them probably feel that it's a little like having a guy in the locker room.
Even those who are quite progressive (and there are many of them at this gym), and don't blink at seeing a lesbian couple hold hands on the street may feel uneasy when there's a dyke in the locker room, because it makes them uncomfortable to think I might be looking at them in a sexual way (which I'm not).
So far, my basic strategy has been to try to make myself as small and unobtrusive as possible. I avert my eyes and position my entire body away from the other women. I guess this has worked okay so far, but it still makes me *and* them uncomfortable. And probably one of these days, I'm going to get told, "This is the women's locker room!" I guess I *could* wear tight pink T-shirts or lavender capris sweatpants things to announce my girlness, but, uh, that's not going to happen.
I know I have just as much right to be there as everyone else and yada yada yada. But for me, the issue is not about being ashamed to be a butch or not wanting to hold my head up high, or anything like that. Just as *I* have a right to feel comfortable in the locker room, so do they.
I'd really prefer to allow everyone to be as comfortable as possible. I don't *want* to ignore their discomfort. After all, I would feel totally uncomfortable if there was a guy in the locker room. Not because he looks different from me, or because I think he's going to do anything he shouldn't, but simply because he is sexually attracted to women and I am a woman.
Have any of you other butches ever felt uncomfortable in a locker room? How do you deal with it? Just keep your head down and your gaze averted? Or is there a magical approach I haven't figured out yet?
(Update: Wendi at A Stranger in This Place had a great post on this last year!)