The Trust-backed LGBTQ+ Trans Inclusive Swimming is open to anyone identifying as LGBTQ+ and allies, including essential carers for individual swimmers.
It aims to reduce social isolation, improve health and wellbeing through exercise and social interaction, allow LGBTQ+ people to meet other supportive members of the community safely and alleviate some of the anxiety trans and gender non-conforming people face using public facilities.
The programme has been launched by the #RainbowBedfordshire team with support from ELFT which provides NHS mental health services in Bedfordshire and Luton, Bedford Borough Council and Trinity Arts and Leisure Bedford.
#RaindbowBedfordshire strives to actively challenge stigma and loneliness by informing best practices through training, increasing visibility and social inclusion, and through building LGBTQ+/ally networks.
Mack McLean, a member of #RainbowBedfordshire and People Participation (PP) worker for ELFT, said the programme offers gendered, gender neutral, communal and private changing spaces.
“We are incredibly proud to be leading the way with this programme and hope it might encourage other areas to consider launching their own,” he said.
“Our message to anyone considering joining us is we are a welcoming, friendly bunch of like-minded people. The swim sessions are a chance to get away from the pressures and expectations of the outside world, and to be free to be ourselves in a non-judgemental space.”
Mack said the programme is also designed to support LGBTQ+ people on low incomes by being an affordable option.
Support from ELFT has included help via PP and a grant from the ELFT Innovation Fund.
Dr David Bridle, Interim Chief Medical Officer and one of ELFT’s executive sponsors for its LGBTQ+ Staff Network, said: “This is an important project that promotes physical and mental wellbeing for members of the LGBTQ+ community and supports the Trust’s mission to improve the quality of life for all we serve.
“Everyone involved in making this programme a reality should be incredibly proud.”
Lane swimming is an option but there is no obligation and participants can also stay in the shallow end, with some people attending for more social purposes light exercise.
Safety and privacy is provided through a risk assessment and DBS checks completed for all team members. A lifeguard is on duty at all times and the team work closely with pool staff to maintain confidentiality.
The swims take place twice a month at Trinity Arts and Leisure in Bromham Road, Bedford.
Anyone interested in taking part can contact the team by emailing email@example.com