‘Transgender women are welcome in the Ladies’ Pond,’ say Hampstead Heath swimmers

Swimmers brave the 5 degrees water on New Year's Day. Picture Polly Hancock

Swimmers brave the 5 degrees water on New Year's Day. Picture Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

It was not only the freezing temperatures that contributed to a frosty atmosphere at the traditional New Year’s Day swim in the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond yesterday.

There were tensions as some of the swimmers had dived into a row over transgender swimming in the bathing haven which has been for women only for decades.

On the morning of the swim on New Year’s Day, The Daily Mail published a story headlined: “Our Pond Is Not Gender Fluid.” which quoted veteran swimmers expressing anger over a decision by the City of London Corporation, which runs Hampstead Heath, to allow transgender women to swim in the ponds and use the changing facilities.

Some regular users were quoted as saying they were ‘appalled’ that a ‘young man’ wearing a bikini came to use the pond this summer.

One swimmer, Margaret Roberts, was quoted in the article as saying that she asked a Spanish male who claimed to identify as a woman but ‘looked and dressed like a man’ to leave, but he refused.

However by yesterday afternoon, members of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association had hit back at the article and issued a statement welcoming transgender women to their bathing pond.

The KLPA committee members issued a statement which said: “The KLPA is committed to helping to create at the Ladies’ Pond an inclusive environment for all women, including transgender women, which is free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

Most Read

“The legal context for this is the Equalities Act 2010 which prohibits discrimination on grounds of transgender status. The City of London, which manages the ponds, is bound by this and so too is the KLPA. In that regard, both the lifeguards and members of the KLPA committee have undergone transgender awareness training.

“As we begin to think about how we can provide a trans-friendly swimming environment, it is important to state that Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association welcomes to its membership transgender women.

“We understand the process of transition can be complex and difficult and we would wish to act in a supportive and sensitive way. We recognize the need to provide the option of additional privacy for changing/showering and have begun discussions with the City about achieving this.

“The KLPA is committed to ensuring safe and respectful swimming at the Ladies’ Pond and a social environment in which everyone can expect to be treated with respect, courtesy and consideration. It goes without saying that transgender women should be treated in the same way but with consideration for the additional sensitivities they may face. Although it is tempting to assume someone’s gender simply by their appearance, it’s important to try to avoid doing so and to be aware of the needs of genuinely transgender women.

It continued: “The diverse community of women and girls – including transgender women – at the Ladies’ Pond contribute to its unique and very precious quality. We believe that with a continued commitment from all swimmers to respect the rights to privacy and dignity of others, we can continue to protect and enjoy it.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation which runs Hampstead Heath, said: “The City of London Corporation is committed to gender respect and equality in all forms.

“Over the last year all lifeguards and managers at Hampstead Heath ponds have taken transgender awareness training courses, which have been offered to, and taken by, the ponds’ swimming associations as well.

“We are working with the LGBTQ community to ensure our facilities are fit to serve the needs of everyone who enjoys them, and will continue to do so in the future.”