The ladies pond on Hampstead Heath has long been a sacred spot for the fairer sex. Open to women and girls over the age of 8, membership costs just £5 a year. But this year marked a change of scenery at the beauty spot. Regular users are said to have been “appalled” by a “young man” wearing a bikini who was allowed to use the pond this summer. Female bathers were outraged at the prospect of transitioning males being admitted despite the fact there is a men’s and mixed pond available. Despite the uproar, a spokesperson for the City of London Corporation confirmed to the MoS that men transitioning to women will be allowed to use the pond and the female changing rooms.
One veteran swimmer, Margaret Roberts, was horrified to discover a spanish male using the pond. He looked and dressed like a male, but claimed to identify as a woman and so had been allowed to use the swimming hole. She politely asked him to leave, but he refused. Ms Roberts also remarked on a trans man who had called for the pond to become “gender fluid.” She has been using the pond for 32 years, and with many other members behind her, Ms Roberts has called for common sense to prevail. She said “I and many others are threatened by having to have essentially “cross dressers” come to the pond and openly use our private space. Women have few private spaces and we have had to fight many times to keep the pond open. Can men not allow women to have any private space?”
Julie Bindel, a feminist writer who has also been swimming at the pond for more than three decades, added: ‘It is totally unacceptable to allow men who identify as women, but who are otherwise male bodied and socialised as men, to be in a women-only space. I have seen mothers bring their young daughters who are self-conscious about their bodies but want to feel good about swimming and exposing their skin to the sun. The last thing they want is to look behind them and see a male-bodied person pretending to be a woman in order to gawk at them.’
The City of London Corporation spokesman said: ‘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.’
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