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Greetings from the new IGLA Secretary!

By Ryan Robertson – IGLA Secretary

Hi everyone! My name is Ryan Robertson and I am the new Secretary for IGLA. You have probably already started seeing articles from IGLA board members. For my first blog post I thought I would introduce my swimming past.

Like many children, I took swim lessons at the YMCA. I remember the instructor teaching us all to jump in the pool feet first and then tread water. To begin with, jumping in was a terrifying experience. I remember kicking and paddling my way back to the surface as the water rushed over my head. I also remember the happiness I felt after being collected from the pool.

My family moved when I was still quite young and the swimming stopped. It was a few years before I found my way back to the pool. Luckily I was reintroduced to swimming as part of P.E. in junior high school. I was one of the better swimmers in my P.E. class, which prompted me to join the school swim team. Little did I realize the extent to which swimming would be a part of my life, off and on, going forward. At that point I was the overweight little boy incapable of doing a single land sport, but put me in the pool and I became a determined swimmer. While everyone else was swimming 50’s, 100’s and 200’s, I was racing the 500.

After about four years later my family moved again. Again it took a time for me to adjust to new surroundings. Going into my freshman year, I discovered the high school swim team. It was only the second or third year the team existed, but we somehow managed to win the district championship meet. My high school has won every year since. (I guess it helps to be one of the slowest districts in Washington State!) The high school swim program has grown considerably and now has cutoffs due to lack of pool space for everyone interested in being on the team. After the season ended I joined a club team new in the area. Since my time it has also grown considerably, producing many elite youth swimmers. Although I was never an elite swimmer on either team, I feel like I have been an important part of both teams. For me, swimming has always provided an amazing sense of community and has provided an important avenue for growth, leadership, chances to help others, and a place to meet many amazing people.

Returning to my life aquatic, the time came for me to go off to college. My school did not have sports, so once again I fell out of touch with the water. I studied hard and graduated early. A handful of times I swim at my apartment complex, but it was nothing compared to the athleticism and camaraderie experienced from being part of a team. After graduation and employment, I could feel in my bones that it was time to return to the water, so I found myself a small local masters team, and after a year I started competing in swim meets again.

Around that time I started to come to terms with being gay, which I had carefully repressed. I came out to my family at the end of 2009. At that same time I ended up changing jobs and moved. I feel fortunate that I was able to make this transition with no real harm, something that many young people cannot claim. This time I was out of the pool for less than a year before returning. During those six months I was once again readjusting to a new environment, externally and internally.

Swimming has always been an important aspect of my being. When I was young, shy and withdrawn from the outside world, being part of a swim team gave me a social structure to help me cope with the stress of school, growing up and helped me come out of my shell. When I was in high school, swimming helped me overcome serious health issues. As a young adult recently out of the closet, I was shocked and ecstatic to learn of the existence of the Orca Swim Team, Seattle’s gay and lesbian swim team. I lived only four blocks from the pool where they practiced. Once again, the sport of swimming was here to save me.

Joining the team was a major milestone in my life. Moving to a city with a sizable gay and lesbian community is not always enough, as I had very little interaction with others. Prior to the swim team, it was off the work in the morning and then home afterward. The swim team was my avenue to the LGBT community, and has helped me come to terms with myself in so many ways. Swimming is as much a part of me as being gay, or having an American father and Hispanic mother, or growing up Mormon. I know swimming will be a part of the rest of my life. I am currently one of the captains of Orcas. I feel fortunate that I can answer inquiries from others interested in joining the team. I love that I am able to contribute to the social strength of my LGBT and swimming communities at the same time, by organizing social and team events, as well as organizing swim meets or encouraging attendance at local masters meets and other swimming events.

As a member of the Orca Swim Team and an IGLA board member, I look forward to sharing team events, news, swimming knowledge, and serving our LGBT and swimming communities (and the intersection of the two) with the aim of growth and improving our joint experiences.

Thanks for the opportunity to make a difference!

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