The Ann Arbor YMCA has launched Out to Swim, a new program that designates dedicated swimming time for the LGBTQ+ community and their family and friends.
The hour-long swim will be held every Friday starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Y's Aquatics Center.
Toni Kayumi, Ann Arbor YMCA president and CEO, shares that the new offering was created at the request of a group of local LGBTQ youth. The group made the suggestion during a virtual meeting with Ann Arbor YMCA leadership who asked them what type of programming they would value.
"It was absolutely wonderful for them to suggest something that we hadn't thought of ourselves," Kayumi says. She notes that the young people underscored the fact that "sometimes when you're working with your own gender identity and gender expression, you may not yet feel safe in an environment that isn't LGBTQ-focused in regards to expressing your authentic self while swimming."
While planning the program, Kayumi also reached out to the chair of the national YMCA LGBTQ Employee Resource Group for guidance on "how to come in with as much cultural competency as possible."
"I identify as an ally and not a member of the LGBTQ+ community," she says. "So I always want to make sure that I'm taking advice from those individuals who actually are in the community."
The initial response to the new program's launch has been well received by the local LGBTQ youth with whom the YMCA consulted. Kayumi says the young people responded with a sense of excitement and empowerment when they learned about Out to Swim.
"It's always important to listen to the youth voice and hear what they want and need, versus we as adults making assumptions about what they want and need," Kayumi says.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor YMCA.