The BVI Spring regatta attracts sailboat racing crews and fans from around the world to beautiful weather, gorgeous islands, and a stunningly blue ocean. The teams who compete are local racers, sailing schools, folks who bare boat charter, friends, competitors who become a team, and one LGBT diversity team competing for the first time. This is how this transgender activist and sailing enthusiast came to spend a week racing sailboats and partying with a purpose. The image of sailboat racers tend to be rich, white, male, and heterosexual, but the joys of boating can really be available to just about any fit person who can show up at a dock with shoes that don’t mark the deck. There is casual ‘beer can’ racing in most sailing areas where you can can crew and learn to enjoy the mysterious connection of wind and water that move you along with a seemingly infinite adjustment of controls.
The dual ideas of promoting visibility of the LGBT community in the sailing world and the adventure of sailing to the LGBT community resonated with me instantly. However, offshore racing can be physically demanding, emotionally charged, and highly competitive so I actually turned down the offer to do this because I believed that I might hold back the team. I called a much more experienced transgender sailor to talk her into going to and she turned around and talked me into it. She explained that, supported by other community members, it would be the best way to build my skills and connect with committed sailors. She was so right.
My fears of the "demanding offshore sailing" evaporated along with the “reliably strong winds” of spring in the BVI. Low winds made for races that stressed only our strategy and minute attention to every detail of sail adjustment to eek out bit of propulsion from winds to move at sometimes excruciatingly slow speeds. It was a fantastic training for me as I had never explored what the vang or traveler actually did on my boat. Slowly gliding along on smooth seas in the warm sun was the easiest of occupations. Competitively the light winds did not favor our boat of choice however. So that, combined with our mostly novice crew, meant that our hopes of bringing home a prize were dashed.
While the racing was subdued, the nightly parties were an area where our queer crew could really shine on the beach ‘dance floor’ and gregariously socializing. The Transgender Day of Visibility came up during the race appropriately and I found myself not only educating the sailing community, but also my cisgender team mates. The relationship of the T to the LGB in the movement has been rocky at times and so I have found it just as important in my activism to work on building relationships within the community as well as with the world at large.
I had the most amazing time with the Trekr Racing crew on just an every minute fun way. Talking, hanging out, trying new things and listening to great music the whole time. The caring kindness that I felt from everyone onboard really helped me to learn and be willing to try even crazy things, like Fender Rodeo. Fenders are the air-filled giant sausage-like things that protect your boat at the dock. When we were moored in deep water to cool down after a race, one crew member suggested a Fender Rodeo. The idea is to wrap your legs around a fender and jump off the boat and try to stay on it as you hit the water and float up to the top again. Who ever stays on it longest (or at all) is the winner. Nobody else had heard of such a thing, but in moments it was organized into a double elimination competition and we were all doing just about the silliest thing I had ever heard of and having a wonderful time.