Tell us about yourself, who is Abbie?
Abbie (They/Them). I run my own virtual swim coaching business called Swim Like A Fish (www.swimlikeafish.org). My mom was a water safety instructor growing up at our local YMCA and I was used as the demonstration baby during her 'Mommy and Me' classes. I do not remember life without a pool involved in it. My brother and sister both swam competitively on a swim team, so naturally I decided at 4 years old to start myself! I capped off my own personal swimming career at the University of Georgia, where I tried out for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team in 6 different events.
As a college athlete, I struggled with coming out. It was something I hid for a very long time. I was extremely nervous about my reputation and how I may be 'viewed' and labeled, and my mental health and my own personal swimming started deteriorating because of it. After retiring from competitive swimming, I found myself on the other side of the pool deck now coaching children on how to swim faster.
During this time of my coming out struggle and the beginnings of my coaching career, I was living in Key Largo, FL when I received a call from my sister that my niece was just diagnosed with cancer, so I flew directly home to be with her. My niece was just 2 years old and the cancer she had was rare - giving her a low survival rate.
No one in my family knew the battles I was fighting internally at that time, and I remember walking up and down the pediatric cancer ward feeling like I can't continue to stay strong for everyone else - when I'm crumbling myself. I promised myself, and all the children in the hospital that I would go live my life to the fullest - in honor of the ones who didn't get the chance to. It was an extremely emotional time for me and as someone who was used to bottling up their emotions up - that was my breaking point.
Shortly after, I came out to my parents and was in my first real relationship. It's been a journey since the beginning, as I've changed how I identify and what pronouns I use. I felt like I was trying on clothes and figuring out which one fit the best. Now, I'm super proud of my queer identity and they/them pronouns make me go to bed with a smile on my face.
When do you feel like your most authentic self?
When I hold myself accountable to my own expectations and no one else's. I'm very aware of my ability to code switch and change who/how I am based on the environment I am in. But if I am truly in my element and being "Abbie Fish" - I stay in my lane regardless of what I am doing.
My short haircut is a huge part of how I identify and it is an extension of my personality. When I was younger, I cut my hair short and often got misgendered - that was a struggle for me and my family. So I decided I would grow it out and keep my hair long to avoid any conflict in my family. I believe that decision was the start of me hiding who I truly was. Now, at 34, I don't ever plan on having long hair again!
Existing as a queer person in the US is becoming increasingly more difficult. How do you remain positive in today's climate?
I keep a very close 'chosen family'. As cliche as that saying is in the queer world, I think it's extremely important. My job and career path put me around more white, cis-gendered men than any other part of my world, so I do feel a disconnect between my professional life and my personal life. This is why I seek out queer community so heavily, personally. It's nice to be able to have a conversation with someone who understands bathroom anxiety or the laws and restrictions on LGBTQ+ people before traveling to new countries and states.
It is really sad the current atmosphere that we are living in because as much as I'd love everyone to be 'out and proud' - I can definitely understand how the climate in the USA would make someone hide further. I don't often speak publicly about my story, but I do on occasion because I feel a duty to do it for all the people who are out there that need that boost of confidence and encouragement to find their authentic selves too.
What is most important to you when shopping for clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident?
How it feels! I'm a huge fan of light-weight clothing and clothes that are really soft. I often find shopping a huge endeavor for me because I shop on both sides of the store: men and women's, so it's nice when something is gender-neutral because it saves me time and reduces my anxiety around which department I'm currently shopping in. At the end of the day, I feel all clothes are gender neutral and should be, so I love HumanKind's message and the impact it is making on the swimming community - a community I love so dearly!
What are your favorite products from Humankind?