Miss Sugar Swan takes a trip down memory lane to the Brighton Sauna.
The Brighton Sauna was always a mainstay in my life. When I moved to Brighton at 20, some 15 years ago, bars were open until 12, clubs until 2 and no night was complete without “finishing off”, take that as you will, in the sauna.
I loved the place, as did all my friends, we would come in droves and hang around the jacuzzi or get in the swimming pool as it was back then and as is the very nature of the place someone would catch someones eye and before you know it you would go and find some privacy, much to the amusement of our friends who would be either jealous as you went with the one they wanted, or ridicule you as you were intoxicated enough to make a fool of yourself.
As I matured through my 20’s and into my 30’s, later licensing laws came in, I got older, I went out less, my priorities became different, mobile dating apps became the rage and my usage of the sauna dwindled and it would be reserved for Prides and New Years eves but I was always fond of the place, it held so many memories of a misspent youth.
A few years before I started transition I stopped going to the sauna completely. Almost all sexual contact stopped while I worked out exactly where I was going in life. I could no longer pretend to be proud of a body I didn’t like nor want and bearing it in a venue with 100 men was something that was completely incomprehensible to me. I hated myself and how I looked and I had completely lost my sex drive and the sauna became a no go area for me.
Once I began to transition I learned how to love myself again. Once my endocrine system was flooded with Oestrogen and my Testosterone production stopped I started to feel myself, I started to see myself as a sexual figure once more, my breasts started to come in, as did my hips and ass and very slowly as my outer shell started to align with my gender my sex drive began to return, but this time I realised I was no longer welcome in the sauna, a place that had been part of my life for 15 years was suddenly somewhere I was no longer welcome. That is until the ever so handsome Jak came up with a plan.
Jak is a trans man who has worked at the sauna for the last 2 and a half years and is the brainchild behind a new monthly trans night. Jak’s story and his development of this monthly night for the trans community can be found in May’s edition of Gscene, who had originally asked me to go along to this event and write a review. I tried my best to make the first event and lost my nerve, and then again at the second, but by the third monthly event that was taking place last night (May 22) I had to get over my fear, so as nervous as I was in a bikini and no wig, basically down to my outer shell with no protection I headed to the Sauna.
I asked myself what the fuck I thought I was doing as I approached the sauna, but with a deep breath and with all the confidence I could muster I walked in. I was greeted by Jak’s work colleague Jamie who was expecting me. He was really polite and respectful and after establishing that I had not been to the venue for some years he gave me a tour of whats new and whats gone and while I was in the changing room Jak came in to greet me with a huge beaming smile. He took me upstairs and introduced me to everyone and I soon felt very comfortable. It felt so amazing to be in a truly safe space.
There were ‘pronoun pens’ where people could write their pronoun on themselves and notices up reminding people to be respectful of the diverse mix of people who fall under our trans umbrella. Many Queer nights and venues try their very best to be a safe space for the community but they can’t stop people walking in the door, to get in the sauna you need to get through 2 doors and be vetted and buzzed through so it actually is a safe space for the trans community once a month and I really did feel it. I cannot put into words how nice it was to be in that space with my people, trans people. men, women, non-binary, gender queer identifying individuals varying in age from their early 20’s to 50+.
My bikini soon “fell off” and I was transported back some 15 years where I was sitting in the same Jacuzzi with a bunch of friends, laughing, joking, having serious discussions, chatting about who was venturing off the private cabins with who and noticing the subtle flirting and taking the piss out of each other as a group. It was just like it was in my 20’s, but this time something was different, this time I was being true to myself. I wasn’t pretending to be male. I was sat there, in that very same jacuzzi I had sat in so many times before, but this time I was the woman I always have been and I was surrounded by new friends who were all living their truth.
I had an absolutely amazing time last night and I am so thankful to Jak for making this happen and create this space for the community. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who falls under the trans umbrella. Of course, it is still a club where people can have sex, but the atmosphere on trans night is different, the emphasis not being so much on sex, but on community and friendship with the option of intimacy rather than the expectation which is how it can feel when it is a space only for gay men. There is no obligation for you to ‘lose’ your bikini as I did, you can simply sit upstairs drinking free refreshments, chat, have an all day breakfast and watch coronation street if you prefer, which is exactly what some people were doing.
My preference? Sitting in the jacuzzi flirting with one person with one eye and watching other romance develop with the other, and that is exactly where you will find me next month and then the big exciting one the month after which falls over Trans Pride.
Thank you Jak for making this happen, it is just what the Dr ordered, and trans people REALLY hate doctors.
The next date trans evening will be on Monday, June 26. Entry is £15 for a standard entry or £16 for the day pass.
You must be trans to enter (that includes all trans identities) or the guest of a trans person. If someone is a cis guest, they must arrive with whoever they’re coming with unless the sauna get a heads up beforehand by telephoning 01273 01273 689966.
The sauna does allow SOFFAs (significant others, friends, family and allies)! Some folks may have a cis partner, friend or support person that they wish to enjoy the night with. The sauna have a safer space policy which must be adhered to which is dotted about the building and we everyone is asked to make themselves familiar with it upon entry. Anyone breaking that policy will be asked to leave.
To read Jak’s piece on the sauna, click here: