How to make the gym a queer-friendly safe space?
For queer people though, the gym is a different beast. There’s fear around outing in locker rooms, showers, saunas, etc.; harrassment because of nonconforming gender expression; having non-traditionally gendered fitness goals; dysphoria-led dangerous training habits… There are concerns that were specific to the LGBTIQ+ community.
What could be done about that? Here are a few solutions that could work to create a safer environment for queer people at a fitness club.
Staff: training current staff about gender diversity
If the curent staff working at the gym could be made aware of the specific challenges members’ of different communities may have, this could motivate new queer gym users. For example, if knowing that disclosing my trans identity were safe to the staff, we could have discussed some safety measures around training with a binder or using appropriate locker rooms together.
It’s a win-win: the gym user gets support and encouragement to commit to their personal fitness while the staff helps to bring in a new regular client to their business, by hearing their needs.
The training could focus on specific problems for members (going by a chosen name rather than legal one, binders, lockers, etc.) and how to resolve community conflict in case something takes place between several members because of a queer-related issue.
Staff: hire more queer trainers
Another staff-related idea involves hiring more queer personal trainers in the first place. This makes for a more diverse staffing, which in turn, affects how the gym is perceived by users (open-minded, welcoming, etc.). It also includes more queer people into the fitness industry, by offering professional opportunities to these fitness instructors.
If the current staff isn’t necessarily all trained to handle queer-related issues, a certified personal trainer that is a part of the LGBTIQ+ community can still help to troubleshoot any problems like the ones mentioned previously.
Gym members: queer workout groups
Communities of queer gym users could be created in order to attend the fitness center together. This can work on multiple levels: it may feel safer to go with other people, beginners may feel more comfortable testing out their fitness program with others, it holds everyone who wants to go accountable and it allows word to spread about unsafe gyms for the community.
I believe that this could work IRL and online, and could hold a lot of strength if held to a consistent fitness schedule.
Another related idea: group training that is queer-focused! This could allow to build such a community, with proper fitness education, in a safe environment. Group workouts can be quite motivational and social!
Gym members: sharing your own experience
For queer gym goers who have been regulars, consider sharing your experiences on social media, for instance. Personally, I overthought many aspects of the gym when I first started. It could have been useful for someone who is used to a gym environnement to share tips about starting out.
This also can serve to educate newcomers into safety measures at the gym, in regards to their specific queer-themed concerns.
Entrepreneurs: make a truly welcoming gym
Maybe you have the passion and the drive to start your own business. Why not a gym? One where everyone is welcomed and helped to navigate their difficulties, in order to encourage their decision to commit to their fitness? Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression should not be reasons to exclude people from performing physical activity.
This fitness facility could answer many of the concerns that the queer community has, and beyond-- queerness is only one of many communities that aren’t accounted for in commercial gyms. I know would consider a gym membership to such a place!