Celebrating Class Transitions and Supporting Trans* People in Fitness Spaces

I started taking Erica Nix’s Class Transitions almost two years ago just after I moved to Austin. I had never taken a transgender-focused class, and I didn’t even know they existed. I’d played rugby in the past and practiced yoga, but since transitioning, being in those spaces, whether they were gender-segregated (rugby) or gender-inclusive (yoga), felt hard. I felt like my gender was going to be scrutinized, like people were going to try and figure out what I was, where the options were male or female (meaning cisgender man or woman). This felt especially true in the early days of my transition.

Erica’s class has brought me back to fitness and also taught me body acceptance. Her class ”Class Transitions,” now at TownLake YMCA (Thursdays 7:30-8:30pm), was created several years ago as a way for trans*-identified people to work out together in a welcoming space and to receive fitness coaching and encouragement that centers trans* experience. I used the term trans* (trans asterix) as an umbrella term that includes many different gender identities including transgender women and men, trans masculine and trans feminine people, gender queer people, and non-binary people. The class is decidedly body positive and Erica’s workouts include circuit training routines with modifications for everybody in the room. By designing her Class Transitions workouts for trans and non-binary people and teaching her class in gender-inclusive spaces, Erica is leading the call for more accessible and inclusive fitness. 

Many of us are in the class for the exercise and community. One thing that I think Erica’s classes makes explicit is that we can enjoy our bodies (many of us already did before joining the class), and that we can train in ways that are gender affirming. It was an idea I’d never thought about, I think because I’d always thought that working out was something you did for purposes I am no longer interested in, like training for sports or losing weight (ideas I’m beginning to unlearn). The idea that I could shape the way I express my gender through working out feels really good to me. Do I want to tone my arms or bulk them up with muscle? Do I want to broaden or tone my shoulders? Will doing rainbow planks narrow my hips? Will doing squats add shape to my butt? Do I want that? (Yes!) The point is that working out is one way we get to shape our bodies, take ownership over our bodies, and love our bodies.

I’m excited every time I see gender-diversity is being embraced in Austin. Thank you to Erica Nix for continuing to support Austin’s trans* community, and thanks to the YMCA TownLake for hosting Class Transitions. I want to end by offering some tips for supporting trans* people at the gym and elsewhere. These are things that trans and non-trans allies have done for me, and that I have done for others. They seem to work, and there are a lot of different ways to help. 

Do ask: If you’re unsure what your friend’s pronouns are, just ask them. You could say: “Hey, I use she/her/hers pronouns, what do you use?” Or “I’d like to introduce you to my friends, what pronouns do you use?”

Do call ahead: If you are inviting a trans* friend to a gym, call ahead - what are the restroom options? Single use all gender restrooms are awesome, especially because we can use them to change. It’s the same thing you’d do if you were inviting a friend with mobility disability to a theatre. Will your friend be able to enter the space and have access to seating and use the restroom? Find out first. It will save you both the embarrassment. 

Don’t out your friend as trans or non-binary: Just introduce them using their name and their pronouns. Like this: “Hi everyone, this is my friend Grayson, it’s his first time at this gym.” Or: “Hey y’all, this is Sam, they are here for the first time. I thought they would love this class so I brought them along.” 

Do be a bathroom buddy: If a trans* friend asks for support entering a gender-segregated restroom, enter with them. Go in first and leave with them. It’s so easy! You can be a buffer between them and the gender-segregated restroom setting. 

Grayson Hunt is the program coordinator for LGBTQ Studies at UT Austin. He also organizes the monthly Transgender Feminisms reading group at BookWoman bookstore, and the biweekly transgender, non-binary, intersex & queer night swim at Barton Springs. You can find him on Instagram @graysonhunts.

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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