How Finding a Non-Judgy Gym Helped Me Learn to Love Myself

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This as-told-to story one in a series of 12 that explores the role of strength in modern life.

“I had a superathletic upbringing. I swam and played water polo on the girls’ varsity team into my senior year of high school. I knew at puberty that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know that there was a name for it. I decided to run away from home. And then the Internet kind of blew open my world—I was dealing with the fact that I am transgender.

Back then, in 2006, I found an endocrinologist who issued me testosterone, but it really takes a toll on your body. My appetite increased, and I stopped working out to focus more on, like, just becoming myself. I gained a lot of weight. But I also felt better. Transitioning is not like you just take a pill and then you’re done. It’s a long process. I’ve been going through it for 13 years. Eventually I got top surgery. I’m 31 now.

I knew at puberty that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know that there was a name for it.

Working out had always seemed impossible without hiding my body, but after surgery I no longer had an excuse. So that’s when I started doing my own little lifting workouts at the gym. But I didn’t really have the skills or tools to achieve results. And the weight-room environment can be very intimidating. To be a trans person standing among a bunch of men huffing and making noises in front of the mirror is not comforting. The locker room is another scary place.

The locker room is another scary place.

Last year I signed up for a six-week fitness challenge at the Queer Gym in Oakland. Finding the right gym for yourself is so important. In the Queer Gym, I feel like no one is judging me. After the first month or two of classes four days a week, my body started to feel really light.

I feel the change most in bodyweight exercises—when I’m going on those, I can really tell how strong I am now, and how far I’ve come. It sounds ridiculous, but I love burpees. My energy level went way up. I’m now a manager at Olo, a Bay Area company that provides back-end support for restaurants. My attention span, my focus, and my general well-being and feeling of self-worth went way, way up.”




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