A gym is hoping to help trans people feel good about their bodies by providing specific training for those going through transition.
The Perfect Sidekick gym in Oakland California, was founded by Nathalie Huerta.
As well as offering a safe space for the whole LGBT+ community, the gym has tailored programmes, for example to help trans men get their bodies in line with their identity.
Before classes, instructors ask everyone for their preferred pronouns, said Xavier Morales to Mic
Like others at the gym, Morales was recommended by his gender reassignment surgeon to go to the gym before he began his medical transition.
“I remember right around the two- or three-month mark of going to the gym, I started to feel really good about my body,” Morales said.
“That was phenomenal. As a trans person, to feel really good about your body before you’ve had any surgeries — that’s amazing.”
The gym was founded over five years ago, and aims to provide a fully inclusive experience.
The gym’s founder Nathalie Huerta
Rather than gender-separated changing facilities, there is one large changing room for all gym goers.
And all staff at the gym are given regular sensitivity training, in order to provide an inclusive environment.
“I noticed that as my sexuality started to evolve, my experience at the gym became shittier,” Huerta told Mic.
“As my gender expression started to change and I started to present and look more masculine, I noticed an even bigger change.”
Huerta founded the gym after being perceived as more masculine, and going to conventional gyms meant she was often told by female members that “this is a women’s locker room”.
Huerta also said the weights facilities in other gyms she’d been to previously were “dominated by males”, and that she never felt welcome.
“We’ve gotten members anywhere on the spectrum, from thinking about transitioning; to having started hormone therapy; to having transitioned in the the past and are going back on hormones; to having just finished top surgery,” said Huerta.
Depending on hormone therapy and other factors, trainers provide bespoke training plans.
Huerta also said there is a real sense of community at the gym.
When a trans member of the facility had maxed out what they could get in terms of medical transition on their health coverage, the gym stepped in to host a drag show to raise funds to help.
“One of our members’ partners is transitioning and having the surgical procedure done and maxed out on what their benefits allows them to do and cover,” she told New York Daily News.
“So we’re actually hosting a drag queen bingo fundraiser to make up the rest of what’s needed.”
She said she loves that trans people are inspired and confident by attending the gym.
“The confidence, the swag, those things that aren’t necessarily quantifiable… I think it’s the coolest thing to see,” she said.
And of course straight people are also welcome at the gym.