Last year at this time, NBC News reported that a CrossFit franchise owner canceled a gay pride workout event because he thought it was “a sin.” His franchise license was revoked and the entire facility was shuttered. Executives at CrossFit adamantly affirmed their support of the LGBT community. The last thing you want to do as a gym owner is alienate the Queer community. In fact, many gyms actually cater to the gay community even if they don’t necessarily hang rainbow flags out front. How do you know if your gym is queer friendly?
First a little irony. American fitness culture has always been bound up with gay identity, and today’s gyms, from CrossFit to Curves, would be unrecognizable without it. Gay liberation and what we know as the fitness craze seized the cultural zeitgeist in the 1970s. Think Village People’s YMCA, and Olivia Newton John’s (very gay) Let’s get Physical. The New York disco club scene further reinforced the association between queer life and fitness; so much so, that in 1977, bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger explained defensively, “Men shouldn’t feel like fags because they want to have nice-looking bodies.”
So what are the “tells” that YOUR gym is continuing in a long tradition of embracing the rainbow tribe?
1) Listen to your gut. From the moment you walk into a gym you can tell whether it’s inclusive to all gender identities and sexual orientations. You know when you feel valued and welcome. You’re going to be paying a nice chunk of change to this business and (hopefully) spending a fair amount of time there. They should appreciate you.
2) They use thoughtful and inclusionary marketing. Look for messages that indicate your facility is prepared to provide a safe and celebratory environment for people of all genders and sizes. And, of course, they should ensure that an inclusive reality backs up that message.
3) Their staff includes LGBT individuals. Who they hire speaks volumes for the kind of members they welcome. Visual cues are very much a part of feeling entrenched in a community. It’s helpful to know that you are not going to be the first queer person this gym community has seen.
4) They have a gender neutral dress code or no dress code at all. Some gyms, especially big box gyms, have gender specific do’s and don’ts. (“Woman can have no bare midriffs.” “Men must wear shirts with sleeves.” There’s just no need for this. A dress code should only be there to keep people safe. For example, “Closed toed shoes required, no flip-flops”)
5) BONUS: Their trainers are savvy to the specific needs of the trans community. Hormones and surgeries can affect muscle development, metabolism and exercise recovery. Look for trainers who have experience working with trans clients and who are sensitive to their specific needs.
Happy LGBT Pride Month!
Philip Hitchcock is an independent, Certified Personal Trainer specializing in “Fitness after 40,” Resistance Training and Weight Loss. He maintains his own client base and is also the exclusive trainer for the Four Seasons Hotel. Check out HitchcockFitness.com