I recently stumbled upon a Davey Wavey video where he interviews an amazing Transman named Phanyapad Maha-Udomporn (or Jyb, for short), who owns and operates a Transgender/Toms-only gym in Thailand called Transfit. “Toms” is the generalized label Thai people use in much the same way that English speakers use the phrase “Butch lesbian”, so it seems safe to say that this gym is for those who are biologically female and interested in achieving typically “masculine” physiques. Jyb was apparently a fitness trainer at a regular gym, but felt uncomfortable with how his male colleagues looked at and treated him. I read a little bit more about Jyb and his ambitions, and then did some digging to find if there was anything like this back home. Turns out, yes! Well, at least in California (oh wow shocker, right?)
In Oakland, The Perfect Sidekick is a fairly small gym with a growing following of exclusively Trans*/Queer clientele. Nathalie Huerta started Sidekick because, being a former college athlete, sports are an important part of her life, but she never felt truly comfortable as a gay woman going to regular gyms.
Last year, while living in Huelva, Spain, I decided that I wanted to take the next step in my transition by muscling up and shaping my body the way I wanted it. A year and a half after a very successful top surgery, I knew I was healed enough to safely start training my chest muscles. I marched into the gym, I bought my membership, I strutted back out the door to go get my duffel bag from home…..aaaaand then I realized I was about to walk into a giant open room filled with grown men and take my clothes off.
You know that moment in the movies when the camera zooms in super fast, right up close to the main character’s horror-stricken face, and the music stops, and there’s the sound of a record scratching? Yes. That was my brain in that moment. It also sounded a bit like this:
I actually sent a text message to a (rather new) friend of mine who happens to be a cisgender male gym teacher and basically hammered him with a stream of extremely odd questions like: DO YOU JUST WALK AROUND NAKED?! AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO PEOPLE?! WHAT IF SOMEONE TALKS TO ME?! DO I STARE AT THE FLOOR?!
It never occured to me that there could be a place like Jyb or Nathalie’s gyms…a place where these questions don’t matter because the expectation is that I’m different. I applaud these people, and anyone else who has a business such as this, for creating places where Trans* and queer people can feel healthy and safe. I’ve been lucky and I’ve been careful. I have my routine and I now know how to act in order to feel like I’m not drawing attention to myself….but wouldn’t it be nice?