A new gym culture shift is on the rise – to stop shaming and to be more welcoming. The OUT Foundation is taking the message on the road in a national town hall called, “Don’t Be An Asshole” Transgender Education Tour.
Will Lanier, the executive director of the OUT Foundation, says the tour is not just for the greater CrossFit community, but for any fitness organization owners and members to create more inclusive, safe spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming athletes.
“It’s about how not to be an asshole but really to understand where we’re at as a nation and understanding the transgender community is part of that,” Will said.
One local CrossFitter, Nikole Glaug, is excited to attend the event. She learned about the tour from the gym mother at CrossFit Atlanta and got tickets immediately. Glaug recalled her life as Nick – an avid runner and soccer player – a guy’s guy when it came to athletics and working out in public but living a second life behind closed doors. She was no longer comfortable in a male body, so she began transitioning to her true self. However, the once avid runner who could run a 20 minute 5K, couldn’t even run a 10-minute mile when she began hormones. Depression set in followed by suicidal thoughts. Then one day while living in Boynton Beach, Florida, Glaug came across a $30 Groupon for a local CrossFit gym.
“That first class sucked so much,” she recalled. “But not for the reasons you might think.” It wasn’t how she was treated, but the athlete couldn’t manage the AMRAP (as many reps as possible). She found herself going back often, trying to do better than she did in the previous class. During that time, she was transitioning but hadn’t really made it public. It wasn’t until about six months later that Glaug disclosed that she was transgender. She said, for the most part, everyone was supportive at the gym but there were still several who weren’t as welcoming.
“There are people out there who don’t want us competing or in their spaces,” she said. “The people who need to hear it probably won’t attend, but those who come, I hope they will disseminate what they learn and share it with other gyms and people.”
Glaug came to Atlanta two years ago. Her hormones began kicking in, and her body started changing. She found her confidence as a Trans woman, but her newest challenge was finding another gym home where she could be comfortable and accepted. CrossFit Atlanta welcomed her with open arms; coaches, owners, and other athletes encouraged her through daily workouts to achieve her goals.
The message of inclusion is what panelists for the tour including OUT Foundation board members and transgender CrossFit athletes, Bennett Kaspar and Chloie Jonsson, will talk about.
As evidence from the mainstream news media, LGBTQ issues are still prevalent. Jonsson made the news four years ago when she registered for the CrossFit Games Open as a female, Will said. According to Will, Jonsson informed CrossFit that she was transgender and at that time she was told that she would have to meet in the men’s division. She filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against CrossFit for discrimination. CrossFit later settled the lawsuit and then announced that transgender athletes would be able to compete according to their gender identity.
“The tour is a way to help get gym owners and members make their spaces more accessible for the members of the transgender community,” said Jonsson. According to data from their recent tour stops, 65 percent of attendees have been straight allies, 25 percent are from the LGBTQ community, and 10 percent are Trans.
“Trans is beautiful, strong and courageous,” he said. “People should come to support that. We’re humanizing the transgender community, and that’s beautiful.”
The tour will make a stop in Atlanta Saturday, February 16, at CrossFit Downtown Atlanta and Atlanta Barbell. The hour-long meeting will begin at noon. CrossFit Downtown Atlanta and ATL Barbell is located at 215B Chester Ave SE Atlanta, GA. Tickets are available at www.theoutfoundation.org.