I am excited to share that I have recently been interviewed by two different journalists regarding how to make fitness spaces more welcoming for LGBTQ+ folks. While I will definitely share the links to the resultant articles when they are published, I wanted to take this opportunity to write a bit about some thoughts I’ve had repeatedly through the years about how conversations regarding making spaces welcoming to trans people often go:
- Trans person and/or ally makes a valid and important point about how an environment can become more welcoming to trans people.
- A cis person who is in charge makes concerned statement about potential misunderstanding or push back from making the recommended change, all the while insisting that they, of course, support the change as an individual.
- Trans person and/or ally reframes the valid and important point to focus on how the change will make the space more welcoming for cis people, too.
- The interest from the cis person who is in charge increases, and improvements are (perhaps) finally made.
Of course, the above outline is overly simplified, and the time that it takes to get to step 4 is often dishearteningly long.
But still, the point remains: all too often, the changes that help trans people feel safe and welcomed in public spaces are often only made possible by appealing to how the changes will benefit cis people.
I am not the first person to point this out, and of course the trans community is not the only community to have experienced this: one of my clients who is very active in the disability rights community reminded me of the so-called “Curb Cut Effect.” For those who don’t know, the Curb Cut Effect emphases the ways that accessibility improvements help everyone, and that the recognition that they help everyone enables the accessibility improvements to become ubiquitous.
Similar arguments have also been made about the ways that employers, schools, and communities that are primarily white benefit from increased racial equity; the benefits that hiring women brings to workplaces; and the ways that knowing LGBTQ+ people who are out helps straight cis people decrease their anti-LGBTQ+ bigotries.
None of these statements are wrong, but they are all still misguided. To center the benefits to people who are already in a position of immense privilege is to miss the point altogether.
Ultimately, I feel that it is sad that helping trans people for trans people’s sake is so much less common than advocating for improvement with the message that, “See?! It will help cis people, too!”
The unfortunate truth is that 21st-century Americans live in a time and place where being a trans person comes with significant risks. The statistics surrounding rates of underemployment, difficulty accessing empathetic medical care, homelessness, suicide, discrimination, hate crimes, and murder for trans folks are heart wrenching and infuriating (particularly for trans women of color). The statements made by members of the current U.S. administration regarding trans erasure are terrifying, particularly given the long history of support for LGBTQ+ discrimination and discredited conversion therapies by the current vice president.
When it comes right down to it, providing a safe and celebratory space for queer and trans people is literally life saving.
That is truly not an exaggeration.
To provide a space for marginalized folks to be celebrated as their true selves while helping them discover their strength can be the difference between despair and empowerment. And, in my humble opinion, there are few things more incredible than an empowered, flourishing trans person who knows their deep, intrinsic worth.
Will that help cis people? Sure. But my hope is that the benefit to trans people can, one day, be enough of an argument for the validity of these changes.
Are you an individual who wants to learn what it’s like to train with a truly trans-celebratory trainer (online or in person)? Are you a gym owner who is interested in making your facility more welcoming to LGBTQ+ folks? Contact me through https://www.positiveforcemovement.org/ and let me know how I can help!