CrossFit: Finding Safety as a Transgender Athlete
“Inclusivity: the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.”
Read it again; “the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.” When tasked with sharing what Pride month means to me, I could only think of one thing; creating awareness for the lack of inclusivity in our world for the LGBTQ+ community. I didn’t understand the depth of how much work needed to be done until I started to experience first-hand the lack of resources, language, safety, etc for myself and others who identity in this community.
I first came out to my family and friends in 2015 as being in a same-sex relationship. It was astounding the amount of people who suddenly had a great deal of opinions about our life and felt they had a “responsibility” to express them. It seemed that no one really cared about our well-being but was more concerned about having their own opinions and feelings validated.
My wife and I will always preface our journey by saying we are NOT the norm. We have been so incredibly blessed by family members who have embraced us for who we are; and have worked hard to educate themselves on how to best support and advocate for us. The mere fact of having both sides of our core family members stand by us is a blessing we will never take for granted.
I came out again (YIPEE…) as a transgender male in 2018 and began my medical transition in January of 2019. Over the past 2 years I’ve learned to love myself and have confidence in who I am; in a way that I had never experienced before. Simultaneously, I was experiencing other things for the first time as well; being kicked out of public places, denied participation in church, unwanted sexual jokes, gestures, and harassment in the workplace, lack of access to medical care, and truly fearing for my safety in certain situations.
In August of 2019 I had gender affirmation top surgery. This procedure was the most freeing my body and mind have ever felt. I remember deciding that now was the time to start over physically. Depression had led me to overeating, ZERO exercise, and other unhealthy patterns in my life. I Googled gyms in my area and M4G just so happened to be about 4 minutes from my home at the time. I reached out to Tristan, Becky, and Angie and knew I wanted to be upfront and transparent about who I am and how I identify since I had previously had extremely degrading and unsafe experiences at another gym facility. In my email, I asked about whether this would be a safe and welcoming environment; Tristan emailed me back that same day with these words: “Of course! Thank you so much for opening up and sharing that! I can’t imagine this has been easy, and for that I am sorry. I hope we can change that for you.” And from that moment on my Bromance with Tristan began… when did it happen for you? (Sidenote: this should totally be a Question of the Day… just saying).
I came to M4G for on-ramp with zero ability to do ANYTHING overhead or strenuous to the upper body due to my recent surgery. Kaden and Tristan adapted everything and found ways to teach me all of the foundational movements even through my limitations. Over the next several months each of the M4G coaches worked hard to help me recover safely, build strength, and provide education. This was the very first community of people I had introduced myself to in which no one had known me as female or while using my previous pronouns. I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how welcoming everyone was. I couldn’t believe how safe I felt. I could now hobble out to the parking lot and sit on my bumper catching my breath (as one should after a workout) – instead of having to jog out to my car and immediately lock the doors afraid that someone might follow me out as I had previously done at other gyms.
I am a faithful member of the “Crack-O-Dawn Crew” (5:30AM) and would be remised if I didn’t give them their own personal shoutout. Joining this WILD group of people was like coming home to family you didn’t know you had; and dang was I missing this in my life. To my 530/630 family; y’all have let me be ME. You’ve opened the door and allowed me to be visible, proud, and confident. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve yelled profanities, cheered each other on, given sweaty hugs, eaten waffles, drank margaritas, and shattered goals. I will forever be grateful to each one of you for the diverse and integral role you play in my life.
(I’m almost done I promise! Hang in there – this last piece is important!) As we experience and talk about Pride month and see the increased visible markers of support to the LGBTQ+ community by corporate and local businesses, media, and other platforms. I urge you to do your research and hold these stakeholders accountable for not only showing a visible marker during the month of June, but taking real action to enrich the lives and provide resources to the LGBTQ+ community.
Hear this: I have NEVER felt unsafe at M4G CrossFit – outside of my home, I can truthfully say there is no other place that I feel that way.Sydney
M4G, in my experience and opinion, has created one of the most inclusive, loving, and caring communities that I have ever been a part of. Thank you for allowing me to be visible, thank you for taking action to support my family and others in the LGBTQ+ community, and thank you for creating a safe and inclusive space in which I can learn and grow; because I have been Made For Greatness.