Overcoming Barriers to Trans and Queer fitness

Inclusivity is one of GFW Clothing's basic principles and we want our blog to celebrate those who are creating a voice and a safe space for people, whether in the arts, sports or workplace. Here is the first in this series from Alix, who modeled our 'no labels' boxer shorts in our recent shoot. When not being a fantastic model, Alix is a part time trainer and this is their view on how to create safe spaces in the gym.

By Alix Coe

I’ve been working as a personal trainer within the trans / queer community in Brighton since the summer of 2018. During these six months I’ve already had such an incredible time with this job, but I’ve also had to struggle through a lot of nonsense too.

When I decided to work in fitness it was my intention to only work with other trans people. Exercise helped me to power through a lot of the issues that are connected to my gender, and I wanted to share this experience with people with similar struggles.

Although it was originally my intention to only work with other trans people, I unexpectedly started getting enquiries from queer cis-men who have had bad experiences with super masc cis-male trainers in the past.

Queer cis-women who have had uncomfortable experiences with personal trainers also reached out to me, and I was surprised at just how much of a need there is for queer people in the fitness world.

There are several barriers for trans and queer people who want to enjoy fitness and (in my opinion) a lot of these barriers are created by the other people in exercise environments.

Gym Spaces

I currently train my clients at Eco Gym in Kemp Town. This is a fairly quiet gym with a large LGBTQ+ member base and a clear trans-inclusive policy. However, in typical gyms this isn’t generally the case. Trans and gender non-conforming people often have the issue of navigating changing rooms and toilets - largely only made difficult by the other people using these spaces.

Although my gym is a friendly place it’s by no means perfect. The changing rooms are still divided by binary gender, as are the toilets. This leaves some of my clients, including several non-binary people, with no discomfort-free place to change. These people mostly come to the gym dressed ready to exercise and leave as they arrived.

Since I started working at this gym last November, my manager moved some of the lockers from the changing rooms out onto the gym floor, so that anyone who doesn’t wish to enter a changing room can still store their belongings safely. To him this probably seemed like a small gesture, but I know that it makes a huge difference to a handful of my clients. He also honoured my request to put a sanitary disposal bin in the men’s toilet - another small gesture which can make a big difference to someone’s day.

My Personal Training Journey

When I was starting to get into fitness I looked around Brighton for a personal trainer to help me. I knew I didn’t want to train with a cis-man and I was also specifically looking for a vegan personal trainer.

I found only one person who ticked both of these boxes. When discussing my goals with this trainer I explained that I was on testosterone and that my fitness goals at the time were primarily to do with trying to shift my body fat around (testosterone hadn’t been the magic fix that I thought it would be). She was quite upfront in that she had no experience of working with trans people and I quit after just one session.

I eventually discovered an amazing organisation called Trans Can Sport and started going along to their free / donation based exercise classes. I began to feel much better about myself, and my body, and I loved being able to exercise with a small group of other trans people. I went on to have some private personal training sessions with the organisations co-founder Marquita Smith and my interest in fitness continued to evolve.

I completed my first ever 5km run at a Trans Can Sport running session last year, and this past weekend I completed the Brighton Half-Marathon. If it wasn’t for this organisation I can’t imagine I would have ever found the motivation to get started with running alone.

I’ve been told that I don’t look like a personal trainer, and although this might go against me in the wider fitness world, I feel that my appearance helps my clients to feel comfortable when we train together.

I have never asked a client why they choose to train with me as opposed to someone better qualified, but if I had to guess I would say it’s because we share a lived experience - even if our experience of being trans is entirely different. It’s my long-term dream to create a physical space where queer and trans people can exercise, free from the restraints that conventional gyms will likely always present. 

Finding Balance

I love to exercise but I also love to eat, and I’d choose ice cream over abs any day. For me, exercise is about balancing my mental health and spending my time doing something that makes me feel good. I’ve been sober for just over three years, and I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t have been able to stay alcohol-free as long as I have if I hadn’t found fitness.

A word about 'no labels' boxers

Alix, fitness instructor to the queer community

I love the 'no labels' pants because they're such a great fit for my body, which is something that isn't always easy for me with boxers. I try to avoid pants with the pouch at the front or with buttons because I have no use for these features and they make me feel weird! So the 'no labels' pants are perfect for me. I also love the way that they are numbered instead of using conventional sizes.

I think the whole concept of gendered clothing is just totally unnecessary, and doesn't fit at all with all of the different shapes and sizes that all genders come in. 



Accessible Fitness

I try to make my personal training as accessible as possible by offering it on a sliding scale basis, and I have found that the people with the means to pay at the top end of my price range have been honest and generous with doing so. This has meant that it’s feasible for me to take on more clients who pay at the lower end of the scale.

In addition to my gym based personal training, I also offer online coaching and nutrition advice. So if you’re interested in what I’m doing then please feel free to get in touch via my website. You can also catch me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!







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