Being a queer woman at the gym is a lose-lose situation.
If you’re femme, then you’ll have to keep looking over your shoulder, ready to defend against “well-meaning” (read: creepy) straight men who think the gym is a great place to cruise for women. There are only so many times you can say, “Stop correcting my form, Chad, and no, I don’t want to see you flex or do 100 pushups and please stop watching me run on the treadmill” before it gets old.
If you’re more masculine presenting, men often don’t know what to do with you. Some see you as a threat to their masculinity and get angry. Dealing with constant harassment and staring is exhausting.
Nathalie Huerta is sick of it.
The Oakland, California resident was tired of turning the wrong heads at the gym. She says:
I grew up in the gym and when I was more feminine, I only dealt with the general gym creeper dudes. Yet, the minute I cut my hair and ditched the makeup, things got weird in the locker room (women hiding from me) and in the weight room (pissing contest with dudes).
So she opened LGBT-only facility The Queer Gym in 2010. It currently has 150 members and is expected to reach 175 by the middle of 2017, at which point it will open new locations.
The Queer Gym aims to be a place, first and foremost, where LGBT people can work out in safety. Huerta says, “How can you think about getting healthy if you’re worried about getting jumped or sexually assaulted in the locker room?”
Yes, hookups do occur – with lots of attractive queer ladies and lots of adrenaline, what do you expect? – but that’s not the point of the gym. Huerta envisions a place where queer women can feel good about themselves and focus on their own wellbeing.
Working out at The Queer Gym is more than a chore. It’s a community. Some of the people who’ve met at her gym have even gotten married.