Lena Mackay lifts a barrel full of water, with ease. She has been training for nine months at Every Body Stronger, a small gym in Inglewood.
Mackay, 23, is a transgender woman from Calgary and said she started training after hitting a wall on her transition journey.
“I was actually denied funding for bottom surgery because I was over their BMI limit. Theirs was 40 and I had a BMI of 40.2,” said Makai.
Ace Rodriguez is his trainer. Rodriguez recently graduated from Mount Royal University’s personal trainer diploma program and identifies as non-binary. It’s something they say immediately appealed to LGBTQ customers.
“I’m so happy to be able to support queer people who are looking for trainers like me because I feel like we have an understanding that doesn’t need to be told,” they said.
One example, Rodriguez said, is of a client who didn’t want to work his lower body because he didn’t want to have curves.
“Because it would trigger some gender dysphoria, and there’s a lot of that notion in this community,” Rodriguez said.
For Mackay, what draws her to training with Rodriguez is the vulnerability she feels.
“I don’t have to worry about anybody, you know, peeking or anything,” she said. “It’s just a nice environment and everything feels good.”
Rodriguez said there’s a lot of trauma in the LGBTQ community when it comes to exercise and gym culture.
It’s something Geoff Starling quickly realized after hiring Rodriguez. Starling focuses its business on helping people who face barriers to traditional fitness spaces due to their size or abilities, but has never considered the barriers faced by the LGBTQ community.
“It was pure ignorance to this community on my part, but as soon as that light bulb was turned on, of course there are obstacles, of course there are challenges and that’s not OK” , said Starling.
Rodriguez said he was lucky working with Starling
“Geoff is amazing and I would like more cis[gender] coaches to try to understand queer people better — and really try to create that inclusion,” said Rodriguez, who is working on setting up his own business — an LGBTQ-focused gym called TRNS FRM.
“My goal is to bring joy back to movement,” they said. “And for people to connect with their bodies.”