In fitness, many people in the LGBTQI+ community still feel far from equal access to opportunities both as athletes and coaches. We have seen massive strides towards equality and embarrassed shuffles away from it in the sport and fitness world. Nearly 90% of LGBTQ people in 2019 believed that homophobia and transphobia remain current problems in sport, and 73% of LGB and straight people think it is not safe for LGB people to come out to others in youth sport environments.
"For many people in the LGBTQI+ community, the nightclub is a place of comfort and safety. For me, that's how I view the gym. That's how I view fitness. It's always felt comfortable and safe for me, and it's kind of always been there when a lot of people in my life haven't." So OUT-FIT founder, Todd (he/him), tells us. OUT-FIT was created with the mission of encouraging athletes to achieve extraordinary physical goals while maintaining mental health and promoting social equality. Now, with an ever-growing online community of like-minded athletes and coaches, its movement is reaching across the globe.
Visibility is crucial to this mission. "It is so much more challenging to say, "you don't deserve the same rights I have," when you know a person than to talk about an idea without a connection. So straight people knowing people that belong to our community is of the highest importance." Todd and the coaches work tirelessly to create accessible content online and inclusive offline events.
But, it doesn't stop there. Their range of apparel helps the community show their pride year-round and start the conversation without even having to open their mouths. "There's over 8,000 pieces of apparel out there and 30 people in a typical gym class. So, each one of those shirts is going to be seen by a quarter of a million people.”
Creating your community
You might not be looking to start a company, but you should always strive to create inclusive spaces. We asked the OUT-FIT community what they think are the most important steps that need to be taken to ensure everyone gets the chance to reach their full potential.
Show acceptance every day. "When I started seeing coaches in school, or teachers even, they have like little safe space signs. Anything from a small rainbow on a team's banner or any cues here and there that are normalizing it, makes it feel safe and accepting." – Andrea (she/her), OUT-FIT Athlete
Be aware of harmful stereotypes. "It's very important for people not to have any assumptions about their capabilities, their interests, what we're able to do... It seems like it should be self-explanatory that we're athletic, where you can move around heavy weights, but I think that there are some misconceptions about how competitive and strong we are. Regardless of how we identify among the spectrum, like, that doesn't have any bearing on what we are capable of physically and what we should be able to participate in regardless of our gender or sexual orientation status." – Aaron (he/him), OUT-FIT Athlete
Celebrate each other. "Especially at this point, I feel most rewarded when people are clapping for each other. I love that. I think that's amazing, and I think that's just something we really strive for here." – Cole (he/him), OUT-FIT Head Coach Brooklyn
Be more human. "It doesn't matter if I'm coaching someone from OUT-FIT or I'm coaching someone who's not a member of that community. Everybody needs to put their arm over their head the same way. So I'm going to coach them the same way. And we're going to teach that motor pattern the same way. I think that it's important as a coach not to treat someone differently just because they're a part of LGBTQI+." – Sara (she/her), OUT-FIT Coach
Create the future you want to see
"It used to just be about survival. People tell you it's going to get better. And that's right. But when you don't have life experience, it's almost impossible to envision that being possible."
On is committed to making sport a more inclusive and accessible space. That's why we’re supporting new athletes looking to join OUT-FIT's 8-week in-person fundamentals program. It will open the door to those looking to attend OUT-FIT events but lack basic movement training. In 2021, 48 new athletes across NYC's boroughs will have 50% of their course covered for this 100% unmissable experience.
The world and our industry are changing. With communities like OUT-FIT, many more people can be encouraged to reach their highest potential and own their identity with pride. "I always thought it was more than a safe space. Anytime you come to an OUT-FIT event, there are no issues, which sounds obvious, but I don't think there has ever been an issue – it's fitness first. We don't really care about anything else as long as everyone is respectful of everybody else." Everyone deserves their chance on the podium.