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For many, the gym is an unwelcoming environment. The focus on diets and “beach bodies” can make some feel isolated. And for those who don’t identify with the traditional gender binary, things can be even more burdensome. For instance, transgender women have to navigate gym locker rooms with caution. Parker Molloy, a trans woman, tries to avoid locker rooms altogether. Sometimes this means going home without working out. “I've never put on or taken off an article of clothing in my gym's locker room nor do I plan on it anytime soon,” she writes for Upworthy. Like many other trans people, Molloy fears being physically attacked if she were outed in such a space.

Liberation Barbell, a new gym in Portland, looks to change this. Started by Lacy Davis and Christina Cabrales, the gym operates under feminist and LGBTQ+ friendly principles – including individual changing rooms and restrooms so that no one, regardless of their gender identity, will feel threatened or intimidated.

Davis began her coaching business, ironically, because she wasn’t very athletic growing up. She was often teased for her lack of coordination. She credits this type of mockery as one of the reasons she developed an eating disorder in her 20s. After her recovery, she realized she could work out to get strong, instead of thin.

Davis advertised herself as a feminist trainer simply because she was a feminist-identified person. Because of this, she was able to garner many clients, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. She promised to never talk about diets or “bikini bodies,” and even donated proceeds from the workouts to causes such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter. Soon, it became clear to her that there was a huge demand for this type of training and that it was a job for more than just one person. After pairing with Cabrales, the duo began working to open Liberation Barbell, an intersectional feminism-focused gym, coming this April.

Though the gym’s budget is small at the moment, Davis plans to hire a diverse group of trainers, including people of color, queer and trans-identifying folks and even trainers who self-identify as fat.

Classes that will be offered include strength and conditioning classes (classes with an emphasis on barbell lifting with a short cardio burst at the end), powerlifting specific classes (all lifting, all the time) and yoga. Davis soon hopes to expand the class options to better suit clients’ needs.

Every Sunday, Liberation Barbell will be hosting benefit workouts. Half of the proceeds from these classes will go to good causes. “If we're not putting our money where our politics go, what are we doing?” Davis says. “We feel passionately that we can use some of our earnings to make political and social change and so when we can make it happen, we do it.”

“The body positive movement has really been co-opted and watered down (many people now market themselves as ‘body positive weight loss coaches’ – no thanks),” Davis explains. “We are very certain that our gym needs to contain no diet talk or weight stigma, that our queer, fat, transgender and PoC clients need to feel extremely safe and welcome, that competition and cattiness should be deeply discouraged, that all trainers need to constantly be willing to grow and change with the feedback we get – not just in terms of their coaching, but also with their language. These are all huge political concepts that most gyms never think of.”

So if you’re in the Portland area, check out Liberation Barbell! And here’s hoping other gyms will soon follow their lead.


Top Image Courtesy of Lacy Davis


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