As someone who just joined the Allegheny YMCA the month before last, I was extremely surprised when I was asked to share my Y story. My journey at the Allegheny YMCA may have just recently began, but my experiences with attempting physical fitness have been going on for as long as I can remember. You see, as a nonbinary, transgender person, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find where I fit in the world of gyms and athletics. 99% of the time, I feel so overwhelmed and potentially unsafe when I think about going somewhere to work out that I never make it off the couch. The Allegheny YMCA is my 1%- there have been days where I’ve gone not once, but twice in a single day. If that doesn’t show how comfortable I am there, I’m not sure what does.
When my wife became a member last fall, she reported back that there were gender neutral restrooms at the Y. This was the very first sign that I had a shot at feeling comfortable here. For me, someone who identifies as neither male nor female, it starts with having a physical space that I can change or use the restroom. When we found out about the community classes that CrossFit War Streets offered each Saturday in January, it solidified my motivation to give this place a shot.
Not only does my gender factor into my motivation to work out, but my physical abilities factor in as well. From the very first class at CrossFit War Streets, I knew whatever I could or could not accomplish was a non-issue. It is simply a community of people coming together to accomplish whatever it is they are able to accomplish that day, and to make sure that no one has to do that alone if they don’t want to. From day one, Erica provided modifications without thinking twice- something that may come naturally to her, but it makes all the difference for people, like me, who are already feeling less than confident during a workout.
Part of my physical limitations can certainly be chalked up to a period of inactivity on my part, but my recovery from a recent gender-affirming surgery plays into things as well. When I spoke to Erica about my recovery, I was only expecting a few recommendations on stretches to do, or maybe even just to be referred to an outside source to seek more help. That goes to prove that I was just getting to know Erica. Not only did she give me a few actionable items right away, but she also took it upon herself to begin meeting with me weekly to continue building my range of motion and strength.
The opportunities that the Allegheny YMCA has provided me are beyond my wildest dreams. Each and every staff member displays a passion that cannot be duplicated. I have been consistently affirmed and respected in every facet of my identity. And most importantly, I have been able to experience all of these things at a rate that fits with the extremely limited budget of a current student teacher. In merely three months, the Allegheny YMCA has changed my life.