Welcoming every body: UF Trans Health + Wellness Initiative partners with RecSports to provide students with ‘Gym 101’

The gym can be intimidating at first, especially for queer students confronted with gendered spaces. So UF’s Trans Health + Wellness Initiative tries to make it easier.

“Everyone has a right to be in fitness spaces,” UF applied physiology and kinesiology third-year and THWI president Dahlia Wrubluski said.

THWI hopes to provide queer students with the tools they might need to start their fitness journey free from stigma and social barriers. On Oct. 4, the club hosted a meeting in collaboration with RecSports to provide students with an introduction to gym facilities and exercise techniques. 

THWI started last Spring and has hosted events promoting open conversations about what health and wellness mean to the transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming communities.

Wrubluski said THWI’s main purpose is to “deprioritize looks in fitness” and create a space where students can break down the unspoken cis-normative nature of fitness culture and feel comfortable engaging in physical activity.    

UF English freshman Miles Wasser, who identifies as non-binary, explained that the gym environment heavily relies on gender roles and often alienates those who fall outside of the gender binary.

“It really does not feel welcoming to anyone is isn’t cis-presenting,” Wasser said. “It’s not just focusing on aspects of your body and how you’re moving, it’s also analyzing ‘am I moving in a way that looks more masculine or feminine?’”

THWI hopes to assist queer students in their fitness activities by educating about gym resources and creating safe spaces where they can exercise with a sense of safety and confidence.

“I realized there was a need for trans-inclusive health that goes beyond reproductive and hormonal health and focuses on holistic preventative health, and exercise, fitness and wellness are some of the things that are central to preventative health,” Wrubluski said.

The meeting was surrounded by a sense of community within the attendees. The close-knit group met in Little Hall and had an open conversation about why fitness matters in the queer community. 

“What we tried to do was put together a presentation that would be inclusive enough to be able to accommodate any needs and hopefully break down barriers,” Cory Bennett, RecSport’s fitness programs assistant director, said. 

The meeting covered “Gym 101,” which included basic gym etiquette, general body mechanics and how to overcome the initial anxiety of going into a gym space for the first time. 

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Transgender patients find health care on Rutgers student’s app

Imagine checking in for an appointment with your primary care doctor, and you notice your forms show the wrong gender marker. You might feel confused, hurt, question how well your doctor knows you or how to offer you proper care. 

Transgender, nonbinary and other gender diverse people fear instances like this when they seek health care, like a nurse calling their wrong name or receiving incorrect treatment because of their outdated gender marker. Finding providers who know how to treat non-cisgender people would be ideal, but that’s not a simple feat.

Typing key words for transgender-affirming care in a search engine calls up LGBTQ-specific providers. It’s more difficult to find everyday health care services, like dentists or primary care doctors, who respect and understand gender diverse patients.

Creators behind an upcoming app, TranZap, want to make that search simpler for gender diverse people seeking care. 

Gender-affirming providers are not only doctors who perform plastic surgeries or administer hormone replacement therapy. They’re doctors, nurses, front desk staff and everyone in a medical office who know how to respectfully care for gender diverse patients. 

Second year Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student Taylor Chiang is beta testing TranZap, an app that allows transgender people to review healthcare providers as a way to help other trans people find medical professionals who respect their identities. Chiang developed the app concept and is pictured with their mentor, Dr. Gloria Bachmann, a professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Associate Dean for Women Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Some resources exist that help transgender people find plastic surgeons or endocrinologists who affirm people’s gender physically. Taylor Chiang, a second year student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School who came up with TranZap, wants people to find “gender-affirming [providers] to get regular old routine care.”

“A big barrier to health care is being afraid that you’re going to be discriminated against or not knowing information,” Chiang said. “Whether or not a primary care provider is gender-affirming, that information is lacking.”

Transgender people face a high risk of physical and mental health problems, but are “consistently and systemically underserved by the American medical system,” a Center for American Progress report reads. Some 62% of transgender respondents said they worried about being judged based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in health care settings, according to TransPop survey results.

Second year Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student Taylor Chiang, not pictured, is beta testing TranZap, an app that allows transgender people to review healthcare providers as a way to help other trans people find medical professionals who respect their identities.

Chiang experienced uncomfortable conversations surrounding their identity in health care settings before. They typically searched for providers who accepted their insurance, or heard about affirming providers via word of mouth. Sometimes, they “risked” the provider lacking knowledge about caring for and talking to transgender and gay patients. 

They had connections to transgender people seeking similar care, but they wondered about gender diverse people who didn’t have that community, who struggled to find health care. That

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