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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