Trans* Guide to (Socially) Navigating the Gym
This is a newcomer’s guide to the gym from a social perspective, focused on the trans* experience. This is not a workout program.
This guide draws upon my own FTM experiences, feel free to add your own experiences.
Disclaimer: I live in a diverse city and go to a left-leaning university. My circumstances could be drastically different from yours. Use your best judgement.
The Locker Room
- Bring a friend (who you’re out to) along, they can affirm or stand up for your identity if anyone questions your presence.
- Rarely is anyone looking at you while changing, especially in male locker rooms. Find a nice little corner and face the walls, or go to a stall to change. You’d be surprised at how many cis people do the same. I’ve changed tshirts in the locker room while wearing a binder tank after 4 months on T without any problems.
- You can also try changing in a bathroom that has less traffic first, then walk to the gym. If the weather is cold, wear a hoodie or sweats on top, then take it off at the gym.
- Avoid going at peak hours if you are uncomfortable, it is more likely that you’ll have to change in close proximity with others.
- Avoid changing next to old people. They are very comfortable nude and will strike up conversations randomly.
- I have never showered at the gym, but bring a towel to dry off my sweat, and deodorant to keep the scents fresh.
- I find boxers to be easier than boxer briefs. If I’m wearing briefs, I either pack, or find a really good corner without people. Packing is personally uncomfortable after a especially hard session, due to shifting and sweating. Boxers sort of hide everything, and I feel comfortable standing in them for a bit to cool off.
The Gym (mostly the weight room)
- You are NOT the only person who doesn’t know how every equipment works. You can:
- Ask a staff for help
- Watch YouTube before your workout. I sometimes pull up exercise videos during my workout to check how a machine works because I’m too introverted.
- If you don’t like to talk to other people and want to avoid chit-chats:
- Stare at the equipment as if you’re formulating your workout plan
- Bring headphones.
- If someone is at an equipment you want to use, you can ask them “how many sets do you have left”, which means how many more repeats of the exercise they will be doing. A common etiquette is to let you use the machine right after, if you’re hanging around. Be courteous and give the other person room to finish their workout.
- Don’t walk between mirrors and the people training in front of it.
- It’s ok to not like looking in your image in the mirror if it triggers dysphoria, but still try to make sure you are performing the exercises correctly by bringing a friend along to form check.
- You are not weak. Everyone starts somewhere. The huge guy in the corner? He was once a lanky teenager. It takes immense dedication and discipline to reach the level you see in the media.