If all you read were headlines about powerlifting, you’d think there’s no place left for transgender athletes and allies who only want what every lifter wants: to train hard and not be questioned for who you are, who you love, or how you live.
But you’d be wrong.
For example, there’s The Movement Minneapolis Gym, Solcana Fitness and other queer-friendly gyms in the greater Minneapolis region. As Outsports has reported, 14 powerlifters from those gyms took part in a protest of the USA Powerlifting ban on trans athletes in February. USAPL denies it is a ban; organizers call it their “transgender participation policy,” which doesn’t allow trans people to participate. No, really.
Then there’s Lawrence Scott and Matt Blankenberger of Rockwell Barbell in Chicago. Scott is the owner and Blankenberger is the gym’s vice president. They are among at least a dozen gym operators nationwide who not only welcome all powerlifters, but they’re investing in transgender-inclusive efforts, like the Women’s Strength Coalition.
The LGBTQ organization is raising money nationwide for a series of powerlifting meets called Pull for Pride, as well as a variety of other LGBTQ causes. And according to a recent article by a nonprofit news site, Chicago leads all other locales in fundraising.
The city was the first to reach a goal of $10K, and as of May 19 had raised a record $11,703 for Project Fierce Chicago, a grassroots organization that supports homeless queer youth.
Pull for Pride Chicago takes place at Rockwell Barbell on June 8 with 60 powerlifters taking part.
“People are realizing what Pull for Pride is and we’re getting powerlifting out there, which is great,” said Blankenberger, who is gay. “That alone proves we’re doing something here at Rockwell.”
BlockClubChicago profiled Blankenberger and Scott, their gym and their work in supporting the LGBTQ lifting community.
“Fitness is tricky for all humans, and there’s toxicity in terms of how we talk about it,” trans lifter Ricki Proper told reporter Jake Wittich. She started training there four years ago prior to beginning her medical transition. She said at first she was “super-intimidated because they’re so hard core.”
What she found instead was a welcoming atmosphere, including bathrooms open to all genders. “There’s safety here, and it’s so nice to as a queer person, walk into a space and feel fine,” Proper said.
“You don’t have to scan the room or be on guard. You can use the bathroom without the risk of somebody telling you you’re using the wrong bathroom. You can just have fun and live your life.”
“What I love about Rockwell is we don’t care what your gender is, who you’re sexually attracted to or about the shape of your body,” Proper said. “We’re just about working hard and strength.”
Find out about other inclusive gyms and the Pull for Pride events they’re hosting in Atlanta, Boise, Brooklyn, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland, Richmond, Seattle and Hamilton, Ontario by clicking here.
Editor’s Note: An erroneous report mischaracterized the ownership hierarchy of Rockwell Barbell gym. Scott is the sole owner and Blankenberger is the gym’s vice president. We’ve updated our report to reflect the correct information. We regret the error.