5 Tips to Make Your Fitness Space More Affirming & Accessible

Posted by Ilya Parker on

This is information is for anyone who is interested in becoming more affirming and inclusive as a Fitness/Movement Practitioner.

Before I get into to sharing some tips please know that: I don’t speak for every trans and queer person in this world.

Although I’ve encountered lots of obstacles  because of my identity, I want to name that it is a luxury for me to be heard when so many of my kindred are brutally erased – with their stories left untold. The work I do is dedicated to the ancestors who continuously illuminate my path – my comrades and those who’ve transitioned out of this world remaining unnamed. I will use my words to lift up the trans and queer folks who suffer in silence. I see you and I honor your struggle.

Remember that erasure equals violence. When you never see folks who look, sound, and move like you. You think you are abnormal...society reinforces this and then you internalize the hatred that is extended towards you. People who don’t share your lived experiences isolate themselves in their little bubbles and think the world works for everyone as it does them.
Mainstream society doesn’t care to have representations of what bodies look and move like in fitness spaces; beyond a cisgender heterosexual binary based framework.

Folks see us and interact with us daily yet pretend we don’t exist. Many trainers aren’t aware of nor do they care to provide trans affirming services to their clients. Lots of trainers will also intentionally exclude trans/non binary folks in their practice. Or attempt to restrict how we show up in the world. I understand that those of us most marginalized have been removed from our bodies thru the violence enacted on us daily by the state and due to the historical trauma we carry.

However, we as much as anyone deserve to realign with our bodies...to move freely in our bodies to love our bodies in ways that feel safe and comfortable to us. I have embedded in my fitness practice a grassroots community based healing justice framework which seeks to affirm all bodies no matter the race, gender identity/expression, size, age, ability etc.
My ultimate goals is to help decolonize toxic fitness and diet culture. To reimagine and redefine what health and fitness can be like within communities who truly support this.

As a Fitness or Movement Instructor this is where YOU come in!

Because we need Fitness/Movement instructors who are open in learning how to work with various populations and who take the necessary steps to make sure they provide their clients with optimal services to support their unique needs.

We need trainers to respect & honor pronouns and educate themselves on how body/gender dysphoria can show up in each individual.

We need practicioners to provide safe and supportive environments where all clients feel cared for and respected.

We DON’T need folks projecting their limited view of what bodies should look and move like. As a trainer it is your duty to check your personal biases and be mindful of how your biases manifest into discrimination.


Tip 1. Start Using Gender Neutral Terminology:
It is not always possible to know a person’s gender identity based on their name, appearance, or the sound of their voice. Of course we think gender has a “look” as we often assume and assign gender to folks without their consent. This is the case for all people, and not just trans and gender non-con- forming people. When referring to new clients or folks you don’t know, you may accidentally use the wrong name or pronouns, causing embarrassment, anger, or distress. One way to prevent this mistake is by addressing people—both in person and on the phone—without using any terms that indicate a gender.
Instead of asking, “How may I help you, sir?” you can simply ask, “How may I help you?” You can also avoid using “Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms.” by calling someone by their first name. It’s always best to greet groups using genderless terms such as: Friends, family, folks, guests etc.

The Use of PRONOUNS: One way to find out folks pronouns is start with you first: “Hi I’m Keisha, my pronouns are she/ her / hers nice to meet you.” This prompts folks to tell you theirs.  


Tip 2. Create an Environment of Accountability:

Don’t be afraid to politely correct other folks in your space if they use the wrong names and pronouns, or if they make rude comments. Creating an environment of accountability and respect requires everyone to work together it also encourages an environment of safety.

Tip 3. Speak with trans clients just as you speak with all of your clients and avoid asking unnecessary questions:

Some people are curious about what it means to be transgender; some will want to ask questions. However, like everyone else, trans people want to keep their personal lives private. You are there to provide a service not to ask them invasive and disrespectful questions. Before asking a trans person a personal question, first ask yourself: Is this question necessary for the service I am providing or am I asking it out of my own curiosity? If it is out of your own curiosity, it is not appropriate to ask. Think instead about: What do I know? What do I need to know? How can I ask for the information I need to know in a sensitive way?

Tip 4. Be intentional:

Make sure you are intentional in providing inclusive visual representation of folks with varying size, ability, gender, race etc in your marketing material. Seeing thoughtful and beautiful images of people who look like me in a space almost immediately makes me feel welcomed.

Tip 5. Be specific about the access that you are or are not providing.

Is your space:

Wheelchair accessible (with accessible bathrooms) Scent & fragrance free, equipped  with easy to see Signs, Non Slip Surfaces? Can anyone regardless of socioeconomic status utilize your space or afford your services?


Do you offer sliding scale rates, scholarships or free training for marginalized folks to participate?


Are you consulting with individuals and organizations in your local trans, queer and disability communities about how you can provide better access to these populations. If not; reach out! You’d be surprised on the ways you can plug in and support. Also as a minimum provide gender neutral bathrooms and locker room  options. This can be done by simply changing the signs on the bathroom door to more neutral terminology. 


If you’d like to learn ways to provide more affirming and accessible spaces for folks...while supporting a trans person of color in the process please considering purchase this awesome manual HERE. It’s well worth the small investment! 


Free Updates for life are included with all of my training material!


Thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope you found it helpful. 


In Warmest Solidarity,

Ilya Parker- LPTA, CMES

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