I recently came out as someone who does AND enjoys Crossfit.
I have NEVER before in my life enjoyed any sort of physical activity. I have literally given away hundreds of dollars to gyms through unused memberships (thirty dollars a month adds up), attempted and promptly given up periods of “running” (that shit is free and horrible), focused only on cardio when I did get my ass to the gym, and mostly felt uncomfortable and directionless when trying to engage in any type of exercise.
I wasn’t raised to be active. My family didn’t put a premium on sports or sweating, and as a person socialized “Female,” I certainly don’t recall encouragement from society at large. Encouragement to be thin, yes- but through dieting and based solely on impossible aesthetic standards with absolutely zero regard for my physical health. My parents (all four of them) are the academic type and encouraged me to get good grades and expand my vocabulary. Which is great- I use the word Superfluous in casual conversation all the time. But for most of my life I didn’t understand the value of feeling myself in my body- which can be done in many ways, one of them being through any sort of god damn physical activity.
You know what happens when you never learn to feel yourself inside your body? Tons of bad shit, and for me it includes dissociation, and lots of anxiety. Of all types! The acute kind, the daily kind, the kind related to flying, the kind that leads to IBS, the kind that causes me to ruin lots of relationships, the kind that leaves me feeling lost, groundless, and depressed. I’ve tried lots of ways to treat this anxiety- meditation, diet, staring at the ocean, therapy, getting a dog, quitting coffee- and all of these helped. But it always felt like I would get a momentary leg up on the anxiety, finally finding a fix!, and then I would deal with a hard day at work or a flight and it would all unravel, leaving me feeling like I was taking two huge steps backwards.
For a few different reasons though, I decided to try Crossfit about 5 months ago. There was a lot that lead up to this decision, but mostly it was because my gf suggested I try it so many times that I figured even working out would be worth shutting her up.
Aside from being extremely against all physical activity (read: intimidated) I thought Crossfit seemed, well, dumb. I was put off by how much people who do Crossfit talk about Crossfit (what do vegan crossfitters talk about first?), and I had a hard time admitting that there was something else out there, something super basic and elemental such as the habit of exercise, that could help with my anxiety. Sometimes, as much as we suffer from our pain, we learn to identify with it. We think it IS us, and all that we deserve, and to lose it would be too big a relief, that it would throw the Earth off its axis and the universe would find itself unbalanced. Or maybe I am just dramatic, but I have felt so stuck in my anxiety, its hard to think of a world beyond it. Of myself without my old friend, as abusive and manipulative a friend as she is.
I could have of course tried any sort of physical activity, but this was what was being suggested to me. In February the opportunity for a super affordable month long foundations course at a gym run by PoC and queers arose, so I signed up. The class met every M, W and Th at 8am for one hour and we would stretch, go over some of the different movements you find at most Crossfit gyms, and then end with a metabolic conditioning session. And that shit was HARD. During the first week I cursed in my head the whole hour and thought to myself, I will finish up this month and then call it quits on Crossfit FOREVER.
During the second week, I was like ok- actually, starting my day achieving something that feels physically challenging is kinda neat and makes me feel sorta good… but I know I am not going to enjoy weight lifting and I don’t want to get “bulky” and look “muscular.”
During the third week I was like- HOLD THE PHONE, weight lifting is actually kinda fun and totally something that has been missing from my life. Like literally, all I have ever considered exercise is cardio (see: socialized female and “beauty standards for women”) and the goal has never been strength but rather weight loss. I’VE BEEN LIVING A LIE.
During the fourth week I was like THESE PEOPLE ARE MY FRIENDS AND I LOVE THIS PLACE.
Well maybe thats excessive- BUT- at the end of the foundations course I had to admit to myself that I was starting to feel good in a new and different way, that I never ever felt uncomfortable or intimidated at the gym, that the coaches were nice and interested in my progress, and that the self esteem boost I got from knowing that my very own body could do all these hard things that my mind thought were impossible- it was worth the early mornings and admitting to people I do Crossfit.
OK so now that all that is out of the way- I am getting to the real point of this whole damn thing, which is “Why am I a concerned Lesbian?” Well, let me tell you.
After about five months of doing Crossfit, getting stronger, and feeling a REAL break in my daily anxiety (!!!!!), I decided to share some of this story on the internet. Now I am of the opinion that generally speaking, sharing anything genuine on the internet, specifically social media (I am looking at you Facebook and Instagram) is a BAD IDEA. The internet is a playground of dysfunction in which people’s absolute worst comes out. I know this, because I have participated in all that garbage for most of my life. I had my first screen name in 5th grade (it was the title of a Nirvana song) and my friends and I catfished all over the place in chatrooms all night long, giggling and feeling the power of anonymity. I had a Friendster in high school through which I experienced for the first time the self esteem crusher that is posting pictures of yourself for public scrutiny and the sick comparison of your “life” to the way other’s “lives” look on the internet. Everyone else looked more glamorous, like they had more fun, went to more parties, were thinner and had better clothes. I fully participated in this cycle, posting only the best pictures of myself, editing my existence to look as good as possible so that I could illicit jealousy in anyone else. I had a Myspace, a Facebook- actually, I started with Live Journal in middle school and jesus christ that was a mess. And also, I currently have an Instagram account.
So whatever, I posted a video of me lifting on Instagram, and on Facebook I asked for gym suggestions in New York- this was my big unveiling. And the response was generally supportive, which is awesome! But, there was also this interesting bit of response that I was definitely expecting, and this is a response I have also gotten in person, not just on the internet.
This response is an interesting cocktail of equal parts shit talking Crossfit (by people who haven’t tried Crossfit), internalized misogyny (like suggesting that women’s bodies shouldn’t be able to do certain exercises), and warnings that I may hurt myself even though I am working out under the care and guidance of experienced coaches (warnings that would likely never be given to my male counterparts- surely not to my brother.)
Many of these responses have been from people in my queer community.
AND most of these things are TOTALLY things I HAVE SAID AND THOUGHT MYSELF. Except for the moment in conversation where it was suggested by a masc partner that their femme partner shouldn’t do Crossfit so as to not hurt her body and jeopardize her ability to carry their child. I don’t fuck with that depth of internalized misogyny.
One interaction in particular stands out, cause I took it as an opportunity to articulate some of the thoughts I had been formulating on the matter. Someone sent me an article through Facebook about a biggoted thing an owner of a Crossfit gym did. It was just the link to the article with no other information, and it was from someone I don’t know very well and hardly ever speak with IRL. It wasn’t upsetting or offensive, but I did think it was an interesting internet moment.
I replied saying that I had read the article, I knew about the situation, and I wasn’t planning on stopping something that felt good for me because some bigot was trying to ruin it for everyone else. But then I thought about it further, cause I realized that not only am I feeling good physically, I am feeling accepted and supported by the Crossfit community in a way that I have hardly ever felt by the queer community. In these past five months not once have I felt unwelcome at my gym. When work outs finish up usually people high five each other and encourage one another by saying good job, or well done. So cheesy, I know. But its actually a personal fact that I have felt more welcomed and seen at my gym than I have in 90% of queer spaces I have entered, especially here in Portland. And for every moment of feeling cheesy at my gym for being encouraged I recall a moment in which I was exclusionary of someone in my queer community.
Whether or not it was the intention of the message sender, the negative feedback I was receiving was just that- a reaction of negativity, in reaction to something I was clearly saying was a HUGE positive for me. Like- are you actually listening to me? I am saying I like this thing, I feel good doing this thing, it has helped my mental health.
And herein lies the concern. I am concerned for our queer community, concerned that we are happier to lick our wounds, talk shit, and try to bring down the positivity of other people, both within the queer community and outside of it, than we are to lift each other up. I have my own glass house, so don’t worry about these stones I am throwing. I’m right there with the best and worst of us. But, like, does it have to be like this? Does it really feel good to say we don’t want to do something because the other people who do it are happy about it and enjoy speaking about their positive experiences? Do we feel like we are above it and more cool because instead we choose to tighten up, hold our pain closer, and over identify with the exclusionary practices homophes are trying to push on us?
I feel really great in my body, maybe for the first time ever in my whole life. I feel like Crossfit is helping reduce my anxiety, and I look forward to my workouts. If you have any questions about Crossfit, I do actually like talking about Crossfit. If you want to talk about anxiety, I am here for you.
And now here is a whole list of disclaimers JIC-
- No, not everyone needs to do crossfit. I understand there are other ways to do exercise, and even still more ways to get in touch with your body. Crossfit is also expensive, and not accessible to everyone and I completely acknowledge my extreme privilege to be able to afford it at this time in my life.
- Finding your OWN way to happiness is SO valid, but for me true happiness is born out of positivity and acceptance, rather than shitting on everyone else that seems to be having a better time than me.
- Some Crossfit gyms are total bullshit. So are some coffee shops (yet I work as a barista), so are tons of tattoo artists (yet I love getting tattooed), there are terrible, racist, homophobic artists (yet I still like art)- I think you get the point I am trying to make here…
- I really love my dog- I wonder what he is doing right now.
- I REALLY love my queer community and everyone who said anything to me about Crossfit, both “positive” and “negative.” I am not trying to call anyone out here, just trying to hold up that mirror for myself and the people I love.
- Happy Pride, Portland- I hope you are staying safe out there and having a good gay ass time.