Founder Feelz: CrossFit’s Coming OUT, Part I
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be getting all in my feelings about the history of the LGBTQ+ community in CrossFit, how CrossFit has changed over the (almost) decade of OUTWOD’s existence, and how now, more than ever, visibility and advocacy is important for our sport.
I was recently having dinner with some of my CrossFit Jääkarhu family in Austin, Texas when I posed a question that all LGBTQ+ folks have a story for – “What’s your coming out story?”
For my allies out there – this question is a sort of bonding between folks in the LGBTQ+ community – a shared journey, typically filled with anxiety, some tears, and then an outcome on the spectrum from acceptance to rejection.
As we went around the table – there was something that stuck with me from every story – they began with rejection and that rejection has lived with my friends and their emotions well into their adult lives. And I want to note, every single person at the table leads an incredible life, enjoys their work, are upstanding folks in the community, and bring such joy to my life and my work. Our shared stories that evening made us stronger – together.
I went home – reeling from what I’d learned about my newfound small circle of friends. I knew each one of them in a deeper way and also knew that – had it not been for CrossFit – we would have never crossed paths.
And that brings me to the key point of what I want you all to take away from this stream of consciousness – while not ALL CrossFit gyms are accepting, admittedly there are still many in operation that I would never recommend to a single soul in my life because of how they see our community (I’m sure at some point I’ll get into this mess) – as a general rule – CrossFit is pretty accepting of the LGBTQ+ community or at least…accepting adjacent.
The first CrossFit gym I ever joined was CrossFit Dallas Central – a place that is still so near and dear to my heart. Never once did I ever feel out of place, aside from my terrible overhead squat form, no one ever looked at me like I didn’t belong.
Less than a year later, I moved to New York City and began working out at CrossFit NYC: The Black Box – a gym that would change the course of my life forever in many ways – but again, I never felt out of place…I dare say that I felt welcomed with open arms and snuggled and nurtured. But in 2011, I was one of very few queer people in my gym. I knew that had to change and I knew I could be the one to do it. Since I had exactly 1 friend in all of Manhattan when I moved to NYC, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and start a queer CrossFit social group, which I tongue-in-cheekedly dubbed “GayWOD.”
Starting with 6 gay guys coming together for a Sunday WOD followed soon after by Sunday brunch – this would be start to the almost decade long journey that has been OUTWOD.
I’ll save you from a history lesson – but over the last 9 years, CrossFit has slowly but surely come out of the closet. There were times of not accepting itself, questioning, pushed back into the closet, sneaking tiptoe out again, and finally, in 2018, discoballs ablaze – CROSSFIT CAME OUT. And I was here for it. We were here for it.
The LGBTQ+ community had created our own buzz within so many gym communities – it made no sense to not show support.
But back to my dinner in Austin, Texas.
The 4 humans I shared a meal with were all on their CrossFit journeys together – all brought together by an accepting and welcoming queer safespace of a gym – and it is where we found our chosen family. And that’s what CrossFit is to many in the LGBTQ+ community. When others in our lives have shut us out – we have CrossFit. When we ever feel unsafe – we know we have CrossFit. When we’re lonely – we have CrossFit. And in CrossFit – we’ve found each other.
The takeaway here is that every single affiliate in the entire world has the ability to be a family to someone without one…to be safe space to someone in need…to be the place of solace in a world of chaos. And for many in the LGBTQ+ community – this is life or death.
I’ve always said that the minute your community begins to exclude someone – you are no longer a community – you are no longer a CrossFit gym – you are a clique. Periodt.
In these trying times in our country – hell – in our world – do you want to be a clique or do you want to be a community?
OUTWOD / The OUT Foundation