My name is Anastasia Lowe, I am an L2 CrossFit trainer and athlete. I’m also a gay, black woman living in the heart of Texas. I came out recently at the age of 27. I’m what you might call a late bloomer.

I’ve struggled with intense social anxiety my entire life; it was most prevalent from middle school through college. Social anxiety is paralyzing; I struggled to develop friendships and connect with others. I attended a largely white and religious university. While my education was top notch, being both black and closeted gay in my university environment presented its own set of challenges. During those years, I found refuge in the campus gym; for an hour or two a day I was able to get away from my thoughts and anxieties. I did not need to look, act, or talk a certain way to fit in or feel at home. When I moved back home after college, the first thing I did was email a CrossFit gym. I had a simple goal, to stay fit. That was literally my only goal. I did not want to be a part of the community CrossFit boasted about, because to that point, I’d largely been invisible or rejected by many of the “communities” that surrounded me. Why waste my time trying to be seen? So, when I showed up for class each day, I never said a word. I came in right on time, I did the workout, and I left immediately afterwards. When you have social anxiety, you learn to put up walls to protect yourself.

During that time, I attended the 9AM class in our little, suburban gym. It was made up of a group of 6-7 “moms.” My ultra-private persona did not fly with the 9AM moms. Over time, day by day, question by question, they chipped away at my hard exterior. They asked me about myself, they remembered things about me, they encouraged me. They dragged me out of my shell and into the community, and within a year the gym became my second home. I started coaching and devoted more time to training. I dedicated most of my time to the gym, between coaching and training I spent 4-8 hours at the box, 6 days a week. But here’s the thing: no one knew who I really was. No one knew I was gay. A single thought banged around my cranium for YEARS: “What if I come out and people treat me differently?” I had FINALLY found a place where I belonged, and what if living life as my truest self-changed that? I knew who I was, but I didn’t know if my family, friends, and the members at my gym would suddenly see me through a different lens. I just wanted to be treated the same. There’s a unique intersection at the corners of being black and gay, you can’t hide your blackness. The gayness, well that was easy.

In 2019, I started coaching at a second gym. I was welcomed into yet another community…but I was still in the closet. I still had zero intention of coming out…ever. As ridiculous as it sounds that was my plan. I would die in a nice little bungalow, secretly gay, surrounded by my 18 dogs. Then God sent the apocalypse in 2020. Among the chaos of COVID-19, the public recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the exposure of CrossFit’s (now former) CEO’s vile bigoted behavior, the writing was on the wall: life is too short. I wrote a series of posts about anti-racism on Instagram, and received an outstanding response of support. Friends, co-workers, members at both of my gyms, complete strangers, even companies, reached out asking for resources, where to donate and action steps. Me, little ole Anastasia, had more influence than she thought.

Then the realization hit me: I had no issue being proud of and fighting for my blackness, but I did not do the same for my gayness. If I had any influence at all, I could not live the rest of my life fighting for only half of me. So, I started coming out to family. I am blessed to say, the world did not implode. The response from my family gave me the courage that I needed. Finally, a few weeks ago I came out in a post on Instagram, for the whole world to see! I received a massive amount of unwavering love and support, which was something that I NEVER even dreamed of. In the CrossFit landscape, I am extremely fortunate to have found myself in gyms, that while at times have been far from perfect, still afforded me opportunities to grow as an athlete, coach, and most importantly a person, and a gay one at that.  So, to my fellow fast exercisers I ask, be unrelentingly kind to those who do not look like you or act like you. Be the 9AM moms of your gym. Be the person who supports, encourages, learns, and loves regardless of each other’s differences. You never know how much influence you really have.

Follow Anastasia at @whatisupannie on Instagram