“As soon as you walk in [to a regular gym], someone is redirecting you, saying, ‘You’re in the wrong locker room. You’re in the wrong restroom,’” says Dillon King, a transgender man based in Louisiana. “You’re not there to make anybody else uncomfortable. But … it makes you realize, [you are] in fact making somebody uncomfortable just by being here.”
King is not alone in feeling this way. For all the good they can do for our health, gyms tend to be spaces that create rigid boundaries around expectations based on gender. And in the face of harassment and discrimination, many gender nonconforming people choose to simply stay home.
After years of uncomfortable experiences at the gym, King decided to create one where people like him could feel free to pursue healthy lifestyles — without judgment. And so he and his wife founded Flambeaux CrossFit in 2016 in Metairie, Louisiana, just a few miles outside of New Orleans.
Flambeaux doesn’t use gender categories to differentiate its equipment or restrooms, and emphasizes that all fitness levels, backgrounds and gender expressions are welcome.
The gym has become a center of fitness and community for queer people and their allies. “It seemed [before] that most of our get-togethers were at clubs, nightclubs, going out, staying up late, drinking always,” King told the SunHerald. With Flambeaux, the Kings have created a welcoming space for the LGBTQ community that also connects with their passion for fitness and healthy living.
“It’s more than a gym, it’s like a family,” says Flambeaux member James Husband.
Watch the video above to meet King and the team, and to learn more about Flambeaux.
More: This Nonprofit Offers a Lifeline to Transgender People — Just as They Need It Most