After negative experiences at Edmonton's gyms as a non-binary person, Kyle Fairall wanted to create a gym that acted as a safe space for queer, trans and non-binary people in Edmonton.
On Sunday, Fairall will receive an award for human rights for creating Queerflex — the first gym dedicated solely to LGBTQ people in Canada.
Queerflex is a non-profit gym in Edmonton, focused on serving the LGBTQ community by offering one-on-one fitness training in a safe and inclusive environment.
Fairall, who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, said when they found out about the nomination, they felt honoured. "I was pretty blown away," Fairall said Friday in an interview with CBC's Radio Active.
Fairall created Queerflex because of how important fitness was to their life. "Fitness was a really big piece of helping me make peace with my own body and reconnect with my body," they said.
Their experiences in regular gyms, both as staff and as a client, were often uncomfortable. "I didn't really feel like there was a lot of support," Fairall said.
Guessing that others felt the same, Fairall came up with the idea to start Queerflex and began working immediately.
So far, it's a success. "It's been received really well," Fairall said. "I'm just so grateful every day for the folks who trust me with helping them walk through their own fitness journey."
Fairall said others who came to the gym did so because they felt at ease at a place where there will be no judgment. "That person knows that they don't have to worry about other folks in the gym space possibly saying or doing something that would make them feel unsafe," Fairall said.
The gym is in a small space and only accepts LGBTQ people at this time, because Fairall wants to ensure everyone feels comfortable there. "They feel like they are safe to explore fitness and connect with their bodies in ways they typically wouldn't be able to in a regular gym setting," they said.
The gym is also meant to help the LGBTQ community feel more comfortable at other gyms across the city. "Building resilience is a huge piece of it," Fairall said. "It's a huge piece of the sustainability of this kind of work."
But in terms of inviting those not from the LGBTQ community in the gym, Fairall said there would have to be a drastic change in the attitudes and policies of gyms across Edmonton.
"When every LGBTQA person in Edmonton feels safe working out in all of the fitness facilities in the city, I'll be more than happy to welcome folks who identify outside of that umbrella into my space," they said.
Though Fairall thinks that type of change is a long way off, it's not because of the lack of effort. "I think it's just a lack of access to information," they said.
'I'm just so grateful every day for the folks who trust me with helping them walk through their own fitness journey.' - Kyle Fairall, Queerflex
But the changes in both attitudes and policies Fairall has seen, coupled with the award they will be given Sunday, is proof to Fairall that they're making a difference.
"It's an honour," Fairall said. "It makes me very emotional to think that the work that I'm doing has had such an impact on somebody's life that they felt compelled to nominate me for such an award."