'Safe space' gets a real space: Edmonton's Queerflex gym moving into new digs this fall
'It's great that we're actually able to come up above ground, out of the basement'
Over the last 18 months, Queerflex has established itself as a safe space for queer folks to work out. In a few months, its mission will get a big boost when it moves into an actual commercial space.
"It has been operating out of my friend's basement, so not the most accessible space," Queerflex executive director Kyle Fairall told CBC's Radio Active on Thursday.
"And accessibility is one of the core pieces of what makes Queerflex what it is, so it's great that we're actually able to come up above ground, out of the basement."
The new gym space, which is expected to open in October, is in the same building as the Pride Centre of Edmonton, at 106th Street and 105th Avenue.
The non-profit is the first gym in Canada dedicated solely to LGBTQ people. It offers one-on-one fitness training in an environment that is aimed to be more safe and inclusive than what transgender or non-binary people may encounter at a traditional gym.
In December, Fairall received a human rights award for creating it.
The conversion of the 1,700-square-foot warehouse space is happening with help from businesses such as The Home Depot, which provided flooring, and YESS Painting, Fairall said. As well, Queerflex is holding its first fundraiser — a Big Gay Field Day — on Sept. 8 to help continue programming without unduly raising costs for its members.
Queerflex focuses mainly on functional training, meaning there won't be a "whole lot of cardio equipment lying around," Fairall said. But there will be more space for things like group classes, which are frequently requested.
Along with the new space, Queerflex is branching out with a new training program for other fitness professionals, to teach them about better serving queer and transgender clients. The training, which will have a session on Sept. 16, is the first of its kind in Canada that is approved for continuing education credits by two fitness certification bodies.
"We'll go to other fitness trainers, gym owners, studio owners, yoga instructors, Zumba instructors, anybody who is involved with health and wellness, to start introducing them to some of the barriers to access that maybe they haven't even thought of before," Fairall said.
The training will include topics like specific considerations for programming and changes that a fitness establishment can make to better serve queer, trans and non-binary clients.
"Eventually," Fairall said with a laugh, "I would like to work myself out of a job."