I’ve been meaning to get back into the habit of writing and using this blog as one outlet for getting my ideas and thoughts out there. I thoroughly enjoyed writing for the NSRC blog and stopped once things really started to go downhill there (that may be a story for a blog post in the near future). I thought that I’d probably start with something general about getting back into the habit of writing about sexual health or why I think it’s important for me to write and how I was going to do it. Or maybe about what I’ve been up to the past few months and some thoughts about where I might going, professionally. Then, I received some horrible news this morning and knew what I NEEDED to write about today.
As anyone reading this probably knows, I’ve been unemployed since quitting my
dream job back in August. It was a very difficult decision, but I am 100% sure that I made the right decision. Since quitting, my insomnia has (mostly) disappeared, my anxiety levels have decreased, I’ve stopped smoking, and I’ve started working out almost every day. I feel healthy, positive, and proud for making some necessary changes in my life. One of those changes was getting up the nerve to take a dance class for the very first time in my life. I tried Zumba and didn’t love it. Then…I nervously attended (UR A) Video Star Dance class taught by the amazing Kristina Milova at Gold’s Gym Castro. I can honestly say that this class has changed my life and helped me discover my love of dance – maybe I’m being a little melodramatic. I found exercise that I love to do with fun people, and it’s gotten me into the best shape I’ve been in a very long time.
The awful news I received today? This, my favorite workout class, the dance class that has changed my life, is in danger of being canceled! Okay, I know that doesn’t sound terribly tragic, but for me, it’s a big deal. The reason given by the gym is that there are not enough students. In this photo, you’ll see that there are nine of us including Kristina, the instructor. This was taken between Christmas and New Years. Today, we had sixteen students in class. The worst part is how the gym management is questioning what “the problem” might be…that maybe it has gotten too “girly” or “fitness-y”. Wait. What. The. Fuck.
Did I mention this class is at the Gold’s Gym in the Castro District of San Francisco – possibly the gayest place on the planet? Perhaps you’ll notice that most of the students in the photo above are men, not uncommon for this class.
So why did I find the need for this to be the first new thing I write about on this new blog in this new year? This bullshit is exactly the reason I have had a fucked up relationship with exercise every since I took my first p.e. class way back in the mid-seventies right up until…now, I guess.
“girly”? (The group fitness manager is a woman, btw.) Is this meant to imply that it is too easy, for weak people? And what the hell is wrong with being girly? Anyone who knows me knows that I’m one big ol’ girly man, and I think that is pretty fucking awesome. Is it “girly” because some of the men who are members of this particular Gold’s Gym (and possibly this manager) are femmephobic and that men, particularly gay men, are more attractive if they act more masculine or “straight-acting” – my husband, David, is fond of saying that no man is very “straight-acting” with another man’s cock in his ass or mouth, but I digress. I’d like to see all these “tough”, “masculine”, “straight-acting” guys take this class. I promise it will kick their asses.
I detested sports and exercise in general most of my life because my classmates and the coaches made fun of the way I ran or threw a ball, because I acted like a girl. I needed to “man-up” and be a real man. When I heard that it had been suggested that this class was too “girly”, every emotion I felt way back in elementary school rose to the surface and this time it pissed me off. I live in a gay neighborhood, go to a gay gym, and take an amazing dance class where I thought I was safe from this kind of bullying. I guess I was wrong.
Physical activity is an important part of our overall health and helps us to deal with stress, live healthier lives, and can be an important aspect of our social health as well – particularly in a class environment. Anyone who does not adhere to the gender roles or refuses (or can’t) to stay within the gender boundaries and expectations society demands should not be denied the opportunity to increase their physical activity or in anyway discouraged from taking part in something that is physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually healthy because of ridicule or shame (For a more academic perspective on this, check out White, et al, 2010, in Publications/Presentations above). Nor should anyone with a disability, anyone who is overweight, older, or whatever characteristic could be the target of ridicule and shaming be denied that opportunity.
Along with my other dance students, I’m going to fight this at the gym. I refuse to be shamed into quitting and for this to be the excuse to cancel an incredibly fun class. I hope that anyone reading this finds something that you love doing, physically, and that you never let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be doing it or that it’s not right for you.
Now, I need to go dance this anger and stress off!