Yesterday wrapped up Pride month with World Pride Day. There has been so much attention to diversity and acceptance across the spectrum of LGBTQIA+ Pride this year. It’s very exciting be alive in a time where we’re able to say we’re proud as a community while seeing positive representation in the media, given the struggles of LGBTQ+ people. There are young gay and trans people who will grow up in an environment that affirms their feelings and identities. I knew how I felt from a young age and that the activities I gravitated toward weren’t always traditional for boys, so that struggle between what I wanted to do and what I “should” do always left me feeling anxious and somewhat exhausted.
From an early age I got the message that how I acted and my attractions were not “correct,” which made it really difficult to feel proud to inhabit my body. I didn’t know anyone like me growing up. As a result of this, I had really checked out of my body and my feelings. The shame and disgust with how I felt for who I was made me want to be anyone else. I spent a lot of thought and energy wanting to change how I was. Why did I feel like I did? It was not normal, I thought. I was scared to talk about it. The environment I grew up in was definitely not conducive to someone harboring same-sex attraction. That and my lack of enthusiasm for sports was not the best combination for a boy growing up in the Midwest when I did.
Focusing on what the body can do and how it feels training has allowed me to get past so many of those feelings about my body. It has helped me manage some symptoms of anxiety and depression I’ve experienced. I’ve been able to build my body and strength instead of being that person who was practically disappearing. Fortunately, I was naturally drawn to being somewhat athletic. I always did well in gym class, even though the anxiety of locker room changing and being found out always made me want to crawl under a rock. Some of my fondest memories growing up were playing outside, climbing or jumping off stuff, so I was always active despite my disdain for team sports.
Now I’m not saying you have to have a cover model-worthy body to feel proud of who you are. This isn’t about just changing yourself physically, though that in and of itself can be a source of confidence as well. And that’s ok. That is not the message here. I’m saying that getting in the gym, moving some stuff, and moving in a way that feels good has helped me build a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that makes me proud of my body and all the potential it has. You have a body, and if you choose to visit a gym, you have a body worthy of being in the gym and getting some shit done. You have a body that can do work and can help you to feel your best, no matter where you are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.