I take my “Hard Core Homo” class in a space the size of a one- bedroom San Francisco loft , with equipment that looks like scaffolding with olympic rings hanging from it and a blackboard with the list of exercises for the class. Above the list are the motivational words: “Sweat is just fat crying”.
Welcome to the Perfect Sidekick, the first LGBTQ gym in the country.
“When we started we were known as the lesbian gym. Then Bis, Gays and Heteros started joining TPS too.” says Nathalie Huerta, founder, owner and trainer at The Perfect Sidekick. She started training people at Lake Merritt but after gaining a following, she decided she needed something more permanent. She opened the doors on December 1, 2012, at 2706 Park Blvd., Oakland with the help of her members. “They helped paint the walls, build equipment, even googled how to install the floor,” Huerta says.
Quickly her unique gym gained popularity (Oakland is one of the most lesbian cities in the country!)”I was actually hesitant to claim that we were the first and only LGBTQ gym for a long time because I was like, no way! We can’t be the first and only,” Huerta said. “But after I did A LOT of research, plus had two other marketing firms research it as well and found nothing, we decided to make the claim!”
As Huerta saw the number of members growing, she also noticed several membership cancellation requests from the Trans community. Huerta began asking around and discovered that they didn’t feel her LGBT gym was a safe space for them.
She realized it was time she educated herself about the Trans community, noting that TPS was her first exposure to the Trans community. She realized that things like the right to be addressed by the pronoun corresponding to the person’s gender identity is an issue. According to the Trangender Law Center , the right exists “regardless of whether the student has obtained a court-ordered name or gender change.” So Huerta introduced the Preferred Gender Pronoun discussion at the beginning of each class.
“It wasn’t about saving the memberships or the money. It was about being legit. If we are going to say that we are an LGBTQ Gym, then we better, TRULY be an LGBTQ Gym and make sure that we are a safe space for all,” says Huerta. Finding little information about the subject on the Internet, she set out to discover the information on her own.
“I had to take it up on myself to set up meetings with directors of Trans organizations and other health professionals to make sure TPS is a safe space for all,” she says. Huerta says now Transgender people are excited about not having to bind or take their shirt off. Dana Schnittman, a Trans member of TPS said, “TPS’ best asset is how well it fosters camaraderie and community amongst its members. As a Trans person, I found that was important in my process of feeling safe in the beginning stages of transitioning.”
Overall, TPS gets lots of love from all members with many of them reporting to love the feeling of community.
“With over 30 classes a week ranging from our famous Oakland Booty class to Hard Core Homo, I’m sure you’ll find your faves”, the TPS website promises. TPS limits its membership to 150 members to create and maintain quality relationships. Other perks include a free one-on-one session with a personal trainer every month, free open gym, nutrition workshops, and a free monthly event open to the public called Pain & Champagne. It includes an intro level workout and a chance to sip champagne and hang out with members & trainers.
Huerta says that other gyms in the country have started some versions of a gay gym but she figures she has a four- year head start so she’s not worried about competition. Currently she has various opportunities for expansion – in The Bay, in LA, or establishing franchises. She said she will see where things take her and will test the water.
If you want more information on TPS, please visit their website at: