In a month that puts the spotlight on the collective strength of the LGBTQIA+ community, London’s gearing up for one of the biggest weekends of the year. But Pride is so much more than a date on the calendar.
It’s everyone’s job to continue listening, learning and actively supporting the community once the party’s over. In the fitness industry – and society – there can be no rest time until everyone’s treated fairly, as equals. Ahead of Saturday’s big celebrations, we thought we’d catch up with some of the amazing individuals who bring their own brands of strength to our Gymbox family, every day. We wanted to hear what inclusion means to them, and how everyone can show up as an ally. Here's what they had to say:
First of all, can you clarify for me how you identify and your pronouns?
Michael: I’m a cis-gender gay male who uses He/Him pronouns.
Boriss: I’m a gay man, and I go by He/Him.
Hattie: I'm a cis-gendered bi woman, my pronouns are She/Her.
What is your favourite thing about the LGBTQIA+/queer community?
Boriss: We are soooo different, yet we all come together as one to support and celebrate each other like one big family.
What does true diversity and inclusion look like to you?
Michael: True diversity and inclusion would be when all people get an equitable slice of the proverbial pie.
…We know that businesses that walk the walk instead of talking the talk when it comes to diversity and inclusion generally perform better than their contemporaries. Why should this be limited to business?! The fitness world should embrace this too, society as well!
If we ever want true diversity and inclusion though it has to start with the individual learning to embrace others, and we need this to come from the top in any organisational structure.
Boriss: True diversity and inclusion to me means treating everyone as a unique individual but also fairly and equally, like anyone else. We must continue to learn, educate ourselves, respect each other and appreciate our differences.
Hattie: For me it’s about everyone in the community feeling represented and treated as equal. Not made to feel like we are defined solely by how we choose to identify, who we love or how we express ourselves. That’s a part of us but we are so much more than that!
What more do you think needs to be done for the LGBTQIA+ community within the fitness world?
Hattie: I think it needs to be more than a one month occasion. Pride month is great for raising awareness, but it can often feel like the industry is ticking a box without enforcing any real change outside of this. Invest in the community by employing them in all aspects of the industry. Inclusion and representation .
Boriss: In my opinion, there should be more detailed research done into what the LGBTQIA+ community wants in order to understand our needs. The fitness industry needs to recognise that it is a huge community and rainbow washing is a no go!
A number of companies have been deciding for us what we need and what we might want. Ask us and we will tell you! Do we need unisex gym clothes within major sports brands? Do we need genderless changing rooms in a gyms? Do we need rainbows on all the Pride merch?….
Only thing I will say on my behalf, I don’t want any special treatment, I just want a safe space to workout.
How has Gymbox supported you on your journey?
Michael: I came to Gymbox pretty much as a fully formed Gay.
But, Gymbox has introduced me to so many wonderful people that, although cliched, I truly think will be my friends for life!
The thing Gymbox does so well is having so many people who identify with different parts of the community (both staff and members) that my knowledge, acceptance and understanding of others has expanded so much further than I think it would have had I worked in any other company. For that I am really thankful.
Boriss: The biggest support throughout my seven years at Gymbox have been the Gymbox team and Gymbox members: people who accepted me for who I am and didn’t asked stupid questions about who I’m sleeping with!
It might sound super simple, but it’s truly important for someone who comes from a Russian speaking family and homophobic background - I had to battle with these questions through school, college and my first employments.
What would you like to see straight and cis-het people doing more of to support the LGBTQIA+ community more generally?
Michael: Get involved in local organisations that support the community. If you say you’re an ally, you must be an ally. Show up for your friends/family/acquaintances who are in the community. Remember, whilst you might feel comfortable doing everyday things, lots of people in the community will sometimes struggle to partake. Fight for the rights of all LGBTQIA+ peoples: if you’re an ally to one of us, I hope you’re an ally to all of us. Always remember: a rising tide lifts all boats.
Personally, I find people are tentative to ask questions about subjects or issues they don’t understand or haven’t heard of. If you have questions, ask or Google (we all forget how powerful a tool Google is).
How will you all be celebrating Pride?
Michael: I’ll be with my friends and family in the community celebrating our charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. No doubt accompanied by a few beers!
Hattie: I’ll be parading at London Pride!
Boriss: I will probably accidentally fall in love! There are a number of events that I’m looking forward to, but the main one will be joining the Gymbox Team in the London Pride Parade. I’m so excited to wear our Gymbox Pride T-shirts, designed collectively with the Gymbox LGBTQIA+ community.