Gymbox and Not A Phase have teamed up to offer the trans+ community a place to improve their fitness, focus on their wellness and learn self defence from qualified instructors as part of the Misfit programme. Our blogger Kat caught up with Alix Maddison to find out more…
Alix, it’s really great to talk to you about the work you do for Not a Phase. Can you give me a summary of the charity itself and what it does to help the trans community?
It's really nice to be able to talk to you about Not a Phase! We are a UK based charity founded in 2020 that is here to support transgender and trans+ adult in the UK. One of our main objectives is to provide positive and engaging support and education. We also hold community social events that allow people to gain peer support and meet other trans adults in a safe environment and away from the usual nightlife and the internet.
Not a Phase also provides corporate training and online education on trans issues, teaching companies and organisations about ways to be more inclusive, and we provide business support and grants to help trans businesses.
What made you decide to join Not a Phase?
I have actually been with Not a Phase since the very beginning! It was founded at a trying time for trans people in the UK during lockdown. Since then, Dani St. James and myself, along with the other amazing trustees of Not a Phase, have lovingly nurtured it to become what it is today.
It means so much to all of us to be able to have the opportunity to make changes and provide both love and support to those who need it. We try to be as real and honest as we can with the charity and make sure it has relatable faces so that people know who is behind it and it’s not just a faceless organisation. We have a really strong team of people around us who all just really care about what we do.
What does your role as trustee and community coordinator involve on a daily basis?
Across the board of trustees, we all have very different individual skills and roles. Mine is to keep the community engagement flowing by organising events such as social meetups, sports and fitness days and programmes like Misfits. I also promote merchandise, plan and oversee online content for social media, make educational videos around specific events and come up with new ways to keep Not a Phase as visible as possible. This includes pushing outside of the community itself to reach a wider audience.
Can you tell me a bit more about the Misfits programme you’re running?
The Misfits programme focuses on breaking down the barriers between members of the trans+ community and traditional fitness spaces. We offer a four-week intensive program with two to three classes a week where we educate participants in all aspects of fitness, self-defence, pilates, general well-being and confidence building. Our team of instructors are handpicked based on their years of experience across all aspects of fitness and their awareness of the needs of trans+ people.
The programme came about as the fitness community is lacking in inclusivity and is a difficult place for a lot of trans people to feel comfortable and welcome, yet sports, fitness and movement is so crucial for our overall well being and mental health.
What are the barriers that you believe trans folk come up against in traditional fitness spaces and what are the differences you have seen in those who have taken part in the Misfits programme?
Traditional fitness spaces can be seen as very intimidating places, and it’s typically assumed they will also be male-dominated and body critical. We wanted to provide a space that not only welcomes but celebrates all body types, and that has gender-neutral changing rooms and facilities.
Staff and other trainers need to be educated in how to deal with requests for things like gender-neutral spaces and facilitate other specific needs people may have without the person requesting them feeling uncomfortable. Providing instructors and classes specifically for trans people means they can be catered to trans bodies and their relevant needs, and that people can work out in confidence around other trans people, forming new friends and bonds. This strengthens the community and builds confidence, health and self-esteem.
The journey we see in people from start to finish of the programme is really special. From the first day nerves and uncertainties to [seeing people] find their feet and start to grow in confidence, experiencing new feelings and benefiting from the rewards of exercise…it’s amazing.
It's been a long, hard journey to get Misfits this far but it’s been such a passion project of mine and I’m so proud of it.
Can you tell me more about Gymbox's involvement with Not a Phase and the Misfits programme?
We were looking for a suitable home for Misfits after looking at a few other gyms and Gymbox came back to us to view a few of their locations. We found that both the location, gym and the studio space at Bank Gymbox is the perfect home for Misfits!
The staff there have been more than amazing at hosting us and have gone above and beyond to look after us - they have made everyone feel welcome. The gyms are beautifully spacious, have great facilities and equipment, and Gymbox have been so generous in helping us. Without their support, Misfits would not have been able to grow to what it is today.
For those of you who want to take part in the next Misfits programme, it will be on at Gymbox Bank from the 23rd of April, and you can contact me at [email protected].
What are some of your goals for Not a Phase over the coming year?
This year, Not a Phase want to continue growing Misfits and hopefully advance the programme outside London so that we can reach more people nationwide. Misfits Unleashed is also starting later this month. This involves planned activities across London such as rock climbing, paddle boarding, beach sports, fun runs and more. We are very excited to be opening up new physical activities and experiences to people.
We also have other social events coming up such as sober, safe space meetups for people to make new friends, discuss and share experiences. And of course, we will continue to educate and raise awareness to help the integration and advancement of trans people in the UK.
What are some things you wish the cisgendered community would do to help better support the trans community, both in fitness spaces and in general day-to-day life?
Trans people are people first. All you have to do is be kind and show love, respect and support like you would to anyone else.
In terms of specific trans issues, people need to educate themselves and not put the onus on trans people to have to constantly explain and fight for basic rights and equalities that currently are not there. It is important for cis people to use their voice and be vocal, and fight for changes and a greater understanding of trans issues. This will help future generations grow up with open minds and acceptance of trans+ people and ensure that their rights and needs are met.
Finally, how can people support Not a Phase and the great work you do?
You can support Not a Phase by offering to volunteer with us, sharing our content online and buying our merchandise, as this helps spread the word. Just starting conversations with others about what we do is appreciated.
We are happy to answer any messages and questions people may have. You can reach us at www.notaphase.org and at our Instagram, @notaphaseorg.
You can also follow Kat on Instagram here.