Where did it start, where did the inspiration come from?
"I never had a “plan” to start The Queer gym --formerly The Perfect Sidekick--. It has all happened organically. Back in 2010, I was in grad school and was working a full time job from seven to seven, then going to class until 10pm. That sucked! I had taken a break from training and decided to go back to it, but didn’t want to work in big corporate gyms. I’d been an independent trainer here and there in the past, so decided to look into that. I posted an ad on craigslist in the “lessons” sections, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to cut it because there were hella trainers on there. I needed to be different.
So then I was like, “Hmm, how am I different? I’m a lesbian—maybe that’s a thing!” I went to Google it and just got back a bunch of porn and Jillian Michaels. (This was before she was out). I thought I was on to something so I changed the title of my ad to LESBIAN PERSONAL TRAINER and moved that shit over to the women for women section because I KNOW every lesbian cruises those ads. I was right! In the first week, I got my first five clients!
The clients just kept on coming and within six months, I had rented a tiny place in Oakland, added group training and staff. By that point, we were pretty much a gym. I designed the gym from that point on based on my own experience as someone who has gone through a significant transformation (I lost 70 pounds), a personal trainer and a party lovin’ queer.
As a personal trainer, I knew how to make the gym efficient in giving results. And as a queer, I knew what my people liked and how to make them tick! With all of that, since 2010, I’ve kept tweaking and evolving TPS into what it is today." - Nathalie, Founder
Tell me about the building process of the gym? How did it feel seeing the gym coming together and the first time you opened the doors for business?
We’ve moved three times since we’ve been open. Our first place was actually an office space. It was tiny, like 500 square feet. I took out all the office furniture that was in there and substituted it for dumbbells and called that shit a gym! About a year later, we moved next door, another office space, but this one was about 750 sq. ft. A year later we outgrew again and moved into a 2,000 square foot live/work loft. That was really our big move. We built the place from the ground up over a weekend. I got the keys on Friday morning and by Monday morning we were open for business. Staff, members, a few hard working guys I picked up from Home Depot and I busted our asses over the 36 hours and made it happen.
Who comes up with the class design and name?
Every aspect of the classes is carefully thought about. In terms of the class size, I wanted a size that felt intimate enough to be a group date, big enough to be a party. I think it's BS that a trainer can run an effective class when there are 20-50 people in there. Yeah right...
The beginning of each class starts with an introduction where each member says their name, gender pronoun and answers an icebreaker question. We added the gender pronoun question after I realized it’s importance in our community.
At one point I noticed a lot of trans people were joining, but quitting soon after. After asking for some feedback, the answer was clear: we were misgendering left and right. So now by adding the gender pronoun, we don’t run into that problem. This also stirs up conversation among our members and thus, they gain an understanding and appreciation about it. Acknowledging people’s gender pronoun has totally become our thing.
In terms of the variation of workouts offered, the trainers have a flexible template they must follow. This allows them to showcase their own style, but within a cohesive structure.
The class names? Well, most of them came from shenanigans during classes. Like for example in our So Knotty class—a foam rolling class that can hurt like hell if your muscles are tight—you hear a bunch of groaning and moaning and things being said like, “Oh shit! Right there”, “that hurts so good” and “go harder.” Naughty = KNOT-ty, get it? I mean it sounds more appealing that “deep stretching class.” Boooring! That was the other thing, I didn’t want to name my classes some corny ass, over used name like “butts and guts.” Been there, done that. The other class names—well, honestly they came from me bullshitting with friends.