Lena Mackay lifts a keg full of water, with ease. She has been working out for nine months at Every Body Stronger, a small gym in Inglewood.
Mackay, 23, is a transgender woman in Calgary, and said she started training after running into a wall on her journey to transition.
"I was actually declined funding for bottom surgery because I was over their BMI limit. Theirs was 40 and I had a 40.2 BMI," said Makay.
Ace Rodriguez is her coach. Rodriguez recently graduated from Mount Royal University's personal fitness trainer diploma program, and identifies as non-binary. It's something they say, immediately attracted LGBTQ clients.
"I'm so happy to be able to provide support for queer people who are looking for trainers like me because I feel like we have an understanding that doesn't need to be said," they said.
An example, Rodriguez said, is of a client who didn't want to work out their lower body because they didn't want to have curves.
"Because that would set off some gender dysphoria, and there is lots of that notion in this community," said Rodriguez.
For Mackay, what draws her to training with Rodriguez is the vulnerability she feels.
"I don't have to worry about anybody, you know, peeping or anything," she said. "It's just a nice environment and everything feels good."\
Rodriguez said there is a lot trauma in the LGBTQ community when it comes to exercise and gym culture.
It's something Geoff Starling soon understood after he hired Rodriguez. Starling focuses his business on helping people who face barriers to traditional fitness spaces because of size or ability, but never considered the barriers facing the LGBTQ community.
"It was purely just ignorance to that community on my part but as soon as that light bulb was turned on, of course there are barriers, of course there are challenges and that's not OK," Starling said.
Rodriguez said they have lucked out by working with Starling
"Geoff is amazing and I would love for more cis[gender] trainers to try to understand queer folk more — and really try to create that inclusion," said Rodriguez, who's working on establishing their own business — a LGBTQ-focused gym called TRNS FRM.
"My goal is to make movement fun again," they said. "And to have people connect with their bodies."