By: Lana Power
I pulled up to Transform Fitness’ queer-centric fitness studio ready to sweat. I was there to dance my way through one of Transform’s popular classes, ‘Workout! with Erica Nix’ and to sit down and talk with the proponent of queer, sex positive fitness herself. I knew the class would be unlike other traditional fitness classes I’d been to in the past, but I didn’t expect to shimmy, shake, sashay, and plié with a grin so big that it was almost embarrassing. I realized that Transform isn’t just offering a killer workout, but an exercise in getting inside one’s body and becoming fit in ways that are more about playing with your body than fighting it.
Transform Fitness offers workouts tailored to trans individuals and operates as a community center in Windsor Park. They offer fitness classes ranging from Workout! (a choreographic dance workout), Big Boy yoga, Queerdalini (queer Kundalini yoga), Yaaaaasercize, and Class Transitions, a transgender focused Mycelia aerobics class. They also host dance parties and art shows for the queer community. The idea for Transform was inseminated when owner, activist, artist and queer fitness guru Erica Nix began doing performance art pieces for local bands. “I actually started workout as a total art project as a revolt against the popular physical culture. I was like fuck this I just don’t fit in here,” Nix says. “ I would drink beer and smoke cigarettes while doing displays of working out for bands. I would be totally debaucherous. I would hump cake and spray cheese whiz on my boobs. It was really fun but at some point I realized that I wanted to take care of myself. It took me a long time to take working out seriously but it seemed like a lot of people were reacting to it and wanting to join in. Then I decided I wanted it to be part of my life.”
From the performances, Nix began running aerobic classes at the East 6th location of Cheer Up Charlies, a local queer bar. She continued offering workouts at the departed Center Spot, and leading public dance routines downtown. Once the classes garnered more attention, Erica says she started worrying if she was putting anyones health in danger with her informal, diy approach. As she became more ambitious with the exercises, she realized she needed to back up her skills with some knowledge on health and human anatomy.
Without any traditional training at that point, she decided to get a formal education in personal fitness. Interested in training the queer and trans community, she soon realized in school that there was little information out there except on people's personal blogs. Equipped with new knowledge on anatomy and personal training from Personal Fitness Trainer Program at Austin Community College, Nix began creating the curriculum she knew was missing, working to fill a gap in the fitness world. Not only that, but Nix was on a mission to make working out fun again.
The queer and trans focus on the gym breeds a rejection of traditional fitness culture that often reinscribes norms, especially gendered norms, of how to be and move inside our bodies. Instead, Transform aims to get people grounded inside the bodies and identities they have. “I think it's really hard as a cisgendered woman or as anyone in today’s climate not to have body dysmorphia and so I really connect that and I think that is something I share with a lot of the trans community,” Nix says. “I can only imagine how other people might feel as a transgender person. That body dysmorphia has to be so much harder.” Whether it’s bulking your biceps, developing your pecs, or trimming your waist, Class Transitions offers fitness for trans folks to commune with their bodies and achieve their aesthetic goals in a safe environment. Nix says that she thinks of it like therapy. “My training with my clients that are trans is super intense and beautiful and watching people get inside their bodies that have really been battling their bodies for that long is pretty amazing.”
The queerness of the gym also manifests in its community-centered, performative nature. Nix and company regularly perform routines around town at events like Queer Bomb, OUTsider fest, and Gaybigaygay. “The performance aspect is what keeps it living and breathing,” Nix says. “A lot of people that come here, the payoff is doing these silly dances and be at OUTsider fest dressed as Richard Simmonds. I never want that art part to leave.” As a gym centered around queer and trans people, what Transform is offering is not only about working out one’s body, but finding ways to live inside a body that are euphoric, joyful and more authentic embodiments of ourselves. My workout at Transform felt like a ritual communion with all the sexiness and silliness that my body doesn’t typically get to express.
For more information, visit http://www.transformfitnessaustin.com/.