I enjoyed this blog post by Carrie of Autostraddle entitled “Disability and the Gym: Let My Body Do the Work.” Carrie is a queer woman with cerebral palsy who decides to continue with regular workouts at the gym after finishing some physical therapy. Carrie talks about the experience of navigating the gym; a space that was most definitely not made for her.
As an able-bodied woman, I have had some uncomfortable experiences in gyms and fitness clubs. Unwanted attention, comments, and advice are not unusual. Sports and fitness centers are often very masculine spaces, and women who choose to enter those spaces find themselves sexualized and demeaned. Carrie expands on the intricacies of this problem by describing how her disability adds an extra layer of discomfort at the gym. She has found that the gym is literally not made for her, as she has to bring supplies to modify the machines to work for her body. The “perfection” mantras of the gym rats aren’t framed in a way that includes Carrie, as her body will never fit society’s idea of perfect. Ultimately, Carrie is able to reclaim her space in the gym, acknowledging the parts of it which fulfill her and other parts which fail her.
“I like toughness because it acknowledges an uncomfortable, complicated truth—that being disabled is hard—but rejects pity as an acceptable response. Instead, it gives my body credit for outlasting, adapting, and thriving in ways able-bodied people can’t imagine. I took that credit with me back to the gym. I don’t exercise for safety anymore; I do it to feel my body and remember that it is mine.”