Her Gym Is The First Of Its Kind To Cater To An Often-Excluded Clientele

“The minute I cut my hair and ditched the makeup, things got weird in the locker room.”

Some may think this Oakland, Calif., gym is a bit queer. And that's just the way founder Nathalie Huerta intended it to be.

The Queer Gym, formerly The Perfect Sidekick, is a gym that caters to the LGBTQ community and the only one of its kind. When Huerta, a personal trainer, rented a tiny place in Oakland in 2010, she never imagined it would become what it is today.

"We are closing in on our max capacity of 175 members," the Mexican-American entrepreneur from Anaheim, Calif., told A Plus.

"We currently have 147 and expect to hit the 175 mark in the next 60 days," Huerta continued. "Our goal is to sustain that for at least four to six months, then hire a financial adviser to set all my personal and business finances on the road to success, and then get that second location going with both a food operational and business foundation."

The growth of the gym is just one major achievement for Huerta and her team. But the biggest accomplishment was having a space where the LGBTQ community can go to work out and feel safe.



Nathalie Huerta; Photo Courtesy of The Queer Gym
Nathalie Huerta; Photo Courtesy of The Queer Gym

"First and foremost, it's about safety. How can you think about getting healthy if you're worried about getting jumped or sexually assaulted in the locker room," Huerta said. "Once safety and trust are established, then it comes down to helping them achieve their goal. And for that, we need knowledgeable coaches and a caring and supportive community."

That supportive and safe community is exactly what attracts members, especially those going through gender transition, a focus of The Queer Gym.

"We know a lot about helping someone transition because we are at the forefront of this as the first queer gym in the nation, and for what we don't know, we [c]are enough to go find out for our members," Huerta said, proudly. "And more than anything, we feel honored to be trusted in such a vital process of their journey."

Like with any gym, hookups are inevitable, but it is not what The Queer Gym is about and certainly not a primary reason people join.

Photo Courtesy of The Queer Gym
Photo Courtesy of The Queer Gym

"It's not the main attraction to this place," she explained. "People come because they want to get in shape, but end up staying for the friendships, the relationships, and the marriages that have come out of this place. Folks don't come in here looking for eye candy, they end up becoming eye candy together!"

As members enter the gym each day and more continuing joining, Huerta can stand back and feel proud of what she's created, which started merely from a personal need.

"The inspiration was my own shitty experience at the gym as my gender expression became more masculine," she recalled. "I grew up in the gym and when I was more feminine, I only dealt with the general gym creeper dudes. Yet, the minute I cut my hair and ditched the makeup, things got weird in the locker room (women hiding from me) and in the weight room (pissing contest with dudes).

Photo Courtesy of The Queer Gym
Photo Courtesy of The Queer Gym

"I just felt really unwelcome and I knew I couldn't be the only queer that felt this way," Huerta added. "I knew I could create something better for the queer community."

And that's just what she did, for herself and the Oakland LGBTQ community at large. It's an easy guess that other cities could learn a thing or two from Huerta's innovative business concept. But she's content in making her mark in the Bay Area.  

"If it ends up becoming multiple locations, then so be it," she said about the future of the gym. "It's really just to have fun and enjoy a simple life."

Check out the video below for more about The Queer Gym:

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