Written by: Coach Lou
Pride month is my favorite excuse for some blog posts about gender inclusion, even though we strive to create an inclusive environment year round at Industry Gymnastics. I want to start the month by talking about our Gender Expansive class and the importance of creating affinity spaces.
We often get questions about our Gender Expansive Class (an affinity course for trans and gender non-conforming kiddos) and why cisgender kids are not allowed in this space. It's unfortunate, but some people think that we are “discriminating against cis kids” or “excluding them from programming", but this could not be further from the truth or from our mission at Industry Gymnastics.
We created the Gender Expansive class to remove a barrier that keeps trans and gender non-confirming kids from trying gymnastics - fear that they will be discriminated against because of their gender identity or presentation. Many of the students who have attended our Gender Expansive class have previously been told that they were not welcome at other facilities or that if they wanted to participate they had to take a class based on their assigned gender rather than their authentic gender.
We have degendered gymnastics at Industry Gymnastics by making all classes mixed gender, teaching both “Men’s” and “Women’s” events to all classes and applying the same dress code rules to children of all genders. Even with these policies in place it can be intimidating to enter gymnastics since the sport is traditionally very gendered. The Gender Expansive Class gives students a safe space to get to know our facility and coaches before enrolling in our all gender weekly classes.
In my years teaching the Gender Expansive Class I have found great comfort in creating this affinity space and it has led me to seek out more affinity spaces for myself.
I recently took the American Mountain Guides Association's LGBTQ+ SPI affinity course and made this zine to explain the importance of affinity spaces and how they change the dynamics of trying new things for me and others of marginalized identities.
Why Affinity Spaces Matter - Reflections on AMGA LGBTQIA2S Affinity SPI Course 2021 by Lou Bank
Left page: We all carry things when we go outdoors, when our bag gets too full it's hard to walk. Arrows pointing into backpack in figure labeled: race, size, disability, sexual orientation, gender, religion, illness, socio economic class, mental health.
Right page: Affinity spaces lighten the loads we carry. Arrows depict sexual orientation and gender leaving the backpack. Arrows depict courage, authenticity, and vulnerability emerging from figure.
Left page: Affinity spaces make us feel invited.
Right page: You're invited and: your needs will be prioritized. Your identity will be respected. Your safety is prioritized. Your boundaries will be respected. We will hold space for you. We want you to be a part of this community.
So we can focus on being present, playing, and learning (even in the pouring rain).
Affinity spaces build community.