It’s one of those things that most people take for granted, unless perhaps they have body image issues, were traumatized/bullied as a kid or identify as transgender. It’s one of those things that is part of our daily lives when we are kids and depending on our lifestyle, also as adults.
So what is the big, “it?”
Some people may feel slightly uncomfortable when entering locker rooms due to the stench of body odor or the unexpected surprises when you round the corner and see someone naked. This becomes even more awkward if the person acts like a nudist and begins to talk to you as their naked body shakes and giggles in places only lovers should witness.
Other people, like myself, absolutely dread the locker room. No spa-like qualities or fancy bathroom fixtures will change my feelings toward the energy I feel when passing through the doorway and into a world that feels far too private to share with others.
After attempting to find a neutral ground with the locker room I’ve given up. I’ve had too many run-ins with naked bodies reflected by mirrors or placed directly in front of me. It never seemed to fail, no matter which locker spot I chose to change at, each time I reached down to snatch up my bag a guy next to me decided to drop his drawers, leaving my face there next to his hairy ass, it would have been slightly better if I could have at least been greeted with one smooth and hairless.
Some people may read this and think, seeing a bunch of naked men isn’t so bad, but for me it reminded me of a comfort I’d never have around other men, even after completing all of my surgeries. So, I’ve surrendered to finding a gym close to my house and working out during a time where I have the time to run home and jump in the shower. Not all people have this luxury, so from here on, I’m going to go over options a trans man like myself can take when preparing for the locker room experience.
But, before we can explore these options, we first need to ask ourselves, are we even comfortable using the male side of the locker room? I wasn’t comfortable until I started to get some facial hair. I have always used my facial hair to cover up my insecurities around how people perceive me. I suggest exploring things that make you feel more comfortable and successful in “passing” (I don’t really care for that word) when you first start your transition. It could be wearing a ball cap, wearing baggy clothes, or carrying yourself with a certain strut. We all need to judge our own comfort and assess when we are ready to make the big transition to using male restrooms and locker rooms full time. I recommend though that you join a gym where you didn’t frequent a lot prior to your transition. If you are a person who is always on a routine then the one’s that saw you there before may call you out if they see you going into a different room. You could also just start going at a different time.
So, now, we are getting ready to go full time in the male’s locker room. The next thing I recommend to do is tour different gyms in your city (if you have that option) and during the tour ask the person showing you around to also show you the locker room. Looking around places with someone that works there helps reduce insecurities and the fear that people think you are a creeper.
During your tour ask yourself how you feel when in the locker room and evaluate if the space gives you options.
- Can you find a place to change with more privacy?
- Are there restrooms in the room that you could change in?
- What do the showers look like? (Some places are now putting in single stalls with doors.)
- Does your gym have a pool? If so, could you use the shower facility while in a bathing suit?
- Would you have the option of changing at your work before even going to the gym?
There may be other things you are struggling with along with just trying to find a place you feel comfortable to change.
This can include:
- Binding if you haven’t had or don’t desire to complete chest surgery.
- Wearing a packer to enhance the bulge in your shorts or to try and conceal your body when you shower.
Below are some of my thoughts around these issues.
I was very fortunate, I didn’t bind before my transition, and then when I began my transition I underwent chest surgery first. So I can sympathize with everyone who struggles with binders, but I can’t fully relate. I can say, in regard to health and safety, be very careful when working out if you are wearing a binder. You don’t want to have restrictive breathing which could lead to you passing out. You also don’t want to wear a binder that is too tight. Get measured and buy the right size, otherwise you risk breaking or separating a rib (very painful!) If possible, look into sports bras that give you good compression and then wear a tank top and a t-shirt on top of that.
Wearing packers. I have to say, the first year of my transition I spent over one-hundred dollars trying out different packers and the one thing they all had in common were, they sucked. No matter what packer I bought, the three-inch or the five-inch, the one that is softer or harder, and the underwear that holds them in or the harness you pass them through I always looked like I had a huge boner. I tried placing the packer left, right, directly in front facing down or up but nothing helped. I also hated how it rubbed against my body and stuck to my skin. I quickly concluded packers and me aren’t friends. If you are worried about how your crotch looks when working out, I suggest buying super baggy shorts that you can pull further down. Also, unless you are being cruised, how your crotch looks in your shorts isn’t most likely going to be something other people are looking at.
If your gym has a pool and you could use your swim trunks to cover up your junk as you shower I suggest it. If your pool has a policy where you can’t wear anything in the showers before entering the pool, then try to be sneaky. You could take some water and run it through your hair or pat your face so that you look like you just got out of the pool and jumping into the shower to wash off. If you haven’t had chest surgery then you could also try wearing tank tops designed for the water or if you had had chest surgery and are a little insecure about your scars you can do what I used to do and cover the scars with one of your arms when facing other people.
Phew, so much work just to change clothes and get a work out in! I’m thinking of all of you struggling with finding your comfort at the gym. If it is something you can’t get past, being in the outdoors or doing some activities at home can also be very rewarding and give you some results.
Ryan Sallans is a public speaker, diversity trainer, consultant, publisher and author specializing in health care, campus inclusion and workplace issues surrounding the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community. He is also publisher and editor-in-chief of the quarterly literary journal, The Outrider Review which explores themes surrounding sexuality, gender and identity and features artists and writers worldwide. And author of his memoir Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life.