"Through my work I know that homeless queer youth experience some of the highest rates of sexual violence."

Name: Ashley Taylor-Gougé

Age: 29

Pronouns: she/they

Pull for Pride location: Minneapolis, MN

Favorite song to listen to while training: Pretty much Hatebreed’s entire Perseverance album

Favorite post-training meal: Usually something involving tempeh, potatoes, and kale. 

Instagram: ashleyvse

How do you identify? Tell us a little about yourself:

Queer as heck. Vegan. Straight-edge.

What does Pull for Pride mean to you and what's motivating you to participate?

I work for the only standalone rape crisis center in Hennepin County (the Sexual Violence Center) and through this work I know that homeless queer youth experience some of the highest rates of sexual violence. Youth who have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence are more likely to end up on the streets. Not having a safe place to stay puts one at risk for even more violence. It’s a cycle. And we can help end that cycle.
 
Avenues for Homeless Youth does incredible work to help provide emergency shelter, short-term housing, and supportive services for homeless youth in a safe and nurturing environment.
 
This will be my first event in powerlifting. I feel excited and grateful to be a part of it.  

When did you begin barbell training and what inspired you to start?

I started casually lifting in June of 2017. At the time I was dealing with some hip issues, so I’ve been pretty slow to start. I was lifting alone at the YWCA until November of 2017 when I started lifting at Solcana Fitness. It’s an incredibly inclusive gym in Minneapolis with an awesome powerlifting team.

I’ve spent most of my life holding resentment toward my body because it didn’t fit into society’s standards of ideal or good.  A lot of my friends started lifting and I saw a change in them. They seemed so confident and comfortable with themselves and I wanted that. I haven’t been lifting for very long but I have noticed a lot of changes in the way I feel about my body, and even in the way I carry myself.

My body is good. My body is strong.

What do you find fulfilling about training?

It clears my head. A huge part of lifting is getting over the mental hurdle and not second-guessing yourself. You really have to believe in yourself – there is no room for doubt. This has been incredibly powerful for me.

What do you find challenging?

Showing up on days when it would be 1000x easier to just stay at home.

What message or advice do you have for folks who might want to start strength training but aren't sure how or where to begin?

Start wherever/however you can.

Before I found a gym I was comfortable at, I spent a lot of time on the internet reading about powerlifting form and technique. I was on Instagram all the time watching videos. When I finally got the courage to try it out for myself, I took videos and sent them to close friends who lift. They gave me pointers and hyped me up. It really helped.

Over time I became more confident and sought out a gym that offered a more community-type feel.  

If you are trans and/or queer, do you have any words of encouragement or insights for other trans and queer folks for navigating gym environments and approaching training?

From the internet to gyms, there are resources out there. Gyms with the mission to be inclusive are out there. From Liberation Barbell in Portland, to Solcana and The Movement in Minneapolis. More and more are popping up. And if you don’t have a gym like that available, you can always find an awesome coach online. (This is a great opportunity to shout-out my friend Maxwell at Transformation Athletics: https://www.transformationathletics.net/)

Do you have any advice or encouragements for cisgender and straight allies who want to help make the gym a more welcoming space for trans and queer folks?

Get rid of whatever preconceived notion you have of fitness & strength and actively make the space welcoming.

Do you have a strength role model(s) in your life (this could be strength training or strength in other ways)?

All of the coaches and all of the incredibly strong people on the powerlifting team at Solcana Fitness in Minneapolis.

I also really admire Krissy Mae Cagney. She’s a sober strength athlete in Nevada that is working to provide free gym memberships to folks in recovery. She runs an org called Reps 4 Recovery (and also Doughnuts & Deadlifts.) She seems like an awesome human being. I admire her passion and dedication.