"I see Pull for Pride as a celebration of the strength (literally and figuratively!) and power of queer and trans folks."

Name: Liz Gipson

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her

Pull for Pride location: Brooklyn

Favorite song to listen to while training: “Fitness” by Lizzo

Instagram: lizgip

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

I’m a white, queer, femme, ciswoman, political/pop culture podcast enthusiast, and public health activist living upstate in Ithaca, NY (where it’s always gorges!). If you can’t find me at the gym, then I’m probably out biking, stuffing my face at the Farmer’s Market, or binging Netflix with my partner and our pitbull.

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

It feels perfect that my first lifting event is going to be Pull for Pride. When I first read about Pull for Pride, I texted my best friends the link along with a million rainbow emojis. I’m thrilled at the chance to lift alongside LGBTQ folks and our allies, while also working to uplift LGBTQ youth. I have lifting friends in Ithaca, but none of them are queer; I’m driving almost five hours to be in this space!

One of the things I love most about both lifting and being queer is the deep sense of community. I’ve spent a large part of my professional career supporting young people -- particularly LGBTQ youth and youth experiencing homelessness -- and I know how powerful they are. We owe it to younger generations to give back to our community in all the ways we can. I see Pull for Pride as a celebration of the strength (literally and figuratively!) and power of queer and trans folks. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Pride.

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

The first time I half-heartedly picked up a barbell was August 2016, but I didn’t really start barbell training until March 2017 when I started working with my amazing coach/trainer Brain Oberther from Infinity Ithaca. I was feeling burnt out professionally and bored with my machine-only workouts. I was craving something that would make me feel like I was progressing and lifting turned out to be just that. I immediately fell in love and haven’t looked back since.

What do you find fulfilling about training?

As someone who used to be afraid of the weight room, I’ll never get over how badass it feels to walk up to a platform and know what I’m doing. Since I got serious about barbell training, I’ve become more independent and confident overall. I’m speaking up more, challenging myself professionally, and celebrating all that my body can do. I love that I feel accomplished in a way I couldn’t with my previous exercise routine. Plus, it feels pretty cool that when I told my parents I could deadlift more than 230 lb they gasped in shock.

What do you find challenging?

Sometimes when I feel stuck with a lift, I catch myself comparing my progress to others. I’ve struggled with shoulder impingement syndrome and my bench press isn’t nearly where I want it to be, but I try to remember my lifting journey and be gentle with myself.

On those tough days, I go back through my lifting log to remind myself of the progress I’ve made and continue to make.

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?

If you have friends who strength train, ask them if you can tag along to their gym and see what they do. Most folks will be flattered you asked and down to share their knowledge. Plus, there’s a huge online community for support and training tips if you’re into that sort of thing.

That said, I’d definitely recommend anyone with a history of injuries or health concerns (like me!) talk with a professional first if possible. When I tried to lift without guidance it exacerbated my shoulder pain. Hiring a trainer who I feel comfortable with has made a huge difference. I know that option isn’t feasible for everyone (and it’s a lot more expensive in big cities), but my coach is a big reason I’m as strong as I am today.

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?

You’re not alone!

Barbell training can seem very exclusionary and aggressive at first, but if you want to do it, stick with it and find your people. Living in a rural region of upstate New York, I know that it can be hard to find LGBTQ folks to share an activity with, but connecting with people online or finding straight/cis allies who lift can be hugely helpful.

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?

Listen, listen, listen. I’m cis, so I always try to listen to what my trans friends say they want and need. I also lovingly call in my friends when they do something that I think isn’t cool and am open to having friends do the same for me. Speak up if you hear someone saying or doing anything homophobic or transphobic, both in and out of the gym. We all make mistakes and we can all learn together.

The gym is an intimidating place for many people and I think that’s only amplified when you’re forced to navigate a cisnormative and heteronormative world. Small acts of kindness can go a long way in all areas of life when coupled with a commitment to systemic change. Offer to spot someone, help them re-rack or load up, and when it’s crowded, make space for them. And also talk to your gym about designating an all-genders restroom. Being friendly in spaces that at times can feel aggressively cismasculine is an easy way to let it known that you’re trying to be an ally.

And of course show up at events like Pull for Pride! Maybe leave space for LGBTQ folks to be the ones lifting if space is limited, but volunteer to help out, cheer them on, and donate.

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

Too many to name them all!! First, I have to shout out three of my best friends who first got me to even think about weight training: Danielle, Garnet, and Morgan. Being around women who love getting stronger and talk about their bodies lovingly encouraged me to start doing the same. Plus the joys of talking gains and programming over a cocktail are unmatched.

And my mom is the original strength role model for me. Every morning of my life, she’s woken up before anyone else to go for a long run before starting her day as a high school counselor. She also helped start the gay-straight alliance at her school, pushed back against homophobic and transphobic policies, and is an overall powerful advocate for her LGBTQ students.