Pride is not just within the bounds of June every year.
With the growing awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community, the country’s fitness scene is slowly breaking its own barriers and creating a safe space for members of the community to be themselves.
Though there are still challenges, instructor Hans Braga encourages everyone from the community to get into fitness as this is the space that provided him a lot of support and helped him flourish with his authentic self.
“I think as an instructor and as someone who has a platform, I’m here to help improve the quality of the lives of people through movement. And to help people love themselves,” says Braga who teamed up with REBEL, a local fitness app that provides free workouts, health education, and recipes that uses ingredients that are readily accessible in the Philippines.
“Fitness helps not because you’re starting to look more conventionally attractive, but because you’re physically doing something for you.”
As the world, including the fitness industry, moves toward cultivating love for oneself, it also enables leaders like Braga help more members of the community to become the best versions of themselves.
‘It hasn’t always been this easy’
Though Braga found that he had a less bumpy road to becoming involved in the fitness industry, he knows that it’s all because of the pioneers from the LGBTQ+ community that helped set the stage for everyone else.
In the past, gyms were dominated by heterosexual males and sporting disciplines like bodybuilding were considered to be “masculine”. These spaces haven’t always been welcoming to LGBTQ+ community with restrictions on bathroom use and discriminating side comments, among others
“For the longest time, heterosexual people are the ones who kind of ‘run the industry’ or the biggest creators are all mostly heterosexual,” explained Braga, who is currently based in the US.
“It was only just very recently that you see a lot of big creators or big people in the industry who are coming out and are proud to be LGBT. And I realize that I’m just lucky to have entered at the right time.”
Braga recalled his first indoor cycling experience in Ride Revolution, where he was able to openly vibe to a Beyonce song, which opened the doors for him to become part of the industry.
He quit his job in advertising and eventually trained to become an instructor for Ride Revolution, and other boutique studios like The Movement Studio and Rise Nation.
“I feel like as instructors, we are really just so lucky to have a platform and not just have a platform, but be supported on that platform,” added Braga, who has actively helped organized Pride festivals and themed group classes.
According to Braga, there are still many members of the LGBTQ+ community who are struggling with discrimination and are lacking support.
With instructors like him to lead the industry while representing the LGBTQ+ community, they actively engage with everyone in class and develop friendships as well.
“I’m just so proud of people in my generation, who are unafraid to use their platform,” shares Braga.
“I’d like to think that there’s some little gay boy who wants to be in the industry, but is afraid of going to the gym, and we’ll say that it’s okay because you can do it and other people like you will accept you should you choose to be in fitness or wherever you want.”
Taken from his personal experience, Braga advised LGBTQ+ newcomers to take classes led by instructors from the community.
“Personally I always go for the gay instructor first because it makes me feel safe and and that’s like my entry point to make friends,” shared Braga.
The best part of being an instructor for Braga is that he is able to allow fitness enthusiasts to make connections and create a community for them, and he encourages the young LGBTQ+ to look for that “family”.
“You create friendships with students and the students are also becoming friends with each other and we’re just becoming a community. And that’s something that I encourage the young people to do,” added Braga.
More than just the rainbow
But the battle for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over even in a healthy fitness environment.
According to Braga, he is still a recipient of microaggressions even in progressive countries like the US.
“There’s a lot of people who have faced extreme discrimination and microaggressions. I have a pride mask. I wear it sometimes going to the gym. I’ve definitely gotten some looks, but of course I brushed it off,” shared Braga.
“But it’s a kind of painful reminder that not all spaces are accepting, and not all people are accepting, but at least I have such a strong support system and accepting community around me.”
But more than just spreading awareness, Braga calls on everyone to genuinely support the LGBTQ+ community beyond the celebrations.
“If you’re going to celebrate with us, you should also do the work with us. Pride is really so much more than just celebrating and putting a rainbow on our Instagram,” said Braga.
“Please be there with us when we have to do the work, and when we have to do the hard things that are not as glamorous, not as fun or not as festive.” – Rappler.com
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