Meet Natalie Huerta, the Latina Founder of the First Queer Gym in the U.S.

Nathalie Huerta The Queer Gym BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Nathalie Huerta

We’ve had the privilege of speaking to incredible innovators this month that pave their own path by creating their own safe spaces during the pandemic. One of these visionaries is Mexican Nathalie Huerta, founder, and CEO of Oakland-based The Queer Gym, the first LGBTQ gym in the nation that provides tailored training for transgender members preparing for gender confirmation surgery. 

Nathalie Huerta worked in corporate gyms before starting her own. She is now making sure The Queer Gym includes aspects she didn’t find elsewhere, and that specifically cater to the LGBTQ+ community, such as gender-neutral bathrooms, no mirrors in case of body dysmorphia, and even requires trainers to take a biannual LGBTQI+ sensitivity training.

We spoke to her about her personal experience and got into the details of the tailored training. Cheers to these wonderful and inclusive innovators! 

Tell us about your personal experience and how this sparked the idea of opening The Queer Gym.

There was a point when I was training as a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, and by this point, I had graduated college. I played sports through college. Basically, I was no stranger to the gym. It was my fun spot. And that all changed when I started to be more comfortable with my sexuality when I started to present more masculine. Essentially, the ‘gayer’ I looked, the weirder the gym got for me. I remember being like, “hmm! If the gym feels this weird for me, simply because I am queer, what does this feel like to other queers who don’t even know how to work out or have an athletic background?” It must be more terrible for them! From personal training, I moved into management, and I learned the business side of training. By the time I was in grad school, I was like, “I can do this! I can open a queer gym!” It was that experience: as a trainer and as someone who went through their own transformation and always feeling okay at the gym until it became a problem with my queerness.

What type of exercises and tailoring training do you do for transgender members preparing for gender confirmation surgery?

It differs if they’re transitioning to men or women. The first thing is setting the right expectations for the client. One of the things we ask is: are you taking hormonal therapy? If you’re female transitioning to male and if you’re taking, for example, testosterone, we want to make sure the client understands what those impacts will be from the beginning. When you’re taking testosterone, you want to lift heavy and stronger than what your ligaments can support. We frequently have to educate clients around that — like I know you feel like you can lift this, but oftentimes that leads to injury. Regarding top surgery, we mention that they need to do a lot of core and legs.

Do you do these training sessions personally?

I actually don’t do any of the training any longer. At the Queer Gym, we have a set of coaches that do all of the training. We have two types of memberships: a membership that includes group classes that aren’t necessarily tailored. And then, we have one-on-one coaching, which is 100% tailored. 

You’ve gone through body shaming in gyms. What is your advice for Latinx that are currently going through this and finding their way into fitness?

The reason why people can’t stick to their fitness is because it’s like dating. There are so many different types of workouts. Like for example, the gym. The gym is a type, but it may not be your type. You got to try different things to find the thing you don’t hate going to. It’s about exploring things that work for you. 

Lastly, what are the struggles of being a Latinx and a small business owner during this pandemic?

Currently, it’s managing your mental health. Everything right now is so scrutinized. It’s very binary. The world of business and social media is binary. I never thought so much about mental health as an entrepreneur as I have in this last year. The circumstances are dire, but you don’t have to be a victim of that. I think everybody can use a reminder of that right now.