Learning To Be A Better Ally

I have an incredible friend, Dillan. Dillan is a certified integrative health coach, and every single conversation we have makes it more and more clear to me how much he is truly meant to be a health coach. He has a way of connecting with people, meeting them where they’re at, and guiding them toward a healthier, happier self so seamlessly, that you don’t even realize he’s “coaching” you at all!

Dillan is also a lefty, a runner, and a great cook! He loves coffee, and 80’s music, and he has some pretty awesome tattoos. He is also transgender.

Today I wanted to share a story about one of my many conversations with Dillan over the last couple years. During this particular conversation, Dillan asked me a question that gave me so much perspective. He said that when he walked into Achieve Fitness for the first time, one of the first things he noticed was that we had unisex bathrooms.

He then went on to mention that he had been working out consistently at a conventional gym before his transition, but as he began his transition, one of the most stressful components of being at the gym became deciding which locker room to use. He actually stopped going to the gym because this became such a heavy burden.

When Dillan asked me that day at lunch if the reason we chose to have unisex bathrooms at Achieve was to be more welcoming to the transgender community, my heart sort of sank. I wanted to say yes, but it wasn't - at least not originally. I explained that the reason we did it was because we wanted Achieve to feel like home, and at home you aren't assigned a bathroom to use. But I felt ashamed that I hadn't really considered the impact that a gendered or non-gendered bathroom could have up until that point.

I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to constantly learn from my diverse community about how to be more inclusive. While inclusivity has always been at the forefront of my life and of Achieve, this conversation helped me to realize I still have work to do.

And we have since continued to have conversations that help me to be a better ally. For someone like me, there can be a paralysis by analysis when it comes to expressing my "acceptance." There is a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, when I only want to help. But if you are able to be vulnerable, and show your community and your peers that you are open to learning and expanding your understanding of what they might be going through, they will help you understand. Sometimes it takes messing up, or saying the wrong thing, or admitting to not understanding, to learn. But as long as you open yourself up to the opportunity for growth, you will be on the right path.

Dillan made a decision for himself, to be his true self. That decision included being a health coach, drinking coffee and listening to 80’s music, and transitioning. He had no choice but to put his decision to transition on display, but we have to remember that that one decision doesn’t take away from all the other parts of him, and it certainly doesn’t define him.

My commitment as an ally is to continue to seek to understand, without forgetting that the people who can help me understand, don’t want to only be defined as the thing I’m trying to stand up for. If you like to wear the color red, and every conversation you had with someone involved why you like to wear the color red, and how you feel about wearing red, and what made you first decide to start wearing red, you would get tired of that conversation pretty fast, right?!

It’s important to have conversations with folks in the trans community and seek understanding, but remember not to limit those conversations to just one aspect of their life, because they have so much more to offer than their gender identity, just like you have more to offer than the fact that you like to wear the color red.

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I have a reputation for smiling a lot, encouraging people to get outside their comfort zone, and taking too many pictures of my dog...


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