Before Ilya Parker could start his gender transition and begin the next, long-awaited phase of his life, his doctor gave him a miserable prescription.
Parker would have to “lose at least 50 pounds” before he could even think about hormone replacement therapy, which would help him transition to a more traditionally masculine physique.
Fifty pounds is high bar for anyone to meet, but it was a particular obstacle for Parker who, at the time of his transition, was struggling with severe depression and body dysmorphia. Living in the rural South, he didn’t have a trans-friendly gym nearby. Parker hired several different personal trainers, but they only wanted to “reinforce” traditional gendered fitness aesthetics.
“Hormones was all I wanted to do,” Parker told Mashable, so he stopped searching and decided to become a trainer. Parker obtained a degree in physical therapy and became certified in medical exercise training. He shed the 50 pounds, gathered all the tools he gained along the way, and brought them to the place where they could be most useful — Instagram.
Personal fitness training is a $9 billion dollar industry, with online fitness training taking up an increasing share of the market. Online training offers consumers the individualized nagging many newcomers to fitness require, often at a lower cost than offered by gyms. And a growing, if still relatively tiny, percentage of those trainers are trans and non-binary, who are able to cater to demographics previously considered out of reach.
“Many trainers intentionally exclude trans/non-binary folks in their practice, or attempt to restrict how we show up in the world,” Parker said, and he wanted to change that.
To get a size of the market, head over to Instagram. Unlike YouTube, Instagram’s hashtags make searching — and finding highly specific, personalized, non-garbage pages — relatively economical. Instead of posting only videos, which are laborious to produce, trainers can build substantive followings with properly filtered photos. All of the fitness trainers I spoke with said they built their pages the old school social media way, by using the right trans and non-binary specific hashtags. A few shirtless and booty shots may have, uh, also helped.
“Many trainers intentionally exclude trans/non-binary folks in their practice”
That has helped them build big followings. Jesse Diamond, a transgender NASM certified fitness trainer in Nashville, has an audience of over 28,000. Shawn Stinson, a personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder, has an audience of almost 15,000. In the Instagram world, these are relatively modest audiences, but engagement is high and the number of trainers, multiplying.
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