Nathalie Huerta Created a Safe, Affirming Fitness Space for the LGBTQ+ Community

"I realized there really weren't any inclusive gyms ensuring safety for the queer community, so I built my own," says the trainer and founder of The Queer Gym.

Nathalie Huerta
Photo: Courtesy of Nathalie Huerta

The Queer Gym has a simple, yet important mission: to create happy, healthy, homos, according to founder and trainer Nathalie Huerta. And this month — Pride month, no less — marks the gym's 12th anniversary. The gym originally opened in Oakland, California in 2010 before moving to a completely virtual experience over the last few years. The Queer Gym offers both small group training of no more than 20 people per class as well as one-on-one coaching for fitness and nutrition. Learn more about how Huerta has created a one-of-a-kind fitness community for LGBTQIA2S folks who deserve a safe, welcoming place to prioritize their wellbeing.

How She Got Started In Fitness

Huerta was raised in Anaheim, CA, and grew up as an athlete. She loved working out, being in the gym, and challenging her limits with fitness. In her earlier years of college, she played basketball and had plans of pursuing a career in physical therapy. But after experiencing the industry through several internships, she realized this was no longer the path she wanted to go down. While she enjoyed helping people, at that point in her life, she says she wasn't ready for the emotional weight the role could sometimes require. Huerta eventually graduated with a degree in exercise and sports medicine but found herself unsure of her next step and 60 pounds heavier after deciding to quit basketball.

While she pondered her next move, Huerta decided to join a local gym in an effort to start feeling more like her athletic self. After becoming friendly with the owner, he approached Huerta about becoming a personal trainer. There was one caveat, though. He told her she would start with a probation period, and if she wanted to keep the job, she would have to show significant weight loss within the first six months. Shocked but willing, Huerta ultimately accepted the role and lost 65 pounds in six months. Looking back, she says she regrets not standing up to this man, but the experience still serves as a driving force when it came to how she wanted to work with her own clients. During that time she became a go-to trainer at the facility, and her client roster garnered a two-month waiting list. This initial success catapulted her into a career in corporate fitness, where Huerta eventually became a gym manager before she finally embarked on opening up her own space.

Creating an Inclusive and Welcoming Queer Gym

After leaving her corporate fitness job, Huerta went back to grad school and struck out on her own as an independent trainer to support her tuition. She began specifically advertising herself as a lesbian trainer with the intention of attracting queer clients. This intentional decision stemmed from her personal experiences in gym settings, often not feeling comfortable as a queer woman. Huerta says she knew she wasn't alone in feeling unwelcome, unsettled, or, at worst, unsafe, in mainstream fitness or wellness spaces. (

Nathalie Huerta, trainer and founder of the queer gym

For queer folks, our bodies are constantly under attack, and the gym shouldn't be another place where we're told something is wrong with our bodies.

— Nathalie Huerta, trainer and founder of the queer gym

Huerta says she hoped that advertising herself in this way would allow queer folks to feel more comfortable working with her in what can often be an intimate or intimidating environment. Needless to say, her assumptions were spot on, and Huerta quickly gained more clients than she had space for — it became clear she needed her own gym. This was the catalyst that eventually created The Queer Gym. (Note: The space was initially called The Perfect Sidekick when it first opened, later changing the name to The Queer Gym.)

"I know I needed to open my own gym because renting space in regular gyms wasn't going to work for me or my clients because traditional gyms aren't typically very affirming for members of the queer community," says Huerta. "In a regular gym space, we would have to worry about microaggressions, the potential threat of physical or sexual violence — all the things that queer folks have to worry about. These simply are not concerns for folks in my space. I realized there really weren't any inclusive gyms ensuring safety for the queer community, so I built my own. I created a space so that folks like myself could feel comfortable accessing fitness and wellness, while also feeling a sense of community."

Nathalie Huerta
Courtesy of Nathalie Huerta

The rules at The Queer Gym are straightforward: No homophobia. No transphobia. No fatphobia. No xenophobia. No mansplaining. No gym creepers. Huerta's initial experience as a trainer being told she must lose weight to succeed really stuck with her, and she made sure that The Queer Gym was a safe space for every body and one where body-shaming of any kind would not be tolerated. "I was incensed when I was told I needed to lose weight to be a trainer," she explains. "In hindsight, I wish I would have been more vocal about how problematic it was because my response — to just lose the weight and move on — probably made [the owner] think it was okay. However, the situation kickstarted my career and helped me frame the way I work with clients now. For queer folks, our bodies are constantly under attack, and the gym shouldn't be another place where we're told something is wrong with our bodies. It's an integral part of creating a safe space." (

The Queer Gym specifically caters to the LGBTQIA2S community in a variety of ways including providing gender-neutral bathrooms, the sharing of pronouns by both instructors and students at the beginning of all classes, organizing social events to provide members with a sense of community, as well as offering training tailored to those preparing for gender affirmation surgery. As an example, for clients preparing for top surgery, trainers often help those individuals develop better chest mobility and strength which will aid in recovery following the procedure. (

Continuing to Fight for the Queer Community In Fitness

After the onset of COVID in early 2020, The Queer Gym was forced to go entirely virtual. However, Huerta says this ended up being a beneficial transition for the brand, as the community was able to expand its impact as the digital world allowed them to reach an audience outside of the local community. "We started serving clients from all over the U.S, as well as receiving applications for coaching positions from people all over the country, and I realized that there were people everywhere who needed what we offer," says Nathalie. "It's given us the ability to make our services way more accessible than we would have ever been able to do when we were just operating in our physical location in Oakland. Now, no matter where someone is located, they can join The Queer Gym."

Nathalie Huerta, trainer and founder of the queer gym

I realized there really weren't any inclusive gyms ensuring safety for the queer community, so I built my own.

— Nathalie Huerta, trainer and founder of the queer gym

By opening the country's first-ever gym that centers around uplifting queer folks throughout their fitness journies, Huerta has paved the way for other gyms to start thinking about what it means to be inclusive. Her hope is that they take note and begin incorporating changes to make fitness spaces affirming for all bodies.

"Everyone should be able to work out in a gym in which they feel safe," says Huerta of the importance of truly inclusive gyms. Because of my history as an athlete and being familiar with the gym, I was never deterred from entering the gym, but I understood that [uncomfortable experiences] could easily deter other queer folks from wanting to. Fitness is an integral part of folks' well-being and everyone deserves to feel welcome, safe, and celebrated."

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