Working out the Binary

Misha Zadykowicz

Have you ever considered lifting weights in a gym but then felt that you don’t belong there? Working out the binary takes a look inside gym spaces to investigate how physical exercise, cultural norms and material space are being gendered. What is the relationship between queerness and workout?


(c) Katie Sandwina (the Lady Hercules) public domain, author unknown, part of George Grantham Bain Collection

Working out is a very vulnerable moment, when we face our bodies with great honesty, when the relationship with the body is being defined. This – important – moment, becomes difficult when your body doesn’t always feel like home. Gyms are spaces where the gender binary is particularly pronounced, from the locker room, to the exercises themselves, the poses, the sound, and the visual space. The fitness industry additionally benefits financially from idealized, unrealistic body standards.

Nonetheless, queer, trans people work out at gyms and play sports. Unfortunately, they often face judgmental stares, comments, and other forms of discrimination. For some, working out is a source of gender euphoria, or a way to achieve their dream physique. For many, the joy of becoming stronger, feeling in control of their bodies is important. Fortunately, more queer personal trainers, initiatives of inclusive gyms and fitness classes are popping up recently in Vienna and beyond. The project, based on research and interviews with queer athletes and gym owners, aims to describe the experience of a queer person in a gym, map LGBTQ-friendly sports spaces in Vienna and collect resources related to the topic in order to educate gym owners and clients to create more inclusive spaces.

Summer Semester 20/21
Misha Zadykowicz