LGBTQ boxing gym makes people feels at home
By Hawwii Gudeta
The Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club is the first LGBTQ boxing gym in all of Canada.
The founder Savoy Howe created the gym because she wanted to give the LGBTQ community a place where they felt free of adversities. The gym opened in 1996 and since then it created a popular reputation. Howe operates several programs that are geared towards boosting women’s confidence and self-esteem. The motto at the gym is to accept everyone from all walks of life.
Tammy Mears fully came out with her sexuality in Apr 2013; before that a few people only knew her as a transgendered woman.
“For me being a transgendered person aligns with how you feel on the inside and how you look on the outside; personally I’ve always wanted to be a girl,” Mears said.
The boxing club recently created one of North America’s first Trans policies for change rooms at a facility. If you are a transgendered person using the gym you are allowed to use the change room that your sexual orientation identifies with regardless of your biological gender.
“I’m getting use to just being me,” Mears says. “Before I use to go to work as Tom but now I don’t have to hide myself the girls at the gym are extremely nice and welcoming I love it there.”
Fortunately for Mears, her sexual identity did not ruin the relationships she had with her family and friends; according to Statistics Canada in 2011, 49 per cent of physical hate crimes reported were caused because of different sexual orientations. Growing up Howe knew what it felt like to be discriminated against because she identifies herself as a lesbian and although she did not experience violence; she knew violence had a strong presence amongst the LGBTQ community.
“I run one program that is specifically for survivors of violence; it is our Shape Your Life program. We are now in our seventh year and we have graduated 800 people who are lesbians and trans,” says Howe.
The goal is to empower anyone who is lacking self-confidence due to negative situations that they may have encountered; the program embraces violence prevention and it helps people to progressively move forward in their lives.
“We have transgender women that attend the gym and they love being here. They feel confident, strong and connected to the community,” Howe said.
Timage Mohamed is a heterosexual woman and she use to be a member of Toronto Newsgirls. Mohamed took part in workshops Howe provided at the gym, which helped in outlining short and long-term goals.
I love that gym because it helped me not only in the physical way but mentally and emotionally as well,” Mohamed said.