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A Middle-Aged Trans Woman’s Experience with Club Pilates

My name is Cassandra Grace and I am the aforementioned middle-aged trans woman in the title above.  I want to share my experience as someone who recently joined your studio at a very interesting moment of her life. 

Just a bit of context about my deal to help set the stage…

I began my transition about two and a half years ago at the age of 47.  While I consider this experience an absolute blessing and am grateful for each and every day of my reincarnation, for most of this time I have been governed by two dominant feelings:

fear and exhilaration. 

Every single experience over these last few years—buying clothes for the first time, getting my hair cut for the first time, buying makeup, putting photos of myself online, going to the pool in a bikini, blah, blah, blah, EVERYTHING—has followed the same process: I had to confront and conquer what felt like insurmountable fear before I could get to the exhilaration. 

What if someone laughs at me?  What if someone rejects me?  What if I can’t do this?  These and so many other fear-based questions haunted me every time I stepped into something new.

Early on, I developed a pretty handy mechanism for doing this: control.  Whatever new situation I encountered, I did some version of how I started this email to you: “Hi! My name is Cassandra.  I’m trans and I would like to buy groceries/try on a bra/lease an apartment/let you buy me dinner. Here is what you need to know about me. Are we good? Is this ok?”

Over and over and over again, this was the formula I used to defuse any potential conflicts, real or perceived.  I did this so often, I wrote an entire book about it.

Well, ironically, my experience with Club Pilates is the first time I let go of my fear, let go of the need to control, let go of feeling like I had to explain myself. 

It was the most I have ever felt accepted as myself without having to bend over backwards to earn that acceptance.

“Bend over backwards.” Get it? Pilates humor.

Anyway, it’s kind of a big deal and it means so much to me that EVERYONE at the Reston Club Pilates Reston has been part of a pretty important turning point in my life.

I began taking individual Pilates classes this past Spring after healing enough from bottom surgery to begin exercising again.  (Yes, we call it “bottom surgery” in my community.)

I’ve always known that Pilates was going to be part of my life but I needed to wait until the right moment to begin the practice.  My instructor was like a fitness angel and taught me things about mind-body connection that, among other things, helped me get very connected to the latest system upgrade to my body. 

Those classes were also expensive, and while I feel like I got amazing value for the experience, there was no way that I could continue to afford taking her classes if I wanted to continue developing my Pilates skills.  And I wanted to continue developing my Pilates skills!

That’s where Club Pilates comes into the Story.  Finally!

One day this summer I saw an advertisement for a free class at your studio on Instagram (sidebar: sometimes social media advertising works) and it was like I heard a voice from the Universe telling me to sign up.  And here is where I decided to do something I’ve never done before: let go of the compulsion to explain myself as the first words out of my mouth. I showed up for that intro class and I didn’t tell anyone a word about my deal.

But here’s the miracle for me: that came naturally, the fear of not being accepted had melted away. 

I was hoping for a good experience, but what I wasn’t ready for was the awareness that stepping into that studio signaled my arrival at a place of just being. 

I’ve spent years becoming—change has been my default state for what seems like forever now—and to just be fully present in the experience of being felt like a miracle on top of all the miracles I’ve experienced up to this point.

I took that first class with Amber, and when I heard her say “Ok ladies, we’re going to start with…” I just melted. 

Every experience I’ve had since then has been wonderful.  I have explained my deal in passing to the instructors as there are certain modifications I need to make because of my body shape, but everyone has been super cool with my requests and the studio already feels like home. 

I share my story with others not because I care about educating them about the trans experience.  It’s a rather boutique thing and if someone wants to know more, I am always happy to answer questions, but that’s not what compels me to share this.

I share my story because ultimately it’s not really about me.  Or not just about me. 

It’s a story about acceptance and inclusion, about respecting and empowering diverse experiences.  It’s a Good News story of people looking past differences and fostering an environment in which everyone can be their most authentic self. In that sense, it's a story about you.

I share this story because most people who see me in the studio are probably just thinking to themselves: “Who’s that tall blonde with the amazing figure?” Even that kind of reaction is part of this Good News story, let alone the incredible sense of having arrived that this tall blonde with an amazing figure now feels thanks to the warm welcome everyone has granted me.

For me, the “normalcy” of coming into the studio and getting to know my body, really for the first time, is nothing short of a miracle.  I am incredibly grateful to everyone involved for being a part of that and it is very important to me to express my gratitude to those who make the miracle of my transition possible by accepting me for who I am.  

But if you know anything about the effort of trans people to just live their lives and be accepted alongside everyone else, you may have heard a thing or two that isn’t as glowingly positive as what I am describing. 

Another reason I share my story is because it is so positive, and in sharing it, I hope to push back against the misinformation, prejudice, and ignorance that still exists out there by highlighting an ideal for how everyone wants to be treated, whoever they are. 

In the meantime, please accept my deepest appreciation for the fitness paradise you have created.  I look forward to being a member of your community for years to come,

Instagram: @grace_in_transition


Book: Grace In Transition: The First Four Seasons

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