Race & Gender | October 29th, 2019

Student Creates Trans Fitness Organization

By: Nallah Brown
Student Creates Trans Fitness Organization

As a kid, Monica loved spending time outside at the park with family. It became a sight for fun, bonding, and exercise. As an active child, most people put Monica in a box and referred to them as a “tomboy”, which they never accepted as a compliment or as a sense of identity.

As an adult today, Monica is known simply as Roc. It comes from the first three letters of their last name. They identify as a trans-masculine, gender non-conforming person. At 15, Roc was a two-sport athlete who fell in love with an older girl from school.

“I used to go straight home after practice, close the door and pick up the phone to talk with her,” said Roc.

The day their parents found out about their love interest, Roc’s world stopped and everything changed. Stepping into their own sexuality was not an issue. Roc says the issue came from societal pressures to become something they are not.

“The way that society places these restrictions on people made me fearful to tell them even

though I really wanted to.” Roc said.

Roc was put on a five-month punishment with no phone or internet access. Self-isolation became a personal routine for Roc. They were no longer the kid who wanted to go outside and play.

“I would try and look at myself and think, “yo I really changed,” said Roc.

In 2016, Roc moved to Tampa to pursue their master’s degree in education-curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida. As a student athlete, workouts became a safe-space of true belonging for them.

“In a moment of time in my day, I felt free. It’s less about an aesthetic, and more about armoring my body and mind,” said Roc.

They began to document their fitness journey on Instagram under the account name @rocfit28. Soon after, trans men would reach out and ask for tips on how to build their chest and masculinize their body. They went from conducting one-on-one workouts to group workouts. 

“I would always say that we were just working out together and I wasn’t training them,” said Roc.

Instead of using commercial gyms to work out, they chose to resist the one-dimensional idea of fitness and go back to their roots by exercising outside. Roc transformed @rocfit28 into @RootedResistance. A program committed to providing socially just, accessible fitness and wellness environments for queer, trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary and gender-queer people.

Unlike a traditional gym organization, the “root boot camp” is free of charge and accepts everyone whenever they can show up and be active. They currently meet every Saturday, but Roc has intentions on meeting twice or three times a week.

Rooted Resistance is more of a chosen family than just a fitness crew. They share affirmations together and share personal stories. Roc likes the ambiguity their brand name gives.

“I don’t want them to just think about fitness. It’s about movement, it’s about mind and body work.”

August 2018, Roc moved to Tallahassee to pursue their Ph.D. in sport management with an emphasis on the sociology of sport. Specifically, cultural studies and the active body as a site of resistance.

Roc hosted boot camps in October, November, and December with no one showing up. Still, they continued to promote their program online and in person around the city. One Saturday in March, fourth year agronomy student Halimah Wynn showed up at Cascades Park and became one of the first members to join Rooted Resistance in Tallahassee. 

“It’s dope to have Roc as our leader, they are nurturing and genuinely care about us,” said Wynn.

Community is at the center of Roc’s services. People come to their camp open-minded and open-hearted, ready to heal their bodies and minds. Roc’s life experiences is what makes the program so necessary to foster a space of encouragement to be themselves in the comfort of their own bodies.

Local craftsman Sam Reichard found Rooted Resistance during a challenging time in their life. Prior to coming out as transgender, Reichard used to live an active lifestyle, spending some of their free time rock climbing, hiking, and doing yoga.

“Gender dysphoria kind of hit me really bad,” said Reichard.

He started hormone therapy in February and a lot of the anxiety issues diminished immediately, giving him the urge and motivation to go back outside.

“A queer individual in the community shared Roc’s camp on a subreddit and I usually trust this person’s suggestions for safe spaces, so I thought it would be a great place to start,” said Reichard.

With the same burden of feeling uncomfortable and being labeled as the “other” in traditional cardio spaces, rooted resistance felt like the last missing piece to his puzzle.

“It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to enter a space and feel at home, and part of that is because there’s not a single person there that doesn’t think about the world in a really full way,” continued Reichard.

At the end of the day, rooted resistance is about healthcare and healing spaces, but Roc is on a mission to normalize and replicate these inclusive spaces everywhere.

“One day I want to impact and influence policy change. It’s the necessity of access to this type of space for queer and trans people,” said Roc.

As the end of each session, everyone is encouraged to pull an affirmation from the “stay rooted” jar. They have the option to share it with the group or keep it to themselves. For some, the boot camp is almost comparable to attending church every week. It’s this culture of “come as you are and show up when you can.” In a country that is full of isms and phobias, Roc has committed their life to justice through rooted resistance.