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My coming out story

Jim Jalove, group fitness manager at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

On coming out...

"I grew up in a small, rural town in Illinois in a family of four boys. I came out my freshman year of college. I was at school in Chicago and came back that fall for homecoming in my town. My mom and dad picked me up at the local train station and my dad said 'you've been hanging out with this guy Rick a lot.' I told him that Rick was my boyfriend and I felt the energy shift. I got out of the car. My dad looked at me, took me in his arms and said 'I may not understand it right now, but I'll always love you. The only thing that hurts is that you had to lie and hide from us for so long.'

My parents had a hard time at first, but now they've become advocates. They walked in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade and, since my brother is also gay, they have two gay sons and two sons-in-law."

On movement and fitness...

"You have to get uncomfortable to go through transformations. The only way you're going to get through it is the movement. Movement has been a major part of my life, I love that feeling of being uncomfortable."

On the Equinox community...

"The autumnal equinox is actually my anniversary at Equinox—it's been nine years. I started out in Chicago and have taught in pretty much every market including New York, Florida, Texas, California, and now in Michigan. I'm getting married in November to the man of my dreams and we started to form a family and tribe together at Equinox. If we're not at the club, we're hanging out with people from the club. Several Equinox group fitness managers will be standing up in my wedding. What I love about Equinox is that when it comes to being an openly proud gay man, I get to be myself daily."

Jim Scholl, group fitness instructor at Chestnut Hill and Dartmouth Street in Boston

On coming out...

"Like many kids, I had a very clear sense that I was gay, but didn't have the language to acknowledge or describe it. I grew up overseas, as my mother worked for the U.S. Department of State. I lived in Pakistan, Eritrea, Budapest, and then, I moved to Sydney in 2002 as a 12-year-old. I felt like [homosexuality] was more prominent in the culture, the mayor of Sydney was a gay woman. Shortly after we got there, I came out to my sister. The challenges I had were more about my internal struggle with coming to terms with being different than most of the people around me and not having any gay role models. I moved to Oklahoma when I was 19 for college, and I became very aware of how different my coming out experience was from the average kid in Oklahoma."

On movement and fitness...

"Shortly after I left Sydney, I had a really bad substance use problem. When I got to Tulsa, I found yoga, and it completely changed how I walk through the world. I had never done anything that had let me pause to just exist. Yoga is a space of non-judgment, trust, and health, and that was sort of the launching pad for me. Aside from working at Equinox, I'm a clinical psychologist and I work with LGBT veterans. Being able to do my job requires me to take care of myself and fitness is paramount to that."

On the Equinox community...

"I've been in Boston for 13 months and Equinox has been my instant community. Two weeks after I moved here, I started teaching yoga and making friends. Most of my friends are queer people who work out at or work at Equinox. It's the most affirming, pro-diversity environment I've ever worked in. I always joke that I have a captive audience five times a week for five hours [while teaching] and I regularly take the time to talk about myself and the things affecting my community."

Paula Calabrese, group fitness manager at Flatiron

On coming out...

"I would identify myself as bisexual. I actually met my first female partner at Equinox. I came out in my mid-twenties when I was working at Equinox, and I owe the company a lot of credit for being a safe space to be secure in my sexuality. It was the one environment where you could go to work and be around so many different types of people." 

On movement and fitness...

"I was always a dancer and cheered in high school and college so after I graduated, when I didn't have that dance class, I forgot that I wasn't as physically active. Through group fitness classes, I found that passion for movement again and transformed my body."

On the Equinox community...

"I came to Equinox to take a dance class and fell in love with the community. Shortly after, I started working at The Shop at the Roslyn club while getting my masters. Then I became a membership advisor, then a group fitness instructor. In April it will be 11 years."

Chayanne Joel, group fitness special projects manager in New York City

On coming out...

"Growing up in Massachusetts, I always knew I was different. All my friends were girls and I really never hung out with the guys. Sophomore year of high school, I went out to a show on a Friday night with friends and changed my sexual orientation on MySpace before I left. This was pre-internet on phones, so when I left the house, it was just out there. At school the next week, everybody was nicer to me. Prior to that, the football team was really egging me on all the time, just being mean and uncomfortable around me. Then I came out on MySpace and everyone was different with me, just kind of like 'oh...okay.' Coming out helped me a lot, I kind of found myself. I had two female friends and we never talked about it, but they knew. My mom was super supportive."

On movement and fitness...

"I never liked team sports, but I always liked the fitness tests like the mile and pull-up challenges—things that were self-driven. I started working out after I came out. One of the teachers from my school worked at the gym, so I went and took her cycling class. That's kind of tied into my whole life. Movement has always been something that helped me cope with the bullying before and find myself as I got older. The moment I moved to New York City, I got a membership to a gym and took classes. Eventually, I started teaching."

On the Equinox community... 

"Equinox always attracted me with its creative expression I'm also a freelance photographer—and it just feels like home to me. When I was an instructor, I was seeing different group fitness managers, trainers, and maintenance people at different locations and I always felt good about the people I met."

Flaminia F, group fitness instructor in New York City

On coming out...

"Back in the day, MTV had a coming out show and I remember watching that and thinking 'I am so happy I never have to do that.' I was sure for years that it wasn't my problem, that I was straight. In Sicily, where I grew up, I had a lot of gay friends who were out. But I thought for years I was straight. Then, a little later in life, in my mid to late 20s, I came out. It was sort of baby steps, not a very dramatic experience."

On movement, fitness, and the community at Equinox...

"I've been developing a passion for fitness my whole life. I teach cycling. Equinox is such a queer-friendly company, I feel the environment is so welcoming."

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