Going to the gym is good for your physical, mental, and social well-being. It can be a place to build strength, relieve stress, and find friends and community.
Historically, though, gyms have been extremely gendered places and as a result, transgender and nonbinary people often feel unwelcome in them.
The university at large and the staff of SHWB and the O’Connor Center for Recreation and Well-Being in particular aim to support all students and provide them equal access to every Hopkins resource. To that end, we’ve assembled a handful of FAQs that often arise when transgender and nonbinary folks use O’Connor Rec Center.
If you have a question that this list does not address, email us at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We are dedicated to continuous learning and want to hear from you how we can make your experience as good as it can be.
Q: Are members of the Rec Center staff gender-affirming? A: Yes. Our training includes discussion of gender-inclusive language and correct pronoun usage.
Q: I’ve never been to the Rec Center before. Can someone show me around? A: If you contact the membership office, they can schedule a tour for you. If there’s anything in particular that you’d like to see, let them know when you make the appointment.
Q: If someone questions why I am in a given space based on my gender and/or gender presentation, will Rec Center staffers support my right to be there? A: You have a right to use the space of your choice, and the Rec Center staff will have your back if someone complains or asks questions about your presence in a given space.
Q: If I’m trans, can I use the restrooms and locker rooms that align with my gender? A: Yes.
Q: Are there gender-neutral restrooms? If so, where are they? A: There are two gender-neutral restrooms in our complex. One is adjacent to the GoodParts Café, right next to the main entrance. The second is in the Newton White Athletic Center, next to the Athletic Communications Office. Both restrooms are wheelchair-accessible single stalls. The one next to the café has a urinal; the one near the Athletic Communications Office does not.
Q: Are there gender-neutral changing/shower areas? If so, where are they? A: There is one dedicated gender-neutral changing room near the pool. It has a shower. (Note: this room is not wheelchair accessible.)
Q: I’m interested in playing intramural and club sports. What options are available to transgender and nonbinary people? A: All of them. Transgender and nonbinary folks have the right to play for any team in any sport they want.
Q: Are there any dress codes at this gym? A: There are no dress codes related to a person’s gender at the Rec Center.
There are, however, a few clothing rules that are related to safety and sanitation, including:
Everyone, regardless of gender, needs to wear a shirt while on the gym floor. Sports bras, crop tops, stringers, and binders all count as a shirt.
Proper swimwear (e.g., bathing suits) must be worn at the pool. Inappropriate attire damages our pumps and chemicals. The style of swimwear is entirely your choice. Cotton clothing, including sweatshirts, t-shirts, sweatpants, gym shorts, and jeans, is prohibited. No “underwear” such as sports bras or compression shorts may be worn in the pool.
Members must wear shoes in all areas of the facility except for the pool, stretch areas, and barefoot group fitness classes. Open-toed shoes or slip-on shoes without a heel strap are not permitted on the gym floor.
For the care of our equipment, denim shorts/pants and cargo shorts/pants (and any other clothing with hardware such as zippers, buttons, key rings, rivets, etc) may not be worn.
Jeans and bare feet are prohibited on the climbing wall.
For intramurals, you must wear athletic attire and athletic shoes. You cannot play intramurals barefoot.
Q: Are there any gender-specific spaces on the floor? Some gyms have women-only areas. A: No.
Q: Is there any gender-specific equipment in the building? How can I know what is best to use for me? A: There are a few things that are described in a gender-specific way but there are no prescriptive rules about who can use them. You should use whatever works best for you.
Some examples of equipment with gender-specific descriptions:
There are men’s- and women’s-sized basketballs available for checkout in the equipment room.
In Weight Room B, there is a women’s Olympic weightlifting bar, which is lighter and has a slightly different grip than the men’s Olympic weightlifting bar.
Some cardio equipment has the option for users to input their gender to make approximate calculations about data like calories burned and heart rate. This information shouldn’t define your workout; it just changes some of the machine’s output.
Some outdoor equipment is labeled as “men’s” or “women’s,” usually having to do with the cut or shape of the object.
Q: Is there any gender-specific programming at O’Connor? A: There are two O’Connor programs with gender-specific programming. Both are trans inclusive.
“Empower Hour” is a recurring event where women and femmes can explore the weight room and learn about lifting. Check the Rec Center app to see when the next one is, if you’re eligible to attend.
On Sundays from 6 to 7pm, the pool hosts a women’s-only swim. During this period, the pool is staffed by women lifeguards. All women are welcome to attend.
Q: Does the gym have a membership card? If so, can I have my preferred name on it? A: If you have a J Card, your membership card is your J Card.
Affiliates, like spouses and partners, will get a “Rec card” and can select the name displayed on it.
Q: How do spouse/partner memberships work? What if my name doesn’t match legal documents needed for membership?
A: First things first: the person enrolled in (or employed by) Hopkins must be a member of the gym in order for any spouse or partner to get a spouse/partner membership. The cost of spouse/partner memberships range between $48 and $312 depending on various factors.
Secondly, there is some documentation required. In the case of domestic partnerships, you must show two IDs (such as a driver’s license) with the same address, or a lease with both of your names on it.
For married couples if you have a marriage certificate or a joint lease, you can use that. For international couples, documentation of a sponsored partnership also qualifies.
If you have changed your name since getting married or signing a lease, please bring documentation of the name change as well.
Q: If I have a problem or a question, who should I ask? A: You can always email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Additionally, you can peruse the staff list to see if there’s someone who might be best equipped to answer your exact question. We would love to get your feedback, so we can best meet your needs.
Q: I’d feel most comfortable visiting and exploring the gym when it’s not so busy. What times tend to be quieter and less crowded? A: Late mornings and late afternoons tend to be the slowest times. Avoid the early morning, the lunch rush, and the 4-8pm post-work window. (Pro tip: if you enjoy a quieter workout, the third floor tends to be less noisy at all times of day.)
Q: I have some issues with body image and gender dysphoria. Will working with a personal trainer exacerbate them? A: If you choose to purchase a session with one of our personal trainers, your trainer willask a few questions during your initial intake assessment but will avoid triggering assessments like asking your goal weight or irrelevant questions like your sex assigned at birth. For any person, answering a few intake questions gives your trainer more information about your needs and goals, and that helps them find appropriate and fun ways to challenge you at the gym.
Q: Do you hope that I come check out O’Connor? A: Yes, so much. It’s an amazing facility with a supportive staff dedicated to continuous learning so we can better serve the Hopkins community. We hope you visit us soon.
Editor’s note: Many thanks to Abbey Nawrocki, Ph.D., (they/she), Associate Director of LGBTQ Life & Gender Identity, who reviewed and contributed to this post.