Nathalie Huerta founded The Perfect Sidekick gym as a way to pay her way through an MBA program at Mills College. As a physical trainer and a former collegiate athlete, she started by putting an advertisement on Craigslist.
Encountering stiff competition from other physical trainers to snag clients and to offer the lowest prices, she wondered how to distinguish her services from the crowd.
“I’m gay. That’s different,” she said. And as soon as she marketed herself as a lesbian trainer, she grabbed her first five clients within a week.
Huerta says The Perfect Sidekick is, to her knowledge, the first dedicated lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) gym in the nation.
She’s now been running The Perfect Sidekick gym for three years and it serves over 100 clients. The gym started at Jack London Square but eventually moved to its larger location at 2706 Park Boulevard to meet rising demand.
“I felt our community is pretty much really underserved in terms of health,” Huerta said. Even though she is a trainer, as a lesbian, Huerta said that she felt awkward and uncomfortable going to large corporate gyms.
“If I’m in the weight room, there was that weird awkward sizing-up with the guy next to me. If I go into the locker room, everybody assumed I was checking them out.” said Huerta, describing her physical presence as “dominant.”
“It was like, damn, I just want to work out,” she added.
Huerta said that lesbian women who present as more conventionally feminine may avoid regular commercial gyms because, “they don’t want to be bothered at the gym by the guys hitting on them.” Transgender clients, for their part, might not feel safe in locker rooms or find that people refer to them with the wrong pronouns.
While heterosexual gym-goers are also welcome, Huerta said she focuses on making The Perfect Sidekick a safe space for LGBT people to work out in Oakland.