Pride month may be over, but at IFEP we believe it's important to recognize the triumphs of the queer community all year. As a part of our Pride in our City campaign, we had the honor of meeting and talking to members of the Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ community.
We sat down with Jodi Butler, CEO of Pittsburgh FIT, a queer-owned, inclusive strength and conditioning gym in East Pittsburgh offers its members not only a safe space, but a community.
IFEP: Thank you so much for talking with us today. To start, would you just tell us a little bit about Pittsburgh FIT and what you do?
JODI: We are a community. On any given day we have between 260-300 members. We actually started as a bootcamp in the park.
Building an inclusive community was very important to me. The fitness industry is generally dominated by 20-50 year old straight white men. It’s really risky to enter the arena in my 40s and as a lesbian.
We have a gigantic pride flag in the gym, it’s a beacon to tell people we want you here and it's also a beacon for people who don’t support us to make their choice as well.
IFEP: On top of inclusion, community and family, are there any other values that you have as an organization, and especially, are those impacted by being a queer owned business?
JODI: I mean, our values are really around integrity and honesty. I mean, I would hope that other non queer owned businesses have those types of values as well. I tend to be very conscious of having a safe space. That's super important to me, and I'm also really conscious of the communities that we live in, how we are serving those communities and having a presence there that's positive.
I also think this is just true of people these days, I tend to be really focused on the planet and how we impact that. How do we impact our employees, our coaches? How do we impact our clients? How do we impact the community around us? How do we impact our planet? Every one of those things is connected to the other one, right?
IFEP: Do you think being a queer owned business impacts the way that Pittsburgh FIT operates?
JODI: I think I talked a little bit about this just with our flag, I need this place to be one where everyone feels welcome. We have standard male and female bathrooms, and we also have a gender neutral bathroom that has a shower as well. I want people that come into our gym, however it is they identify, to feel like this place is for them.
Another piece is, and it may not be because we are a queer owned business, it may just be my own consciousness, but it’s important for me. Sometimes people come into gyms like mine, and you know, want to throw their shirts off and be like “argggg,” and we don’t do that here. If somebody does do it we just lovingly say, you know, that’s not our culture.
IFEP: We know that you do a lot of important community outreach with your business, what do you find most rewarding about your work?
JODI: The community, right? The community and the connections. I tend to think about how we can care for people over a lifetime. It’s not just you coming in and getting strong. One of the things I’ve noticed over the last ten years that we’ve been under this incorporation, is that there are so many people who are now lifelong friends because they met here. One of the things we do, it seems sort of silly, but if you take our group classes, you’ll come up to the board and everybody introduces themselves. Then we always have a quote of the day. So, of course, this month all the quotes will be around pride and inclusion.
IFEP: On the subject of community, what has led to you basing your business in Pittsburgh, and what keeps you here?
JODI: That's actually a great question! So I grew up outside of Pittsburgh on a farm out in Beaver County, and I went to undergrad here. I moved to New York and worked for the Federal Reserve for seven years, and then I moved back. So originally, when I came back, it was really because I had family here.
I’ve been here since ‘98, so 25 years. My community is here, and my people are here. It’s where I belong, you know. I live on the north side of the city, and I’m very connected to all of my neighbors here. Also, my business is on the East end so I’m connected to that community too.
What really keeps me here is that I love this city! It’s easy, it’s beautiful, and the pace is mostly reasonable, coming from New York which is considerably different.
This [Pittsburgh] pride was so good, and I really mean it. I was watching the parade and I actually started crying, and I just felt so proud of my city, and where we’ve come from and who we are.
IFEP: In the context of your work, what does free expression mean to you?
JODI: I think, however, people can express life in their body, and feel free, happy and comfortable about it. That’s what I want for people.
Go to https://www.pittsburghfit.com/ for more information about Jodi and Pittsburgh FIT.