See a Transgender Man’s Joy as He Hones His New Body — and Meet the Gym That Got Him There

Transgender rights have taken center stage lately thanks in large part to Caitlyn Jenner’s public transformation. But while the larger issues facing the transgender community are receiving the most attention, there are other, seemingly smaller issues that that are incredibly important to people who are transitioning.

One such issue — how to maximize a transgender man’s new body — is the focus of a special program at Kansas City’s City Gym.

The program is highlighted in a new video ad, above, for Google My Business that tells the story of a transgender man named Jake. In the spot, Jake talks about feeling uncomfortable in his own skin while growing up and shows photos of himself as a little girl. The video shows snippets of Jake’s transition, which he tracked on YouTube, and his hopes for the future.

“Now it’s getting back to the gym,” Jake says in the video, while driving down a country road. “I’m excited to get in there and build this body that I’ve always wanted.”

Jake was headed for City Gym, and he’s just one of many transgender men who participates in the program designed exclusively for transgender men.

City Gym owner Hailee Bland Walsh runs the program and tells Yahoo Health that it developed organically more than two years ago through a transgender friend and community activist.

Related: What People Get Wrong About Being Transgender 

“We started chatting on the phone and talked about the issues transgender men experience — hormones, breast tissue, fat distribution,” Walsh recalls. “We could have a really candid conversation about these changes that were happening to his body that he didn’t experience as a woman but he did as a man.”

Walsh started looking online for resources available for transgender men and wasn’t overwhelmed by what she found. The homemade YouTube videos she came across gave good information, she says but “it wasn’t as good as it should be.”

And so, Momentum was born. The 30-day program, which costs about $150 and may be the first to be offered at a gym, is part support group, part fitness class. “We wanted to have a place where these guys could have honest conversations, like what to do when your driver’s license doesn’t match your credit card or you’re living as a man but still have your period,” Walsh says.

Momentum also covers exercise-specific concerns of transgender men, like how to work out in a chest binder (often worn by transgender men to visibly reduce their breast size) and body changes that can happen after they have surgery to remove their breasts, commonly known as “top surgery.” “They can get weird fat deposits under their arm and they begin to freak out a bit, thinking they’re re-growing their breasts,” says Walsh, adding that often times it can be a motivating factor for transgender men to work out more.

Related: Transgender Troops — At War, in Love, and Fighting to Serve Openly

Walsh says transgender men will also often gain weight in places where they didn’t when they were women, specifically in their midsection. Her program focuses on exercises that help them regain their abs as well as build chest muscles. “They’re not different from men who were born as men in what they want to focus on,” says Walsh.

Walsh’s groups can have as many as 15 transgender men at a time, some of whom travel from up to two hours away to take part in the program. Momentum also has a private Facebook page that members can use as a resource and a safe space to ask questions.

Once the 30-day program is complete, Walsh says they typically stay on at the gym because they feel comfortable there. And, while City Gym doesn’t currently offer a program for transgender women, Walsh is open to the idea: “We will work with anyone who walks through the door.”

Moving forward, Walsh and her friend are working to create a scholarship program for transgender men who can’t afford the program, and she plans to continue Momentum as long as there is a need.

“This changes their lives in so many ways,” she says. “The physical aspect is one small change, but it ripples out.”

Read This Next: How Transgender Surgery and Hormones Affect the Body 

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