Following two years of repeated requests to address alleged anti-trans discrimination at Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater, non-binary Chicagoan Jes Scheinpflug posted about their experiences on their blog to raise awareness about the issue. However, the company has taken issue with a number of these allegations.
In the blog post, Scheinpflug outlined the instances where they provided trans-affirming education to the Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater management and staff. This included asking that the intake forms have a place for members to provide pronouns. Scheinpflug, whose pronouns are they/them, said in the blog post that they were misgendered on the first day after handwriting their pronouns on the form.
Scheinpflug told Windy City Times they stayed at the gym and signed up for classes because they liked their trainer and thought that the business may be LGBTQ-friendly because of the rainbow flags they have seen there.
In the blog post Scheinpflug stated ( with a screenshot included ), "I have asked the front desk several times why there are only two options ( on the app ) and why it is labeled 'gender' when it is really asking for 'sex assigned at birth.' I ask what they expect intersex folks to choose. To this day, the app still asks for gender and lists sex options of 'male and female.'"
Scheinpflug also posted that three of the Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater front-desk employees attended the trans-affirming business training that took place in Andersonville last February. They added that, afterward, these employees told them they wanted to adopt some of the best practices they learnedbut the gym management would not sign off on it. According to Scheinpflug's post, these employees no longer work at the gym.
Throughout these two years, Scheinpflug told Windy City Times that they kept on raising awareness at the gym but were told no changes could be made because corporate policies forbid individual locations from doing so. Scheinpflug added that one employee said corporate management in Florida would not change anything because they are more conservative than the Chicago studios.
Scheinpflug also said in their blog post that this past January that four people from corporate management set up a conference call with them via email. Scheinpflug alleged that, during the phone call, the first thing the corporate staff asked was if this call was being recordedsomething Scheinpflug told Windy City Times signaled to them that Orangetheory knew it was doing something wrong.
They also provided proof of these email correspondences between them and various members of Orangetheory Fitness management to Windy City Times.
In addition, Scheinpflug alleged that when Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater posted an Instagram story where the public could ask them questions, many TGNC people were blocked when they inquired about the gym's trans-affirming practices. This is also included in the blog post along with a screenshot of one of the TGNC people who was blocked. Scheinpflug told Windy City Times that this was "another message to TGNC people that the gym does not want them there."
"I feel duped and saddened and erased," Scheinpflug told WCT. "I spoke up about this for a long time in hopes to create visibility for TGNC folks since we are regularly erased in this world. I never intended for it to get to this public point. I had hopes that this one studioout of 1,110 in 23 countriescould make small changes to be more inclusive for TGNC patrons. After countless conversations with employees and management at different levels, things were not improving even though I kept getting told 'I care, thanks for sharing, keep helping us be better' while refusing to provide training for their staff. This is why I am speaking out.
"Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater touts LGBTQ allyship but [it] really [means] LGB allyship since they refuse to even ask for pronouns on their handwritten intake form. If we cannot even get one of over one thousand of their studios in a place like this to make such a small change, it is hard to not be anything other than disheartened or worse."
In an email statement to Windy City Times, Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater Owners David Lanz and Adam Paris said, "Orangetheory Fitness is deeply committed to LGBTQ inclusivity, and Orangetheory's policy is that everyone is welcome. Orangetheory corporate has been an exceptional partner in focusing on opportunities to be more gender inclusive, and we are always looking for ways to improve."
The email further stated, "Orangetheory's corporate policies are spearheaded by individual studios, and Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater has been a leader in creating some of the gender inclusivity practices that have been adopted by Orangetheory globally," including being one of the first studios nationwide to implement all gender bathrooms and signage and removing references to sex in weight selection recommendations and coaching.
When asked about Scheinpflug's allegations regarding the deleted Instagram comments, Lanz and Paris said it is not corporate policy to delete any comments to any post. Lanz and Paris also pointed out the Facebook Live event they held to celebrate the end of the most recent transformation challenge the gym held.
"With our community feeling deep anxiety and fear relating to the Coronavirus, the decision was made to keep this particular [Facebook] discussion focused on the tremendous efforts and achievements of the participants who had just completed their [eight]-week challenge," said Lanz and Paris in their statement to Windy City Times."With that being said, we understand that the rules of this transformation challenge did not meet our own standards for gender inclusivity.
"In January, we facilitated a conversation between one of our members and two of the most senior leaders of Orangetheory, including the director of fitness science. During this call, Orangetheory informed the member that changes in the 2020 Transformation Challenge could not be operational because the challenge was already underway for hundreds of thousands of members across the globe. As a result of our efforts, changes were made to the April challenge and Orangetheory is committed to reviewing the rules of future transformation challenges."
Lanz and Paris also said that because of the disparate laws regarding fitness contracts in each state, the forms have not been updated to reflect people who identify as non-binary; however, they are "working to ensure a multi-state compliance process to update all forms, and they will be updated."
The email also stated that Orangetheory Fitness is a heart-rate-based interval training program and that relies on current research which only covers the two sexes assigned at birthwhich is why male and female are currently the only two options available on the app.
Additionally, Lanz and Paris said that after the trans-affirming business training in Andersonville, the studio has supported what the staff brought back from that training.
"This issue is so important to us that we and our staff have attended seminars and workshops on gender inclusivity and transgender awareness," emailed Lanz and Paris. "Our organization will continue to work to increase awareness within Orangetheory. Currently, our local studio is working with Jen Grosshandler of the GenderCool Project to support their mission, and we have assisted them in their efforts to present to Orangetheory Illinois's leadership teams."
In a separate email to Windy City Times, Lanz said, "I am sorry that anyone feels that Orangetheory Fitness Chicago-Edgewater is not a supporter of LGBTQ issues. This is extremely important to me personally and to Orangetheory. The things we have done in Edgewater and continue to do have made real changes in Orangetheory Fitness nationwide. I am proud of our progress and of how supportive Orangetheory corporate has been in hearing our voices. I know the job here is not done, and want you to know we will continue our work on gender inclusivity."