Earlier this year, G Silverstein-Tapp was looking for safe spaces that catered to queer, trans and gender nonconforming people like themself; however, what they discovered was many existing LGBTQ spaces were focused on femme-identifying queer people and cisgender gay men and the ones that were not LGBTQ-focused are run and dominated by a culture that they said glorifies machismo cisgender straight men.
Because of this, Silverstein-Tapp decided to create Queer Kickboxing Club ( QKC ) and Queer Meetup Chicago ( QMC ).
"QKC was created specifically to address the lack of a queer and affirming martial arts community in Chicago," said Silverstein-Tapp. "Many martial arts schools here are run and dominated by cisgender men and do not exactly cater to queer or trans folx. QMC's mission is to provide a safe space for queer, trans and gender nonconforming people to be able to just exist and engage without pressure. These groups are designed to alleviate any expectations to spend money, drink or do anything forced."
Silverstein-Tapp said that their parents were an anthropologist and journalist so they grew up learning how to observe their environment and that has continued to today.
"I look for what an environment offers, as well as what it could benefit from and when I see a vision of both what I want and something the community is lacking come together, then I feel I have to create it because no one else will," said Silverstein-Tapp.
QKC currently has about 20 members and according to Silverstein-Tapp they all train at different frequencies and levels and come from all walks of life, identities and experiences. Silverstein-Tapp said that almost everyone started with no kickboxing or mixed martial arts ( MMA ) experience and every session is different.
Silverstein-Tapp said that QKC offers kickboxing, MMA, strength training and a certified queer/trans personal trainer consultant in Minky Kim aka Lifty Boi in a wheelchair-accessible space. They have also partnered with Jabbie Fitness App, founded by Joy Cox and Bummi Alo, to continue to build and grow an inclusive and welcoming fitness collective.
No one is turned away from QKC. Membership fees are on a sliding scale of $10-25 per 30-60 minute session; there is also the exchanging/bartering of services for those who cannot pay monetarily.
"I started going to QKC to get healthy, but it gave me much more than that," said Friday Faraday. "QKC gave me community and the confidence to accept being non-binary and go after the life I deserve."
"I reached out to QKC because I wanted to feel stronger and safer by myself," said another member, Grace. "Knowing it is queer-run, I knew I would feel included and comfortable. I love that my queer community is growing and getting stronger together."
Regarding QMC, Silverstein-Tapp said membership fluctuates between 20-30 core members. Silverstein-Tapp explained that there is no charge to attend these monthly gatherings, although a donation is suggested since they fund this entirely on their own.
"QMC was created with the vision of networking with queer-owned and small businesses," said Silverstein-Tapp. "To make it easier for attendees to interact with each other, I reached out to the Praxis Group and they were kind enough to provide their pronoun and ally cards and even ones in Spanish for both our QMC and QKC members. We all know the awkwardness of trying to correct someone on our pronouns and many people are receptive, but push back or questions seem to be more normal than not and these cards help people take this issue more seriously."
"As a non-binary queer person, it is hard to find spaces in the world where I feel not only accepted but fully celebrated," said member Tyler Rohm. "QMC is that space. Not only is it run by a fellow trans person, but it is an intentional and inclusive space for trans, non-binary, gender nonconforming and queer folks to mingle. QMC is a space where I do not have to think about how I exist in the world, I can just exist."
Another member, Maddie, added, "QMC gave me the opportunity and space to feel no pressure, but just supportive community to be myself. I highly recommend anyone who is looking for a fun no pressure time to check it out."
"I decided to intern for QKC and QMU because I wanted to be a part of the revolutionary and necessary work that G is doing," said member Aarin Ahart. "I wanted to be a part of this growing fitness and wellness initiative that highlights networking and the importance of simply creating and embodying safe space for queer bodies; a safe space to train, grow, develop, network and to be blunt kick some ass."
Silverstein-Tapp said their vision for the future of both QKC and QMC is to grow the membership base, reach neighborhoods without these services and start chapters in other cities. As for QKC specifically; Silverstein-Tapp said they want to do after school programs for students, have a dedicated boxing space with a ring to hold group classes and continue to collaborate with queer fitness businesses.
QKC sessions are scheduled by appointment and typically solo training sessions although the space can hold up to between three to four people for a small group session.
The next QMC will take place on Friday, Dec. 6, 6-9 p.m., with each meetup happens taking place the first Friday of every month in a different location. The location is kept secret and released a few days before the event on QMC's Instagram page.
For those interested in joining, contact email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Also, see www.instagram.com/qkcchicago/, www.instagram.com/queermeetupchi/ and www.instagram.com/itsliftyboi/ for more information .