If You Missed the ESPYs, You Missed The Transgender Ad Everyone Is Talking About (VIDEO)

jacob city gymDuring last night's ESPY Awards show, viewers watched the moving story of Jacob and City Gym. The video is a reminder that for every celebrity like Caitlyn Jenner who transitions publicly to much fanfare, there are many others transitioning quietly in their hometowns all over the country. They are no less courageous.


This is not to diminish Caitlyn Jenner's enormous contribution to raising awareness of transgender issues -- at all. It's that including the stories of other transgender people broadens our understanding even more. Jacob's life is every bit as precious; his transition is as bold a leap as Jenner's.

Jacob, as we learn from the video, was raised as a girl by his uncle. But he always felt he was a boy, and he longed to be strong in a masculine way. He talks about building the body he's always wanted. Having the surgery and taking the hormones is a process, not an overnight transformation. And there's a lot of hard work he has to do himself.

So an important part of his transition takes place at City Gym in Kansas City, Missouri. He's not just building muscle there -- he's also receiving support and counseling with a group of peers also transitioning.

I love what owner Hailee Bland-Walsh says about the gym. "It was never an intention to create a space specific for any group." In fact, one of her specialties is pre- and post-natal fitness for women. "But what a testament it is to create a space where any group feels comfortable." 

Wow, talk about taking the mission of wellness to heart, all the way! On City Gym's website Bland-Walsh describes her fitness philosophy:

As an experienced fitness professional, I am passionate about connecting people to their bodies. My fitness mantra is that when people connect to their very best selves and accomplish goals they never thought possible through fitness, powerful positive shifts happen in all aspects of their lives. As a trainer, I am one part best friend, one part sensei, one part street fighter, and final part cheerleader.

Jacob is fortunate to have Bland-Walsh and the other guys in his group as his friends and cheerleaders. One of the commenters on the YouTube page, Liz Fong-Jones, talks about how amazing it must be to have this support. "When I transitioned a decade ago, there just wasn't any kind of support except some static websites with names/photos of the few and brave who were publicly out, a few forums and email lists." She says the only trans people she met in person were what she calls the "Joy Luck Club" of Asian trans women she met a year or two after transitioning. 

A lot of people still just do not understand what it's like to be transgender, to live in conflict with the form your body has taken. It's a torment to many. But the more people like Caitlyn Jenner and Jacob tell their stories, the more support from people like Hailee Bland-Walsh they get, the more empathy we feel, collectively. 

Yeah, it's an ad for Google Business. But who cares? This ad transcends that. It's a human being's story -- and it could save lives.


Image via Google+ Your Business/YouTube

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