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Rainbow Tank Tops And Iron Bars: Building Community And Strength To Celebrate Pride

Erin Trimmer
Erin Trimmer tried running, yoga and various forms of cardio before she discovered weightlifting. Pull for Pride was her first competitive lifting event, and she set a new personal record by lifting 170 lbs. during her set.

Fifty years ago today, the Stonewall Riots began in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, galvanizing the gay rights movement. Across the country, including in Virginia, people are marking this milestone and Pride month. In Richmond, events like the Pull for Pride are working toward building safe and inclusive spaces in the fitness world. WCVE Intern Allison Bennett Dyche reports. 


It’s a Saturday morning and a crowd gathers to cheer colorfully dressed weightlifting competitors.

It’s the first meet for 38-year-old Erin Trimmer. 

Erin Trimmer:  It’s been interesting. It’s not what I would call my strong suit, but I really enjoy picking up and putting back down heavy things. So it makes me feel very accomplished.

With tattoos adorning her chest and arms, Trimmer wore a white tank top emblazoned with the words LGBTQIA ally-gator.

Trimmer:  This is such a welcoming, excited ... everybody’s just super pumped to be here, and super pumped to cheer everybody else on and just support people. It’s a super supportive environment. And I love that.  

Trimmer says in the traditionally hyper masculine realm of weightlifting, inclusive spaces like this are rare. 

Trimmer:  Having that safety and that community is just so important.

This is the second year of Pull for Pride in Richmond. It’s put on by the  National Women’s Strength Coalition, which local organizer Cassi Niemann says is creating affirming spaces in the fitness world.

Cassi Niemann:  Which can be a bit difficult to navigate if you are a woman, if you are, you know, non-binary, if you are trans ... it’s very hard to find a space to be comfortable to be yourself, even just to work out, which is ridiculous.

Rachel Mckiver:  There’s a special vibe today in the venue that is just super empowering.

Thirty-six-year-old Rachel Mckiver has been weightlifting for about eight years, in between working two jobs and being a full-time nursing student. She’s hoping the good vibes will help her reach her 400-pound lifting goal. 

Mckiver:  I think the idea of physical strength and mental strength connected was something that drew me to lifting. Being a strong woman and empowering others to, you know, just be the best person that they can, physically and mentally.

The event is a fundraiser for the local nonprofits  Diversity Richmond and  Side By Side, which has supported Mckiver and her transgender son. 

Mckiver:  My 14-year-old son, Michael, and his transition, both physically and emotionally, as he transitioned from female to male. And they have been nothing but a support system for us, and my family and him. So, it’s very special to me.

One way that both advocates and allies in Richmond are celebrating Pride Month and marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is through focusing on strength, fitness and wellness. 

Niemann:  To me, that’s what Pride is. But I also, of course, acknowledge all the things that we do outside of this month. All of the things that were done to create Pride and what it is, and the struggles that were made. And why Pride exists in the first place, based, you know, on the Stonewall Riots and things like that. I think that it can be a celebration, and it should be. But it’s also an opportunity to make things better.

Niemann says building both mental and physical strength can help change a person and make a better world for everyone. 

Niemann:  When someone picks up this massive thing of iron with weights on it, they become a different person. And they can then go home and pick up their kids, or you know, carry their groceries with pride, or whatever it is. And they feel better about themselves.

Although it’s been five decades since the start of the Gay Pride movement, the women say there is still a ways to go. They say that creating and securing more inclusive and affirming spaces for all, will help build resilience across the LGBTQ community. 

Allison Bennett Dyche, WCVE News. 

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