December 13, 2012

Cranky? I'll Give Ya Cranky

This is a just a quick post, which I originally titled:

Dear Planet Fitness: F--k You.

However, just in case you have children nearby who can fill in blanks, I re-thought.

So I came across this "funny" Planet Fitness video over at Fit and Feminist. (A great site, btw). It's just 30 seconds; what d'yall think?




Here are a few thoughts of mine:



1. First off, I swear I am not a humorless lesbian/feminist! I can take a joke!



It's sometimes very funny that androgyny can be confusing.  Partly because it's at least theoretically embarrassing to venture a guess about someone's gender and screw it up.  Whoops! Wince! Ouch! And I actually thought I wasn't going to be offended by this one when it first started.

'Cuz stereotypes? I can laugh at gay/androgynous/trans stereotypes, since well, as someone who has been "sirred" myself on more than one occasion, I'm aware there's truth to many of them.  And when offered with a spirit of inclusion I actually find gender/sexuality differences pretty funny.

But this isn't all in fun.

The ad portrays women who are body builders as indistinguishable from guys.  Some of you serious weight lifters might take issue with that.

But hey, lets say some women do look like dudes.  And some dudes look like women.  This ad portrays gender nonconformists as though they are maliciously TRYING to get poor innocent manly men and girly girls to guess wrong and offend them.

Really? Is this a terrible social problem I was unaware of?  But how comforting, I guess, if you are "normal," to be given permission to deal with your discomfort by thinking of yourself as a victim.  Ooh, what to do about those nasty butch women and delicate men going around making you feel bad?

In case there's any doubt, the ad delivers a clear solution at the end: Tell those gals who are extremely muscular, whether straight or gay or trans or whatever, that they are not welcome at Planet Fitness. If they think building too much muscle is acceptable behavior for a woman, they've got another thing coming.

Feel better now?

2. Why the heck do we need to exclude and attempt to humiliate others in order to feel more comfortable ourselves?

The ironic thing is that Planet Fitness is theoretically trying to make gyms more inviting to those who don't feel comfortable in them. Is that really the only way they can think of to do that?

3. It's a sad fact that gay and transsexual people have a tendency to get the crap beaten out of them, or even killed, when the cultural climate encourages open derision and intolerance about gender role conformity.

Thanks a lot, Planet Fitness!

4. Oops, I forgot the last time I railed about Obnoxiousness at Planet Fitness, I was trying to implement a whole new trick: positive whining!  So let me reframe:

It's too bad the advertising folks at Planet Fitness have their heads up their asses and are trying to humiliate muscular women, but it's awesome that my road trip gym search decisions have gotten simpler: I know what gym I'm never going to set foot in again!

What do you guys think, am I being oversensitive? 

63 comments:

  1. You're being overly sensitive. You shouldn't hate that commercial for promoting negative stereotypes; you should hate it for being a really stupid, poorly produced commercial.

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    1. I actually don't mind lame poorly produced ads, as I've got a lame poorly produced blog--but the swipe against boyish gals just hit a little too close to home I guess!

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    2. Who gives a flyin flip how well-produced a commercial is? Does it get its point across? Can you find the business to do business with them later? Those are the important parts.

      Overly sensitive? Did you somehow overlook the part where real people in the real world are having their lives ruined or even ended because of stupid gender stereotypes? This matters. We're not talking about a pair of jockey shorts that are two sizes too small or the wrong shade of purple. Egads.

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  2. I really thought it was a scene from one of those low budget tired out slap stick comedies. Planet Fitness is an actual chain? Are you sure? This is an Ad design some how to attract customers? Nah!! Pull the other leg. Nice Try!!

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    1. It IS kinda funny that a gym would base it's ad campaign on being the gym that hates for people to get too strong. But yeah, it's real!

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  3. I hate stereotypes (of any sort). That is one of the main things I try to teach my boys! No one should be judged based on appearance, athleticism, mannerisms or anything else!

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    1. Good for you Kim! And great that your boys are learning openmindedness from an early age.

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  4. That is awful! It's one of the times i wish Ol' Bessy hadn't cooperated and let me see the video (usually she doesn't).

    Remind me to never consider going there, either.

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    1. Ol' Bessy must have been in a mischievous mood when she let the video run! Better to watch the kitties play.

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  5. I don't get it.
    That said, I get that it's supposed to be funny, but I find the humour lacking something...kindness, compassion, a solid, legitimate base perhaps?

    So it needles us 'cuz we've all been there, right? The gender identity continuum has too many stops to keep track of, hell, who can't identify with discomfort when confronted with...you know... one of those?
    I could go on, but instead I'll end with a simple, eloquent gaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

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    1. gaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh indeed! Thanks leah. :)

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  6. Dear Crabby -

    You are NOT out of line. So, please allow me to chime in and go very opinionated and blurt-speak on this....

    1: if one IS going to TRY to be funny (which - for this I'm not on board in so doing), then this is definitely NOT sufficiently clever (didn't SNL do the whole Pat/Chris thing to death already?)

    1-A: and what IS the point of this, anyway???? Seriously. I want to know!

    2: it's kind of creepy in its OWN discomfort - and, yes - I'm referring to the pastey looking, dough-boy, supposedly hetero, confused conformist;

    3: a repeat of the first in terms of lack of originality - I mean, which BATHROOM, for crissakes?!?!? Really????

    4: It is more than sort of pathetic that in the REAL world that this (which bathroom) actually still IS the Big Issue for some (forcing folks who already are facing mountainous obstacles to deal with an even more bizarre facet of everyone else's discomfort) - making this type of reinforcement all the worse;

    5 - it's just wrong. Yep. There ARE some things at some times that are wrong to poke fun at (and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a good laugh). We are not far enough along in our evolution toward any kind of tolerance for "different" in this arena that it's ok to engage in this kind of sophomoric (at BEST), to-what-end? approach.

    To me - it's like carelessly snipping the bud off a rose that is on the precipice of blooming. It's ugly, cruel and stunts any real growth. That's not even close to funny in my book.

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    1. Ah anon, you said all this so much better than I did, thank you!!!

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  7. What struck me most was that the staff person looked as though he never touched the equipment. Is this supposed to be a gym for people who don't like gyms? But there--don't expect me to make sense of commercials. I haven't watched television for sixteen years because I got sick of them.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. Mary Anne, as to "Is this supposed to be a gym for people who don't like gyms?" Yeah, I think that's supposed to be a big selling point. So I wonder how people are gonna feel when they get there and all there is to do to work out with gym equipment, like, um, people who go to gyms?

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  8. Planet Fitness runs commercials that try to sell the fact that they are a gym for ordinary people: those folks who are not super fit, super muscular and perhaps a bit older.

    Body builder type people are more than welcome there but chances are they wouldn't want to go there anyway.

    So, I'm curious, do these commercials offend you as much? Or is it only the ones with women?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1Y4XY8Pl6U

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPcKxcZ18uc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=1HFPnUY-Ip0&NR=1

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    1. Thanks for providing some context, Helen! I don't think I realized that Planet Fitness had a broadbased campaign to make fun of bodybuilders of both genders and proclaim that they're not welcome there.

      So with the above commercials with the guys, I still think they're annoying in that they're basically saying bodybuilders are stupid and should be booted out.

      But I think the fact that the one with the woman is specifically targeting the fact that she's androgynous as being objectionable really hits a nerve. The whole tone is sort of "how on earth are normal people supposed to deal with these obnoxious women who look like men, don't you hate them and aren't they weird? Don't worry, they're not welcome at our gym." I may be wrong, but it seemed really mean spirited.

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    2. I actually just re-joined the Planet Fitness in my area as soon as the doctor gave me clearance to get on the elliptical. I go in the morning when most people who are there are serious and want to get their workout done so they can get to work. There are a couple of body builder types who happen to go at the same time. They are not very nice when other people who do not look like them come into the free weight area. I don't let it bother me, but I've seen it intimidate others. That being said, I think PF is trying to create an atmosphere where if you aren't the most in shape person or are not a body builder you feel welcome. Still sometimes their commercial come off as just plain dumb. And I do understand your concern. While I would not choose to look like that woman, it's her right to do so and as long as she'll share the free weight area with me, I honestly don't care what she looks like!

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    3. Good point, Helen, that a few bodybuilder types have attitude and can intimidate others. But sure wish they could have thought of a way to encourage everyone without perpetuating an "us against them" mentality. Most serious weight lifters don't give a hoot what anyone else is doing, they're just there to work out. But where i thought they went over the line was in appealing to people's latent homophobia and discomfort with gender nonconformity to ridicule anyone who's different and tell 'em there' not welcome. Ick.

      Thanks again for contributing a broader perspective to the debate!

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    4. Actually, 'body builder types' are tacitly NOT welcome at Planet Fitness. All their recent TV/radio ads mock those with visible musculature. Their locations keep bowls of CANDY at the front desk, and have regular "pizza nights" and "donut mornings" for their members. PF is the gym for people who want to pay $10 a month to stay home.

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  9. I'm not offended by much honestly. I swear like a sailor and tell sexual jokes etc. So nothing really offends me. The commercial is just BAD. I wasn't offended by it, but it was just bad, not funny at all, despite them trying to be funny.

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    1. Funny, I swear like a sailor and tell dirty jokes too! Yet it bugged the hell out of me. But I may be a bit over sensitive.

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  10. Nope, you're not being overly sensitive. I found it very offensive, backward, ignorant and counter productive for their own type of business. I understand the desire to appeal to the everyday people who might feel intimidated by those who really know what they're doing in the gym and look great. I don't get how being highly offensive to that latter group would make anyone feel comfortable to be part of their establishment. I'm assuming that despite all of this, those advertisements are working for them. That's a head-scratcher.

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    1. I guess intolerance is an easy sell Hilary but yeah it's kind of depressing! Thanks!

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  11. F'in ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!! From one who has been stared at & told I was too muscular & man looking, especially when I was younger & lifting to compete, yes, offensive! AND I worked out at 24 Hour Fitness although the management did not say this....

    You have every right to be f'in cranky!!!! :)

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    1. I'm sorry you had to put up with that Jody! I think it's as obnoxious to make fun of people for being "too" fit as it is to make fun of them for being unfit. Sheesh!

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  12. The ad was not funny. I'll second your F-YOU. I am a heavy-lifting, muscular woman (although I'm porky at the moment) with genetics that allow me to naturally build strength and bulk quickly (if only getting lean were as easy) and I found it offensive. I think they did a fabulous job of alienating any serious female weight lifters who may have considered using their gym. DUH, morons.

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    1. Sadly, Girl in Yoga Pant, I guess that's the point, they don't WANT ya there and how screwed up is that? Even I may be too "serious" for them and I'm not that serious!

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  13. Thanks for the shout-out to my post! Obviously I agree with you 100%. I don't consider myself to be an overly sensitive person, but this just really hit a bunch of my buttons in the exact wrong way. Planet Fitness could do a much better job of appealing to their target audience without resorting to tired, damaging stereotypes about people who don't conform to gender norms, but that would require creativity and intelligence, and as I am sadly learning, those tend to be in short supply in certain professional realms these days.

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    1. Hey thanks so much Caitlin for your post and for stopping by! And yeah, why be creative when it's so much easier to be mean?

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    1. My fitness center caters to every type of person imaginable! Their commercials are straightforward and honest. Their business model sets a standard in the industry!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2_Z-IS7dfk

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbL9hq_qeHE

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  15. As you are aware, I'm not the type to go to a gym to workout, but if I were looking for a gym, this commercial would definitely help me narrow the field by elimination.
    What a ridiculous premise - alienate a portion of the work-out set to attract a different portion of the work-out set??

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    1. Especially since, as Norma points out, they use candy bars, donuts and pizza to keep the casual folks happy; why the need to alienate anyone?

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  16. I guess I'd find this more offensive if 1. It weren't such a bad ad; and 2. The woman in question actually looked or sounded androgynous.

    Maybe it's the group I run with, or where I live, but my first reaction was to tilt my head, confused-dog style, and say, "Uh. . .that's a chick, dude."

    Perhaps PF isn't trying to appeal to non-body-builder, non-androgynous types. Maybe it's just trying to appeal to those who aren't real observant and are perhaps a little slow.

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    1. Hey Jo, great to see ya!!!

      I think your crowd is a lot more sensitive than most; I suspect the bodybuilder in question probably does get a lot of curious looks if not outright hostility.

      My hope is that you're right and that PF is so out of touch with mainstream attitudes that their outlook seems horribly old-fashioned rather than "edgy." But intolerance is a pretty easy sell.

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  17. THAT was amazingly tasteless.

    I wonder how many complaints they've gotten? Speaking of, I'm going to their site right now to register a formal complaint!

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  18. Absurdly stupid commercial and not funny. And you're not being overly sensitive. It's all fine and well to market to us non-body builders but that doesn't make it okay to ridicule anyone. If it's not about ridicule, why did they have the actor present on the andro/butch side of the spectrum and then focus on the "confusion?" Could have used a femmy presentation instead, and a different script, but they didn't. Yuck!

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    1. Yeah, funny they didn't go with a long-haired "babe" to make fun of. Thanks Cathy!

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  19. It's in very bad taste. And when combined with the comments made by the ESPN radio jerks-er-jocks, who spent nearly 4 minutes making fun of a transgender college basketball player, it illustrates just how far we have to go when it comes to acceptance, tolerance, and plain old mind-your-own- business.

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    1. I forgot about that ESPN thing, yikes! Yeah, azusmom, we got a ways to go.

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  20. I completely agree with your opinion. It is inconsiderate of Planet Fitness to use this as a means to attract more customers; we don't need any more fuel for the prejudices we have today.

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    1. Thanks RunnerGrl! And seems a weird stategy for a gym! Would understand if they were selling hamburgers, but fitness??

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  21. Hmmm. Of course it is offensive about gender/sex-role steriotypes but somehow not obvious to me why it is worth so much sturm und drang. I know that must make me seem like some kind of self satisfied snob. I lift. I lift heavy. I do olympic lifts. However, I'm a fem so that gives me more room to do "butch" things, I guess. Also, I had never heard of Planet Fitness.

    One more thing: mostly I found the advertisement boring and obscure. I guess that's two things.

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    1. I think for me, anonymous, as a gal on the butch side, I already feel marginalized enough. For a gym to say that woman who are very muscular (ok I don't have THAT issue) and therefore androgynous are not welcome felt like a slap in the face. It's ok to openly ridicule women who are too butch because they're just TOO freaky to tolerate? That stung.

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  22. I think it's a pretty obnoxious ad. I don't see the need to make fun of people who are a little different. Yes, that woman's particular physical aesthetic might not appeal to many, but then again, some people might find my big ass off putting. The ad doesn't really offend me, I just find it a stupid campaign. I think gyms should try as much as possible to be all inclusive.

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    1. Thanks sunny/Gaye, and love your blog! The "about" page alone is worth a visit as it's hilarious.

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  23. Blogger has me as sunny, but it's Gaye at confetti drop. Hi!

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  24. Since she is obviously female, I think it just pointed out how stupid the "trainers" at PF are. Very offensive!

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    1. That's my take. The underlying message seems to be "join Planet Fitness! our employees are morons!" So besides being offensive towards butch women, weightlifters, and transgendered folks, it's offensive towards the people that work there too. Sigh. That's some good advertising right there.

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    2. And yet... wouldn't be surprised if it appeals to a certain sort of insecure gymgoer. Thanks Reb and Andrea!

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  25. my reaction was: wow she s hot! the commercial itself is pretty boring. i wasnt upset, but think you made some valid points.

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    1. Hooray for the Butch Appreciation Society! Thanks Puja!

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  26. After reading the comments, glad to know I wasn't the only one that was confused on the what message PF was trying to convey. I've been on several gym tours and have never been escorted through the locker rooms. It was always, 'there's the locker room, go have a look'. I had to look at the ad a couple of times, and the tour guide said 'after you'...if he was really that confused, why set yourself up to be a dude to follow a woman into the woman's locker room? Was he really going to follow her into the woman's locker room? Or walk into the woman's locker room first?

    I think the ad portrays incompetent sales dudes at PF more than anything.

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    1. I was wondering that too, BC why the hell would a male gym employee venture into the women's locker room? Dumbest ad ever.

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  27. That was a very stupid commercial. I think the ad is trying to be funny, not sure that there is an underlying message.
    Totally get why you were offended. I used to be offended by things like that too, now I am older and just don't care. There will always be intolerance ( trust me, I live in the midwest, I know!), but I have just decided to live my life and ignore the haters.
    It keeps me happier!

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    1. Some day I would like to be as Zen as you about the haters, pokeydog! Yet I still feel the need to call them out so that the impressionable don't think it's "OK" to casually diss people who are different.

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  28. Planet Fitness' advertising and attitude are deplorable. If there was one next door to my house, I wouldn't use it, solely based on the way they market themselves. At the gym I belong to, we have every demographic under the sun, from 4% bodyfat massive male bodybuilders to women in their 80s and 90s who do the 7AM yoga class every day. All are welcome. All are respectful. Everyone is there for the purpose of working hard and getting stronger. Everyone is TOO BUSY doing their exercises to worry about what anyone else is doing/not doing, wearing, lifting...or which bathroom they're using. To propose that a woman with visible musculature (and the actress in the ad is, honestly, a far cry from the level of definition most female bodybuilders display in competition) is indistinguishable from a man is ludicrous and insulting, and only goes to deepen the divide between the fitness-oriented and the couch potatoes. Planet Fitness is the gym you can join if you want to pay $10 a month to keep doing NOTHING. Time to go throw some 45s on the Olympic bar and figure out where to pee...

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    1. @Cranky, I'd love for you to identify the female actor in the ad and ask her why she'd participate in such a farce and do a disservice to fit females everywhere.

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    2. LOVE your comments Norma! And I wondered about the actor too; can't imagine she got paid much so I can only hope she didn't know how nasty the whole thing was going to turn out.

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  29. I think people have the right to look how they want to look. As a straight dude who looks like a throwback himself, I can take it for granted that I look like the gender I was born with. I'm guessing that not every female bodybuilder of such musculature is transgender, but just because I have that initial reaction of confusion, I'm a man-- not a little boy. I should be able to deal with it politely. I don't give a crap where she would go to the bathroom. Not my business, it's hers. When I was a beginner to weight lifting and fitness a year and a half ago, I was insecure because I was fat and weak.

    Ironically, as I pointed out to my gay buddy who has a preference to FTM gentlemen, I saw myself as going through a similarly radical metamorphosis. I wanted to transform my body, which had pretty much the equivalent of breasts and large hips into my current body which now has a pretty decent "male" definition (if I do say so myself). I still have to work to not identify as a fat guy, though I'm not tiny by any means and way, it was a huge deal when I had women describe me as "fit".

    I only want gym members that are respectful of my time, space and the equipment we share. That lady in the commercial (and she's a lady until she asks me to identify her as something different), has a very powerful physique. I don't care for juicing myself (I wouldn't be out of line in assuming she took replacement hormones-- probably wouldn't voice it to her unless we were of that level of intimacy), but in the realm of FTM it's tricky. It's not the same as an athlete juicing.

    Really though, it comes down to the same opinion I have of gay marriage. It's not my pink and stickies, so as long as people don't make their issue my issue, we're cool. I'm far more secure in myself now than when I'm started on a myriad of levels, and I don't believe that my unease at someone's appearance should have any bearing on their life. It's not their issue and vise-versa.

    Frankly, if she was a mind, I wouldn't mind asking her for tips on nutrition, lifting and the occasional spot...

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