At C4® we strive to create an inclusive environment not just with our products but also with our ambassadors. Model, actress, and athlete Kayla Ward puts in the work on the court and off. We had the chance to connect with Kayla about her fitness journey, Pride, and how she practices self-care.
"When I was a kid, participating in sports was how I stayed active and made friends. My mom gave me my first basketball when I was 3 or 4 and would go out in the yard and shoot around with me on one of those little plastic goals for kids. I watched every NBA game I could on television, pretending I was in the game while tossing wadded up paper at the trash can in the corner. My basketball went with me everywhere; I even took it to bed at night like it was my security blanket. My love for the game grew every year from that point forward.
Because of my love for basketball, I’ve never been much of a gym person. Instead, I prefer the competition, connection, and community that comes from playing sports. The freedom to play pick-up games at local parks or be on a sports team should be activities that everyone can enjoy, and I wish I could say my identity as trans woman doesn’t intersect at all with my health and fitness journey. But I constantly worry about my safety if someone I meet at a pick-up game looks me up online and doesn’t like what they find. It saddens me that I have to think of these things first instead of just enjoying a workout or a game of basketball because of how other perceive me and my existence in the world. My experience is just one of many. Unfortunately, homophobia and transphobia remain prevalent in the world, especially in sports. In this year alone, lawmakers introduced over 70 bills across the US attempting to ban trans youth from those opportunities.
Despite these fears and obstacles I face as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am committed to fitness because being active also helps my mental and emotional journey. I’ve learned to enjoy time at the gym now because it gives me an outlet to release some of the stress, anxiety, and anger I deal with because of the hate that exists. I’ve actually found a platform within the fitness community that has allowed me to share my journey and educate others on acceptance and allyship. I’ve also partnered with Athlete Ally as an athlete ambassador. They are doing amazing work to end homophobia and transphobia in sports so please check them out and learn how you can be involved!
My identity comes with many risks, and I want people to better understand those risks. But equally important, I want to promote pride and the celebration of the diversity in the LGTBQ+ community. C4’s campaign for Pride is about Energy for All. To me, it just means inclusivity. In the fitness community, and in the world, we need to create space for everyone to feel a sense of belonging. Pride is a celebration of love, community, and chosen family, and it only exists because trailblazers stood up against hate and bigotry. Their courage allows us to now come together and honor who we are because we are all worthy of happiness and free to live in our authenticity.
Participating in Pride parades and marches one month out of the year is fun, but ensuring we continue to have space to celebrate takes work. That’s why I am very open about my journey and use my platform to promote Pride year-round. The pushback against the LGBTQ+ community seems to grow stronger every year, so I make it a point to tell my story wherever I can in the hopes that I can educate those who are willing to learn, as well as encourage and inspire those who are afraid to step into their truths.
As much as Pride is about celebration of the community and the strength of those who came before us, it is also about self-acceptance. I decided to start practicing self-acceptance 10 years ago because I knew my parents and a few friends would stand by me no matter what. Even with their love and support, it was not easy for me to let go of the self-hatred I had for being transgender. Once I did, though, life became truly beautiful and worth living. Now, I focus on gratitude as much as I can to practice self-care. This can be really difficult when I receive hateful messages and death threats, but through talking with my friends and support system, I have learned to tune out the hateful rhetoric. I am proud of who I am and my journey, and I am grateful each and every day I get to walk in my truth because it feels amazing to finally love myself.
For any younger members of the LGTBQ+ community reading this, the best advice I can give is to know that you are not alone! You are worthy. You are valid. Stay focused and NEVER feel shame for who are because you are beautiful. Please continue to push through the dark thoughts and loneliness because one day your life will be filled with so much joy and love. Believe in yourself because you are worthy of achieving all your dreams."