TELEVISION PARK– We’re talking about two different body issues, physical fitness and self confidence, personal trainer and fitness expert, Bethany Roley, will be here, and on the flip side, sexuality, and the insecurities and questions young people, especially, face when they realize they aren’t necessarily identifying with the person society expects them to be.
The Shepard Project:
Jennifer and Sean Rahner are with me right now and, you know, Rowan has been in the news. He of course made the news because of the name change and the legal issues associated with that. And how sad that Rowan die at such a young age. But he was on a journey, and he knew the risks associated with everything that he was doing. Jennifer and Sean have established the Shepard Project and it’s so important that young people in our community know that the Shepard Project is around. So, just tell us a little bit about what it is.
Well, the Shepard Project is a youth safe space. We’re available for youths in the community to come out and join us two nights a month, the first and third Tuesdays of each month. And be in a place where they can be themselves, no matter what they’re sexual orientation, gender identity, and that includes whether they’re straight and cisgendered. We just wanted to create a place where people felt comfortable being who they are, or even questioning who they are around people who are supportive of that journey.
You know, Jennifer, you said something that was very interesting, you said, you know, “or people who are straight,” it’s sort of like when you have an Al-Anon support group, where you may have a relative who is an alcoholic, but you still need other people to share with, and I think what you’re saying is that the Shepard Project isn’t excluding you if you’re straight, but if you have questions or friends, or you want to understand more, this is a place where you can talk about this stuff.
We’re completely not excluding someone because they’re not LGBT, we very much value our allies. You know, they’re important in every member of the LGBT community’s lives, you know, just as part of our support system, and just part of what makes us up as individuals. Everyone we come in contact with shapes us and our straight and cisgender allies are just as much a part of that as someone else in the LGBT community.
I think, really, anybody who identifies as LGBT has had a lot of allies. If you’ve made it to adulthood has an LGBT person, you have had a lot of allies along the way because without having that support, you don’t have the courage to come out. You don’t have the courage to talk to people about who you are and express who you are.
And sadly, you may not make it to adulthood, and we just see this too often, we see suicide associated with these issues.
Right, very high figures.
The statistics are staggering. For LGBT youth, the risk of suicide is four times that of their straight counterparts and up to eight times that of their straight and gender-conforming counterparts if they are in a very religious, or an unaccepting home environment, or rural area.
And the bullying, you know, we report so often in the news about the bullying. And I want to know how we can work as a society to be accepting, and realize that everybody has to be the same, and that people are people and I love it when, you know, love is love. And do you think, I mean, we’ve come a long way. 10 years ago, we might not have been having this conversation.
Definitely not have.
You know, on a midday talk show form. But I think that, we’re growing, and how do you see that we’ve become more accepting to where young people, do the reality shows help? You know, the different reality shows that we’ve seen. Or do you think that they tend to be–
It depends on which ones you’re talking about, really.
I’m not a big fan of most reality shows, but. You know, the studies show that the way we overcome adversity is to put a face to things. You know, specifically, studies have shown that decreasing discrimination against the LGBTQ population is largely dependent on just getting to know people. You know, so many people hear about the gays, or whatever derogatory term one might use, but they don’t really know anyone. So it’s just this unknown, this enigma, and that’s one of the biggest things we do, especially in the past few years, is just getting out and talking in different forums in the community, and churches, and oftentimes somebody sees me when I talk and they realize, “Oh, Sean’s not a straight guy, “but, he’s okay, I’ve seen him work, “I’ve seen what he does, this may not be such a bad thing.” You know, so just getting
to know people.
Now, how involved are you with Augusta Pride? Do you have the support of Augusta Pride for what you do, are you two separate things?
We are two separate things. But we certainly support what pride does and believe Pride supports what we do too. Like I said, we haven’t been around all that long. We started in November. This is actually gonna be our first Pride as a group and we’re really looking forward to it to get out there a little bit more in the community and get the word out about what we’re doing. But, you know, we’re friends with just about everybody on the Pride board, and our community here, the LGBT community in Augusta is pretty tight-knit. We all kinda know each other.
Is there a particular age group that Shepard targets?
We’re pretty much limiting ourselves to 14 to 18 years old minus a day. Once someone reaches 18 years old, we ask that they become a mentor and while we’re not part of MCC Church, they’re allowing us to meet there and therefore, we’re following their policies for working with youth- and that includes having a background check once you’re 18.
And being vetted or whatnot. But they also want chaperones who are over the age of 25. So, that’s part of where we come in. But we really want more of the 18 to 25 year olds just because I’m 41, you know, if we get someone who’s 18, 19, 20, they can connect with the high school kids, a whole lots easier than I can.
What is the best way for people to contact you?
Our website, shepardproject.org, or my phone number is on there, also we are on Facebook, we’re starting to get Twitter and SnapChat accounts, but-
Yeah, we’re still working on that.
Are you open to youth pastors, to school counselors, to anyone like that who needs to talk to you about issues they may be dealing?
Of course, even if someone just has questions because they don’t understand what it means to be LGBTQ
I’m so glad that you all took the time to be here today, and I hope that we are opening a conversation that will continue in our community. And think about, think about the young people who think it might be better to be dead than to face a future without allies. And then, then you think about how important the work you’re doing is.
Sean also talks about the need for GSAs in high schools. Watch here:
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Confidently Fit with Bethany Roland:
Bethany Roley believes fitness makes you confident.
It does, and I believe that you have to be confident in your own skin first, because if we’re not confident in our bodies, we’re often not confident in other areas of our life. It has to start within first, so I want people to be confident in body, but just body, you gotta be confident and fit in mind, body, and soul to be able to really go out there and go after life.
Now, you didn’t start out as a fitness expert. Tell us your history from, you know, you got outta college, and you went into teaching?
Well, I was a preschool teacher. I was actually a stay-at-home mom who wanted something extra to do every-now-and-then type thing, you know. So, I needed some sanity and adult time. I decided to teach preschool, and the kids could go with me and it was, you know, we had a little bit of a break from one another, but they were having fun and being with other kids.
But it was never truly my calling, and I knew that. Because fitness was what changed my life.
Well, I had a very rough go with an abusive past relationship, years ago, when I was a late teen into my early 20s, that completely just wrecked my self confidence. But it was fitness that helped me gain my confidence again, and helped me just to feel better about myself. So, I knew that deep down, I wanted to pay that forward to other women because I knew that that was such a life changer for me. That I couldn’t keep that inside. You know when you have a calling, and you just feel it, and feel it, it’s kind of a burning?
You have to go after that. So, I actually had been teaching some fitness classes at the gym, really, honestly, to get a free membership.
But you had three little kids, right?
Exactly. So, I was teaching like one class a week, and I loved it. But, I’m the type of person that I wanted to do it myself. I’m just a go-getter. And I’m like, “I can do this.” Because it wasn’t like I had full reign of how I could control things. I had to kinda follow the guidelines of the gym and all that and there was always a missing piece. There was the fitness there, but there wasn’t that mindset. Because if you don’t change your mindset, it doesn’t matter how good you look in a bathing suit, it doesn’t matter if you have a six pack abs, if you don’t change your mind and become confident in your own skin, none of that really matters. I mean, what does that really matter in the long run? So, I knew we had to address fitness, nutrition, and mindset so that’s where the whole idea came about for my very first program 11 years ago.
I had 11 girls and they were all the preschool teachers. In the very first class. I had no idea what I was doin’, the first class was horrible, I can’t believe they came back. I did not know what I, I was like, when I did that first class, I’m like, “Um, “I gotta sit down and make some changes “’cause this is not how I want it to go.” So, they loved it and they just started, you know, bring in more people and more people and it just kept, every single six weeks, it just doubled and doubled and doubled. So, I went out after I found out Bootcamp was actually a registered name.
Uh huh, yeah.
I could not call it Bikini Bootcamp, we changed it to Fit Camp, and then we put Bethany’s in front of it to kinda brand it.
But that kind of, the years went by, you know, when I started bootcamp, I was in a different area of my life, I was in my 30s and I really did care what I looked like in a bikini. That was a big deal when in your 20s and your early 30s.
But it didn’t really ever tell what our program was about. I felt like it put us in a little pigeonhole with looks. So that’s why we rebranded into Fierce Fitness Training two years ago because we needed to step outside of that box and I needed to let people know that there’s more to fitness than looking a certain way.
You also, are doing all of this while you have a very young child again because–
Bethany’s kids got to be like, you know, outta diapers, into school, what, like, six, eight, and 10? And then suddenly, there’s another baby?
Our youngest one was seven when, surprise! Came along the way and I, you know. So, that one right there has actually grown up. All of the have grown up in the fitness world. I mean, they have seen, that’s one thing I really love is they have seen that you go after somethin’ and you work hard for it, and you can achieve it.
They see your work ethic– and your goals, and you make those happen.
They see I have a passion.
And that you’ve got to follow that passion. So the little one, yes, he was in the womb when I was still teaching and he went along with me in the womb to spin class, and I taught a core class, I was teaching my bikini bootcamp classes. And he is my little fitness trainer. Yes, he makes his own fitness videos, and you’ll see him on Confidently Fit.
Bethany has quite an online following. This is one of the reasons why she’s so easy to watch and inspiring, take a look.
“Good! Two, three, four, great job! Five, six, seven, eight, we burnin’! Nine, and 10, great, drop that weight. We’re gonna do jump lunges, go! One, two, three, four, five, six, woo! Seven, eight, nine, woo, ten, burn! Alright, complete four more sets, girls, let me know how you feel. Have a great day!”
How do you get inspired again?
It’s so funny that you brought that up, I actually made a post in our Fierce Fitness Training, private group that we have for our ladies about this particular thing. I can’t really motivate you.
You have to find deep inside you what’s gonna motivate you- and push you, we actually have a thing hanging on the wall in the gym right now, called, I Fight For. And when you get in the gym, what are you fighting for? Why do you need to be here? ‘Cause when we keep that why deep down in the back of your head, that’s what’s gonna get you outta the bed, that’s what’s going to push you to go do your workouts when you feel like it and when you don’t want to. And that’s what’s gonna get you back on track when you miss one or two days, you know. I tell them all the time, you know, don’t beat yourself up. You just pick yourself back up, you start over, and you just keep going, it’s okay. We’re all gonna go through those phases where we stumble and fall but it’s just finding that why that fuels you and pushes you when you don’t wanna do it or when you wanna give up and wanna quit.
One thing that I think is awesome is that you see how important it is to start shaping our girls this way. And you’re doing something really neat this summer- the Teen Girl Empowerment Fit Camp.
I am so excited about this. This is something I’ve thought about for a long time and I’ve been wanting to do it but until, I think, my own, I have my own teenage daughters, did I see, it’s so different than it was when we were teenagers. The things that they are bombarded with constantly.
I mean, we’re in the age of selfies, right? And those selfies that are posted online, they’re never the original selfie.
They’re filtered.They’re doctored.
They’re doctored, absolutely.
So, these girls see all this stuff on Instagram, or Facebook, and they are trying to live up to a standard that doesn’t even exist.
It’s a mirage of something. It’s not a true picture of what’s out there. And then they hear from the media that they’re supposed to look a certain way, or, you know, they’re not smart enough, they’re not pretty enough, and so, they’re constantly having this into their life and they’ve got to learn to celebrate diversity and celebrate their bodies, and celebrate what they were given because we’re not all going to look the same way.
We’re not gonna all be, you know, that Victoria’s Secret model that’s a size zero, and it would be so boring if the world was like that too. So, it’s still important with these girls to get them to understand that they are not defined by a number on a scale, that does not define them, doesn’t mean anything. We want them to understand that there’s so much more to life, and there’s so much to them than how they look, and we want them to learn to be comfortable and confident in their skin because life confidence starts with body confidence.
Now, are you still accepting enrollment in this camp?
It starts on June 5th, so, yes.
Great, and we’ve got your address and content information on our website, so all you have to do is go to that, and you’ll be easy to contact.
People can sign up for that. Now, you know, another thing that sorta goes along with what you were saying, you told me in your gym you don’t have mirrors. And there’s a reason.
Yes, we do not have mirrors in the gym and we have an all female staff with our women because so many women, this is the reason why, one of the biggest reasons why I created my program years ago, was so many people are intimidated by the gym.
They’re really afraid to get into the gym. They compare themselves to everybody that they see. So, if you’re in a group fitness class, and you’re standing in the group fitness class, and there’s a big mirror wall, most of those women are looking at someone else.
Or themselves– and they’re comparing themselves to the lady in front of them, or they’re judging themselves and saying, “Well, I can’t keep up like so and so, “so, I must be, I just can’t do this.” It’s such a discourager for a lot of women, so we just don’t put ’em in there.
Good luck with the girls’ fitness this summer. I think that’s a really wonderful thing to do.
Absolutely, we want them to start to love fitness now. To take care of their bodies now. Not to punish their bodies, just to love their bodies.
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