by Ken Schneck, Editor
Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization — and SHOWTIME announced the 10 recipients of the “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” funding to support and preserve businesses that serve the LGBTQ+ community with a focus on LGBTQ+ people of color, women, and the transgender community.
Wedged in amongst the list of businesses from major metropolitan locales like New York City, Washington D.C., and San Francisco, is a small — but literally mighty — local source of pride: Amplio Fitness in Rocky River. Launched in 2018, Amplio Fitness offers support for physical, emotional and spiritual wellness as they uplift the LGBTQ+ community because of the unique disadvantages they face (both in and out of the fitness industry). Not just the only “Queer to Stay” awardee from Ohio, but the only honoree in the entire Midwest, Amplio has been held up as a shining role model in this business sector.
“We must preserve affirming, welcoming community spaces for LGBTQ+ people – including young people who may not have supportive families or communities at home,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “HRC is thrilled to be partnering with SHOWTIME to support LGBTQ+-serving businesses in order to ensure that they can continue to provide a space for LGBTQ+ people to express ourselves freely, find community and be our authentic selves.”
The “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” celebrates and supports the LGBTQ+ community by identifying and donating to a number of businesses, selected based on the communities they serve and how COVID-19 has affected them. As COVID-19 continues to impact businesses nationwide, LGBTQ+-serving spaces experienced significant revenue loss in June, when patrons are more likely to frequent LGBTQ+ businesses for Pride Month.
We spoke with Belle Ursa, co-owner and wellness practitioner at Amplio Fitness, to find out what this funding means for her small business, what it’s like to see Rocky River on the list, and what we can all do to check in with our bodies during COVID-19.
What does this “Queer to Stay” funding mean for Amplio Fitness?
This means not only do we get to stay out of debt and remain open, but it’s going to be a really cute opportunity to pursue some of the expansions we have wanted to do but haven’t been able to as a small business.
I’m seeing it as a catalyst to just expand in so many different senses of the word. We’re all about trying to provide an opportunity to explore wellness and what that means to the LGBTQ+ community. It can manifest in so many different ways to so many different people. We want to incorporate as many practices under our roof as we can.
When we think of fitness, we think of a treadmill, or dumbbells, or a weight bench, and those work for some people. But I don’t want to have your generic set of things that plays into where the fitness industry is currently. I want to push those boundaries to have people saying, “This is what I want to do. This is what I where to grow. This is what I want to do with my body.”
What is it like seeing Rocky River listed next to the other awardees from major metropolitan cities?
I’m a little gagged, not gonna lie. <laughs> Seeing that there are only 10 businesses and seeing those big cities on there, come on! You see New York City, San Francisco, Houston, and then Rocky River? Not even Cleveland or Columbus or Cincinnati, but Rocky River, Ohio! I’m just sitting here like wow.
Seeing our name up there with big names and big cities, I feel affirmed. Getting this recognition shows people that we are real, that we are making a difference, and that we are necessary to the community.
Any advice for our LGBTQ+ siblings who are struggling with their health and wellness during COVID-19?
I’ve also been one of those people who has struggled. The pandemic is so tumultuous, so chaotic, so unpredictable, that it’s hard to think about your next meal or your next time to exercise. We’re just trying to survive at this point.
The best advice I can offer people is to find others — friends, family members, people you’re living with — to check in with you to help be a support system because we can’t do it alone. When you have the time, take even like 10 minutes out of the day to check in with yourself, to check in with your body. How are you feeling? What do you need? What are you craving? What are you missing? What haven’t you had in a while? You have to start somewhere and starting with yourself is a place to do it. 🔥
- Check out Amplio Fitness (they are open and have strict COVID-19 safety procedures) and share their info with someone you think might need it.
- Support LGBTQ-owned businesses. Amid the global pandemic, LGBTQ+-serving spaces are facing financial challenges and are at risk of closures. The Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce Directory is a great place to start to find businesses/services to support.
Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He is the author of Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew (2017), LGBTQ Cleveland (2018), LGBTQ Columbus (2019), and LGBTQ Cincinnati (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.