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‘A queer, feminine body against the world’ for B.C. woman chasing fitness crown

Kara Nystrom has entered a U.S. magazine ’s Miss Health and Fitness contest, soon open to voting
Kara Nystrom, a contender for Miss Health and Fitness 2022, is possibly the first transgender woman to enter in the U.S. magazine contest. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Victoria resident Kara Nystrom is competing for Miss Health and Fitness as possibly the first transgender woman to compete for the HERS Magazine title.

The U.S. health magazine will award its fifth Miss Health and Fitness with $20,000 cash and a spot on their magazine’s cover, which is seen by over 500,000 readers monthly, according to HERS website.

Nystrom discovered the competition about a month ago while promoting her small business on Instagram. Nystrom, who began her transition in 2015 following two previous involvements in abusive environments, said she’s always relied on fitness for its mental benefits. Her shot at the Miss Health and Fitness title is about opening the door for transwomen in typically cisgendered/heterosexual athletic spaces, she said.

“Especially early in my transition, I found it very difficult not just being transgender, but being seen as a woman in spaces that are traditionally male-oriented,” she said, referring to gyms and other recreational spaces. She and others have had great difficulty finding Victoria fitness instructors who are accepting and natural around transgendered people, she said.

To enter the contest, Nystrom submitted photos, a bio and a description of her ideal fitness photoshoot.

She was inspired by a timeworn industrial park covered in graffiti and other displays of art. Capitalism, and the inequality it has allowed to exist, is on its way out, she said.

“I wanted a strong feminine body – especially a queer feminine body – against the decaying world.”

The contest will be decided by a vote that begins at on April 26.

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Competing for the title has allowed Nystrom to encourage those beginning their own gender exploration with fitness.

“To me, this is a full circle. This is giving me the opportunity to fulfil that role (model) for somebody else … because it certainly wasn’t an easy road for me. This year’s been one to step up, own all the parts of myself and make some changes in the world.”

Growing up in the ‘70s and ’80s, Nystrom was surrounded by a mostly negative representation of transgendered people, she said. The experience, along with toxicity sometimes seen within the LGBTQ community as a result of the same trauma, led her to found Karadical Transformations life-coaching service last summer.

She’s made a goal of supporting residents of Victoria in asking questions and finding answers to their own gender identity.

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