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Yoga for a Genderqueer

29 Jun

13495268_10154201271417457_6552833513430772571_nWhen creating or thinking about trans friendly/inclusive yoga, the main thought should be about being welcoming and inclusive, as often these spaces don’t feel so for those that don’t fit the mould. The second thought is about the description, what does it mean when a class states it is a safe space and/or welcoming to ‘transgender and gender non-conforming people’?

Reading Nick Krieger’s “Why Trans and Queer Yoga?” recently when trying to draft an email to one of my local yoga teachers (yes I do go to two different yoga studios). The small, almost all female, classes I attend are run by a group of wonderful and kind women. We are all referred to as ladies, girls and goddesses throughout the class – misgendering and referring to me with female pronouns. Like Nick Krieger I realised that the teacher’s would have no way of knowing the impact of their words, however I also don’t know how to tell them.

The second yoga studio is relatively new and is very inclusive to all body sizes and genders. I feel more ‘me’ there yet I still struggle with the gendered language. There is hope for me in this group as the instructor is queer identified and working hard to create a safe space for trans and queer individuals – YAY!

Other classes that I have found so far advertise ‘queer and trans’, but I am not too sure if they know themselves what the needs are of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Do we need to possibly spend an hour on diversity and inclusion when including the ‘trans’ in event titles? Are they stating that they are providing a space for ‘visibly’ trans people, and if so where do I fit in as genderqueer when I keep getting referred to as ‘she’ or as one of the ‘girls’?

What is all the fuss about? The benefits of creating a safe space for everyone is so each individual can feel that they are amongst like-minded people. You don’t want someone to be self-conscious of their body or stressed about how they identify or present. I would like to walk into a yoga class where the world, and room, isn’t being divided into binary genders, a place where you won’t stand out if you bind or pack to express your gender.

Here are a few things that could make queer/trans yoga different from other yoga classes:
  • small group of other queer/trans people
  • introductions with pronouns and check-ins about feelings (if this is not possible in a group then the teachers/instructor should at least be aware of everyone’s name and/or pronouns)
  • a visibly/vocally queer/trans instructor (as much as I love one of my yoga classes I struggle to connect with a room full of cis women)
  • no gendered language on the part of the instructor
  • less about hardcore exercise, closer to gentle stretches and meditation (this is with keeping in mind that some individuals may also be recovering from surgery)
  • lots of “if you are able” and “if that is accessible to you” to not assume all participants can, say, close their eyes for meditation or reach a deeper version of a pose
*Thanks to Ilan in helping to create this list.
Here are two places that have crossed my radar, however I haven’t been to either of the trans and queer friendly classes:

Queer and Trans Inclusive (QTI) Yoga Melbourne describes itself as “a safe yoga space for the LQBTIQ+ community and their friends. All welcome including absolute beginners.”

Chunky Yoga, who provide classes in a safe place to explore the practice of yoga regardless of your size, gender, age, sexuality or race. There are also plans of starting trans and queer friendly classes in Prahran/St Kilda!

Preferred name and pronouns at work

26 Feb

In my last Team Leader meeting I asked if it would be ok for me to request for my preferred name to be used in all IT systems at work (e.g. email correspondence, case note records and within the programs we use to manage client information). I also asked if I could send out an email to staff to let them know about my preferred name a pronoun change. Here is the response I got after it needed to be discussed with the Team Manager: (more…)

Started 200mg of T

16 Oct

I’m at work and I’ve just consumed a 375ml of Coke Zero and a snack pack of Barbecue Shapes. I started my 200mg of T today with the thought of trialing this dose for the next nine weeks. My expectations aren’t high, but I am expecting an increase in energy and libido, the energy being my main goal. However I realise there may be some unwanted side effects too and for that I am going to have to wait and see. At the moment however, five-hours after my shot, I feel exhausted and a little spacey. I have another three hours of work and then I am done for the day.

My anxiety levels have increased again, however I have no idea if this is due to the T or other factors in my life. Thankfully I am seeing my counsellor again in a few weeks and go through my thoughts with her. I’ve been a little disconnected from other genderqueer peeps because it’s been one thing after another – first a cold, then facilitating training workshops, another bug/virus, being busy and work. I did however manage a few quick catch-ups and I am hoping to see a few other friends at dinner this Friday.

I’m however struggling a little keeping afloat in what feels like to me a mostly trans* world. Despite people’s best attempts to introduce the topic of gender-neutral pronouns, mine were quickly forgotten, in several circumstances, when I was referred to as ‘she’. There were two events where this happened:

  • I’ve been facilitating a training course for newbie counsellors within the LGBTIQ community where I am amongst two gay men, two lesbians and a trans* guy. At the begining of the course we all stated our preferred pronoun when introducing ourselves. Despite being the only person preferring gender-neutral pronouns (e.g. they, them etc.) I didn’t hear or find anyone slipping up. The next two weeks however was very different. First I heard a member of the training team slip up, so I made an effort to try and speak up. I normally let these kind of things go, so imagine when I gathered the guts and calmed my anxiety by casually saying what my pronoun preferences were. By the end of the day I felt bad because the poor person felt I could have perhaps told them in private (instead of with one person close by), which caused them to be quite upset. Anyhow without going on and on about the situation, I soon found several people started referring to me as ‘she’ and wondered why the trans* guy got to have their pronouns respected?
  • Second occurance was at a social afternoon with friends where I was very aware of being referred to as ‘she’. Now while I don’t mind being called ‘she’ when someone has made the effort to ask me of my preferred pronouns (I really don’t mind but prefer the use of ‘they’) I was suprised that these friends went for the ‘greater of two evils’. Another friend mentioned it at the end of the day as we were doing the dishes and asked if I had noticed and what my thoughts were. It was my own fault for not enforcing it and it’s made me a little more determined to speak up for myself.

Anyhow this weekend we have our second-last training session and I will be co-facilitating with Genderqueer Australia to present about counselling trans* clients. I initially wanted to give my personal story to make people aware about assumptions, perhaps even to stand up and say ‘hey I am not invisable!’. However as soon as I mentioned it to the rest of the training team the trans* guy offered to tell his (not sure who knows and it may also be a bit of a ‘coming out’). I think both stories would be very powerful, actually I think anyone’s story would be, but I am not sure this is the place to do that – at least not while I am presenting to a training team I am continuining to work with. It does however remind me of the incident in NZ, and my heart just sinks a little at how invisable I sometimes feel.

Genderqueer is my lived experience

27 Aug

Interrupt me if you’ve already heard me saying this… I saw my psychiatrist a few weeks to a month ago. It was a catch-up from seix-months ago when I last saw him and not much was said really. I feel pretty much the same about being on T and have no current desire to undergo any surgery. I did however learn that I had spoken to him six-months ago about this ‘tiredness’ that I have been feeling. His suggestion was to take two of my Vitamin D tablets in the morning, which I have done. I also mentioned that I wanted to increase my dose of T slightly to see if it helped with my energy levels at all. I checked with my Dr and should my results from tomorrow’s blood test go well I will be increasing to 200mg. I was going to start tomorrow but I have a busy day and an appointment at the dentist – too much for one day.

I bought myself a beard trimmer, thanks to help of my partner who has had some experience with these things. The electrical item is however still in its package and will probably remain so until I absolutley have to use it. I don’t mind being slightly scruffy and I really dislike having to shave/trim, however I do so I don’t stand out too much as so it’s not too noticable and other people freak out over not knowing what to say.  My shoulder hair however is something I would like to remove completely but again I lack the energy or enthusiasm to do so. In winter it is fine to just let it go, but my remedial massage appointments have created some anxiety for me in not knowing what the other person thinks.

What other people see and think about me is both important and unimportant. I used to desperately need to be seen as trans*/queer/genderqueer in order to feel I ‘fit’ or received some kind of acknowledgement. In a way I still need that, or at least I find myself wanting it when I feel invisable next to someone who is trans*. What I mean by that is sometimes I feel that being genderueer/me, choosing not to bind and keeping my name, my pronouns aren’t respected and I am overlooked when someone might be asking for a trans* opinion. Take for example recently being asked to be involved in a project where the organisation was wanting a trans* perspective. A trans* peer was asked and consulted with one other person, that other person wasn’t me. I admit I find it hard to stand up for myself at times and I do not discount that this plays a part. I knew choosing to take T wasn’t going to be easy and I think in a way it shows how hormones can help, but won’t suddenly change everything and make it better.

Something else that came up for me in the last month is how much I miss friends from overseas and the worry of how they will react to some of my changes. I’ve not spoken or seen some of my friends in more than three years. While we exchange the odd photo now and again they are completely unaware , toether with my family, about my decision to start T and identify as genderqueer. One of these friends is more of a brother and I love him to bits. I was always his little sister and he was my big brother. I still feel the same and still want to be what we are to one another, but I have no idea how he would feel about me being genderqueer. That sense of loss is unimaginable for me.

As I reflect on how my gender identity is part of my everyday life I am sad to be loosing another GLBTIQ ally at work. This person has been of such great support while I suggested changes to our policies and procedures relating to sex and/or gender identity, as well as my own personal disclosures to staff and team leaders about my pronoun and name preference. I feel like I am the only genderqueer in the village/at work, and in a way I think I am.

 

30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 12

22 May

Are you part of the Gender and Sexuality Minority community?

I dunno am I? Sorry I found this to be slightly a silly question for a genderqueer challenge, but maybe it isn’t…

I am unsure if I belong to a ‘minority’ so excuse me if I write more about belonging to a gender and sexuality community. From the time I ‘came out’ as a lesbian to when I re-emerged as genderqueer I’ve belong to the GLBT (minority) community. Initially I felt, as a young lesbian/dyke, that I was part of this ‘community’, but as I grew I didn’t feel welcome or accepted. I wonder now if I knew I wasn’t really a ‘lesbian’, but in fact genderqueer? Eventually I lost contact with a lot of people and friends who identified as lesbian and slowly left this community I once thought would be there to support me.

Through this period I still dated individuals who identified as women and lesbian, but I also tried to make other connections with the trans* community. I don’t think they (the trans* community) knew who or what I was – I don’t think I did either at the time. I wanted to connect with someone but I think I came across as slightly odd and/or obsessive. It was almost like I was too lesbian/female to be seen as queer or possibly trans* and it wasn’t until I started working and volunteering within the LGBT community that I started being ‘seen’. Once I started volunteering with a trans* organisation and dating someone who identified as that themselves it was almost like I was allowed into this inner sanctum.

Because of my involvement with the genderqueer and trans* community I guess I am automatically part of the ‘gender and sexuality minority’, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that I feel., internally, I am all the time.

Adapted from the 30 day Trans challenge and the 30 day [GSM] challenge

30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 10

17 Apr

Discuss your relationship with the term transgender.

My relationship with the term transgender started as a new word that might include ‘me’. I prefer the term ‘trans*’ and see it as an umbrella term for the sex and/or gender diverse community, that I sometimes feel I belong to. At one point I wasn’t sure that I belong to the trans* community as in my mind I was genderqueer and not transgender. I feel that I am perhaps as much trans* as I was a dyke if that makes sense (which it probably doesn’t). For a while I felt that trans* meant that I had to want to change something specific for my body, that I needed to be on a journey that started with A and ended at B. I also felt that I couldn’t call myself transgender because of a long list of what a transgender person is seen as, and at times discriminated against by it’s own community when you’d don’t follow that particular path. I assumed that transgender meant going from one gender to another, wanting surgery, changing your name and sex on your birth certificate, feel disgusted at your own body, have an early awareness of “not feeling quite right in one’s skin” and be 100% sure of everything – all of the things I am not.

The term ‘transgender’ became more than just a word, it was also a way of being seen when genderqueer felt invisible. People understood trans* but they didn’t understand why I wanted to keep parts of myself a change others, or why I wasn’t 100% sure about my own transition when others couldn’t wait to start hormones or to change their name. Transgender, for me, meant change…

But what if the term ‘transgender’ could encompass my experience of being genderqueer and my own unique trans* journey? If transgender didn’t mean a, b, c and d that I think my relationship with it wouldn’t be one to try and fight against. I think we are getting there – for genderqueer to be included in the trans umbrella, but throughout my own journey and running training the queer in gender is still not fully understood. People seem to be ok with understanding FTM but when a trans* partner asked me about my transition they didn’t quite understand why I was still using my old name and not wanting chest surgery. Is it because people want clear defined boxes and categories – isn’t everything easier if you can simply put it into a tidy box? Yes it might be, no challenge needed and people can go along with their lives, but challenge is needed to show that we are all different and that difference includes a wide range of labels and individuals.

Adapted from the 30 day Trans challenge and the 30 day [GSM] challenge