When 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!