Space for Us By Us

by Lex Fate

Why do we need this space? Why does the Trans* (nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, transgender) community need a space held solely for them? Why does the Queer (queer, asexual, pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay) community need a space held for, made up of, and taught by them? The simple answer is, there isn’t space for us already. There aren’t yoga classes for or inclusive to trans and queer folks in our area already, so I made them.

I am a queer nonbinary trans person of color. My pronouns are they/them/their, I am light skinned but that does not make me any less Black, and queer is a word I find the most accuracy in. Whether I begin an introduction with my pronouns, or correct people after they have misgendered me, the misgenderings do not stop. The assumptions of others always trump my lived and expressed experience. This is a common occurrence, grief, and trigger within the Trans* community. Society has programmed us for so long with what a “man” or a “woman” is supposed to look like (cisnormativity) or act like (heteronormativity) that when an individual lives outside of those parameters they are met with perplexity, laughter, rage, violence and/or murder. Check out the list of transwomen killed in 2015.

It isn’t that your typical yoga studio is rife with intolerance, hate, and bigotry. It’s that unless the space itself is designated and intentionally held to be one of inclusivity, then the passivity of the majority will take over. Assumptions of “who comes to yoga classes” will remain in place, covering not just sexual orientation, all genders and their expressions, but also different ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We live in a society that centers the most privileged among us, and our yoga studios reflect this. Unless these folks are aware of their trans and queer siblings’ oppression, they will unknowingly perpetuate it. Writer, Nick Krieger, speaks on the topic of trans and queer yoga, the following excerpt is from the article “A Trans Guy Walks Into a Yoga Class… Score”.

“A couple times, I considered walking out of class and bailing for good. But the problem is that yoga is what I turn to when I’m caught in an eddy of anger, frustration, and hurt. It took me a long time to speak to my teacher and others in the community about [trans]gender issues in class. I wish I could say these were easy conversations with simple solutions. But I am learning what it really means to accept and love all people, even those who can be trans clueless.”[1]

My assertion is that unless the steps taken for inclusion center, that is, put the members of communities like Trans* and Queer folks at the heart of their intent and mission, these communities will continue to remain at the margins. Which makes a lot of sense, when you look at it like that. If we aren’t at the center, then all that’s left are the margins. Ask any social justice advocate and they will tell you the same. The only cure is education, empathy, and intentional inclusivity.

I come to my yoga mat to meet myself and that space in myself I vacate when I become so wrapped up in the outside world I forget I am a human here to experience humanity. Having met myself for over a year now, I have sweated, ached, cursed, and cried all in the midst of a yoga class or sequence. Yoga makes us vulnerable. Allows us to be vulnerable. Yoga feeds our inner worlds, quieting an all to often raucous mind. My yoga doesn’t punish my body, it helps me sink further into it so that I can be present and intentional in my everyday life; the life I take with me when I am off the yoga mat. Sometimes though, the obstacles to my peace of mind are also the well meaning people sharing the yoga class with me who don’t understand how they are negating my identity.

Enter the newest additions to the Kalamazoo yoga scene: Heart Centered Yoga Foundations for the Trans* Community & Heart Centered Yoga Foundations for the Queer Community. Thursday nights at 303 W. Walnut Street, Kalamazoo MI 49007, you will find a class taught by and for the Trans* (nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, transgender) community ONLY. Friday nights at the same location you will find a class taught by and for the Queer (queer, pansexual, asexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay) community ONLY. It is so rare for either trans folks or queer folks to be among solely or even a majority of their own community, excepting specialized groups surrounding the expression or discussion of their identities and experiences. Krieger references his experience teaching a trans and queer yoga class:

“FTQY [ Free Trans & Queer Yoga] also provides an opportunity for a group of people, who for many years, had only one option to find and build community: gay bars. FTQY is in an invitation into an exploration of wellness for a community that for too long focused only on survival, and an opportunity for healing our wounds and historical traumas.”[3]

For too long our communities have only had bars, festivals, and support groups in which to meet. Don’t get me wrong, those have been and continue to serve a purpose for our communities. The fact that those are some of the only places we can truly be ourselves, listened to, and understood though, is a shame.

A final note to those who may be wondering “Why are there two separate classes for trans and queer folks?” - not all trans people are queer and not all queer people are trans. These two communities of which I am a part have often fought together for rights and recognition, but they are two different communities with different, though overlapping, struggles. It is my belief that if I am going to take the time to create a space for individuals to be themselves, then I cannot go partway. There are internal struggles within the LGBTQ movement that perhaps you could gain insight into if you look and see what order the letters in that acronym are placed. There are communities that are lumped into it that aren’t even represented in it. For this reason, I choose to lump us together a little less, and allow us to be more than an acronym.

 

[1]See article “A Trans Guy Walks Into a Yoga Class… Score” 

[2]  See article “A Trans Guy Walks Into a Yoga Class… Score”

[3]  See “Why Trans and Queer Yoga? - Decolonizing Yoga”




 

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Lex Fate is an intersectional feminist, queer nonbinary Person of Color, artist,  and yoga teacher. Fate has a certificate in Heart Centered Yoga, which they received at From the Heart Yoga & Tai Chi Center, in Grand Rapids, MI. Fate now teaches by the name of Inner Spiral, through the studio Infinite Bliss Yoga & Bodywork at 303 Walnut St., Kalamazoo, MI. Fate offers a Trans* (nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, and transgender) Community yoga foundations class on Thursdays at 6pm, as well as a Queer (queer, asexual, pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, and gay) Community yoga foundations class on Fridays at 6pm. Calling Kalamazoo home, they continue their studies of the eight limbs of yoga, seeking to always learn and open more.

 

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