RuPaul’s Transphobic Comments Remind Us That He is Not the Future of Drag

RuPaul has done a lot for the queer community in more ways than I can probably describe, and I do not mean for this post to in any way take away from all the good he has done.  But, in the last week (but really, this has happened prior to then), Ru has been saying some problematic shit recently that is transphobic and just plain wrong.

I haven’t spoken up yet partially because, since the initial interview with the Guardian, Ru has continued to speak and try to “grow” (apologize? not sure it’s working, but she is trying, I think) from the reaction.  It’s been hard to find a stopping point to address what’s been happening.  But, a friend recently remarked I hadn’t said anything and I figured I probably should, since I’m a vocal fan of the show and its queens.

I also delayed responding because, although I am affected by Ru’s comments because I am a trans man, but I occupy a position of privilege in the trans community because I’m perceived male and I’m white.  I am also just a drag fan– I don’t know a lot about the deep history of the art (something I’m working on) and I don’t do drag myself.  So, although I had personal reactions, I felt like it would be better for me to sit and listen from those who are far more affected by Ru’s comments, rather than rush to take up space myself.  How Ru’s comments make me feel is ultimately less important than how those most affected feel.

After reading what folx have said, I have decided to summarize my thoughts on the matter by directing you toward the words of others, who said it better than I could.

Peppermint, a trans queen who competed and placed in top 3 in Season 9, wrote a great piece for Billboard where she acknowledges that Ru’s association between transness and physical/medical transition is archaic and sad.  It feels like she’s calling Ru to the Principal’s office and it’s great.  She ultimately arrives at the place that she leans to push Ru to essentially act based on her own words, “Drag is a big f-you to male dominated culture and I believe people of all gender expressions and bodies can contribute to challenging that culture,” and I agree with her on that point.

Monica Beverly Hillz, a trans queen who competed in Season 5 and who, like Peppermint, came out on the show, summed up some of her feelings (and mine) this way:

I don’t agree with RuPaul’s policy. I think there’s so much more to the illusion of drag than how someone identifies. There are already “girls” on the show who are fierce competitors who are overweight and, no shade, have breasts. Others have extensions or fake lips or silicone hips — but they still identify as men. Trans women come in all beautiful shapes and sizes, and can be experiencing different stages of transition. Some don’t want to medically transition at all. I’m very proud of so many amazing trans woman I know who can be their authentic selves, including the small handful of us who have been on the show and shared our identities as women somewhere along their journey.

Monica makes an excellent point about the arbitrariness of drawing “biological” lines in the art of drag, when the bodies of drag performers are so diverse for so many reasons having nothing to do with gender identity.  Indeed, some queens in more recent seasons have made it part of their act to brag about all the plastic surgery they’ve had in order to create their aesthetic.

If the rule against physical alterations to the body doesn’t apply to all queens, regardless of their gender, it can only be discrimination to say modifications are only bad if they’re associated with being trans.  If you’re cisgender, go ahead. That makes zero sense, Mama Ru.  I also agree 100% with Monica’s point where she asks to be compensated for her time and emotional labor, which is what needs to happen when you’re benefiting from our work.

Charlene Incarnate, a trans queen from Brooklyn, confessed that, despite being trans, she auditioned for Drag Race

“just because it’s the only way to make a real, viable career out of drag anymore. Those are the only girls getting paid and it’s the only way to have your art reach that many people. I just wanted to perform and have an audience. And trans queens more than meet RuPaul’s requirements for the show, of being ‘men who reject masculinity.’ It’s a full-time rejection! RuPaul is just being a transphobe because, by his own logic, trans women are the real heroes.” 

Charlene sums up my fears about what future performers we may lose if we (to borrow a metaphor from Bob the Drag Queen, a cis man who believes drag is not only for cis men) burn the Queen Mother to the ground in the process of hashing this conflict out.  Ru is basically the Oprah of gay media, and without him and his show, we would lose a pretty substantial platform, ultimately potentially depriving us all of the queens we seek.

I ultimately think rather than turning off, we should push in on the sore spots, where we want to see something change.  Especially as Drag Race gains a younger and younger fan base, the adherence to the ways of the roots of drag become less stringent and more a theory.  With the ever-increasing reach of social media, drag performers are coming to fame through more diverse media than the club scene of days of yore.  Further, as the actions of Ben DeLaCreme have shown this season, performers are not afraid to break Mama Ru’s rules.

I will end this where I started it– sort of.  There is no doubt that Ru’s Charisma Uniqueness Nerve and Talent, along with an entrepreneurial spirit, has made drag what it is today.  But Mama can’t be both the history and the future of drag at the same time.  Ultimately, Drag Race will evolve because it is still very much dependent on the support of its fans.  Ru’s behavior over the last few days alone shows this is true–he may not get it yet, but I think he’s working on it.  Drag Race will not resist evolution for long.

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Make America Equal For Once – Fundraiser

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Hats for sale!  The proceeds will go to my brother JaydenRiley‘s top surgery fund.

If you want to learn more about JaydenRiley or you’d like to donate but don’t want a hat, his fundraising page is here.

Hats are $18 each (shipping to Continental US included). Embroidered, one-size-fits-all adjustable hook and loop closure. HATS WILL SHIP 2/23/17!

To order:

  1. send $18 for each hat you want to order to my PayPal account, here.
  2. Mark as “send to friends and family” (so JaydenRiley doesn’t have to give PayPal a cut)
  3. Leave your full name, email address, and shipping address in the comments box. We will send you an email when the hats ship starting 2/23/17.

 

#Goals: Transmasculine And Nonbinary Folx Whose Fitness Practices Inspire

With the dawning of a new year, the inevitable deluge of listicles (article-list hybrid pieces common to media outlets like Buzzfeed) has not disappointed.  Behold, 15 Trans Men Who Are Our 2017 Fitness Goals as judged by some cisgender, gay, white dude.

First of all. This list contains 12 white guys, and 3 men of color.  Now, there are a few likely reasons. Based on the fact that this list contains the usual suspects representing the transmale community, it’s no wonder there are only three men of color– that’s all you ever see in 99% of representations in the media of trans men.

Second. There is no “fitness” context (or even evidence of exercise, aside from the bodies) to any of the photos. The photos are just semi-naked bodies. That’s it. Physique does not equal fitness. You can be really fit and not have a cut physique. These two things are not synonymous, and our society’s conflation of these ideas does nothing but drive us to body image problems, unreasonable expectations for what exercise can or should do for us, leading to disdain for exercise and elevation of crash diets, plastic surgery, etc. It’s bad.

Fit does not equal skinny/super lean. Sometimes fit people are super lean. Sometimes they are not. But not all super lean people are fit. And because these pictures are nothing but half-naked shots, the idea that these men are judged “fit” because of their resting appearance is disturbing and is really dangerous for a community of people with dysphoria.

The pride.com article above was written by a cis guy, for a mainstream gay publication, using photos from Instagram and it sets a mainstream expectation for trans bodies that is dangerous. And even if we trans folx realize how fucked up that expectation is, it doesn’t change the reality that we know this is what cisgender people expect to see. I have nothing against the folx in these posts– what I have an issue with is the cisgender mainstream media using only these folx as representations of what trans-masculine bodies should strive to be.  These bodies are not “what trans looks like.” These are a few trans people among the bright, shining  array of beautiful trans bodies.

So I decided to make my own list.  My list features trans guys who I look to for fitness inspiration because they do things that are inspiring. Their stories are ones of love and self acceptance, of true body positivity and the importance of mental fitness above physique.


Jordan Hope Miller, He/Him, @mrjellodrain

img_9738Yoga Instructor

When asked to describe his gender identity, Jordan responded: “I would describe my identity as a two-spirit being of the masculine experience. I see my body and my soul linked together directly. This human experience for me is one of a spiritual journey and my gender expression is not separate from that. My expression and representation has moved beyond gender in this lifetime and to live authentically it was important for me to transition in the way that I did.

I asked Jordan to appear in this list for several reasons. First, as a budding yogi, I have lots of respect for what he does with his body. His Instagram account has lots of beautiful examples of the wonderful things a human body can do, and I draw inspiration from his practice. I also am inspired by his spirit– he has an infectious smile and a shining personality that shows just how much joy he gains from what he does.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
I have always been a physically active person– from a young age, it has helped me on an emotional and mental level to keep myself in a healthy state. From a young age I fell in love with running track, I have experimented with gymnastics, basketball, and lacrosse. I love cycling outdoors and long boarding (skateboarding). I have also spent my fair share of time at the gym lifting weights and staying physically fit. In this same category, although it is more of a spiritual practice, I have found that yoga is the best medicine that suits me. I first began my yoga journey when I was 21 and it has weaved its way in and out of my life. In 2016 I decided to take it to the next level and become a yoga teacher. I spent 6 months in India learning how to teach and to work on my self practice and lifestyle.

What inspired you to start your practice?
Life inspired me to start my practice. I was tired of accepting my own suffering as a form of my life. Life pushed me to the mat and I answered with dedication and devotion. Essentially the interest in my own well being and future is what led me here. The happiness and clarity that it brings is invaluable. You simply cannot put a price tag to what this has given me.img_0560

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice?
The benefits yoga has given me are enormous. To name a few it has completely transformed the way
that my thought patterns are formed. I have broken unconscious, destructive habits and integrated new ways of living and perceiving my life. It is the biggest gift that I can offer to myself, it brings me peace and insurmountable joy. It has dug me out of the worst depressions and losses of my life. Yoga is about breaking patterns and tendencies in your body and this only translates to the way you live your life. The more aligned you get in the postures the more that you are aligned in your heart and spirit. To me this yoga practice is a lifetime of work and it is a path, not just a physical practice.

To accept myself and my body, enough to care for it, challenge it, cleanse it, and honor it. The beauty of this is that the body is different every single dyad the trick is to listen to it enough to push yourself to new limits and to know when you have reached your threshold.

What are some goals you have for yourself?
My one and only goal is to know myself better. To be able to see myself in an undistorted way, and then to hep my community and bring yoga to the timg_9646able as an alternative to conventional ways of working out. There are alternatives and contrary to fearful ways of thinking, yoga is for everyone that has a body to work with.

Do you struggle with motivation?  How do you overcome that?
I do not struggle with motivation any longer at this point in my life. It is as though yoga has helped me awaken from a deep sleep and now I have the internal compass that gives me direction and drive in the best way that I can serve existence. This has been my privilege to be able to experience this gift of traveling and learning from the best teachers, so giving back and advising others is part of my motivation. To me, it is more than just a calling– it’s my life purpose, to share the gifts and the knowledge that I have experienced within myself.

Do you have any advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
The advice that I can give is to find some nice literature on the subject and read about it. It is quite healing in itself to open your mind up to this limitless possibility and room for growth. The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali is one of my favorite books. It is not a light read, but once you start to be open minded, it will change everything. I read it again and agin and each time at that point in my life it is exactly what I needed to read. I would encourage you to find a local yoga studio that you feel comfortable with. There are also YouTube videos online for anyone who can’t go to a studio. It is much like anything, once you make a decision, the universe will help you get to where you need to be.

I know that there is a lot of dysphoria surrounding any spaces that have to do with working out, or anything that puts you in a vulnerable position in front of others. But the beauty about yoga is there’s no room for ego, and acceptance and non-judgment is a goal of everyone in the room. My advice is to let things be and let them get out of your system if they get emotional or uncomfortable. There’s nothing more beautiful than crying during a yoga class–trust me, I’ve done it more than once!


JaydenRiley, He/Him/They/Them, @soul_alchemist411
Yoga Spiritualist

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JaydenRiley identifies as “a non-binary transgender person with masculine tendencies.”

Jayden is a yogi who is always blending a special mix of witchy-good vibes with social consciousness and humor in his practice (and his life, if we’re being honest).

Jayden is also my housemate. It is not uncommon to see him striking a yoga pose in the kitchen or on the deck.  I am continually inspired by his strong sense of self and his confidence in the most difficult-looking poses. Jayden is a fitness inspiration because of his strength and flexibility, but also because of the amount of love he puts into his practice, whatever it is that day.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?
I’m not sure I would consider myself an athlete as much as I would consider myself someone who finds their “center” through moving my body. I connect to myself through connecting to my breath and whatever movement or pose I’m trying to achieve. 

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice?
Yoga has, first and foremost, saved my life. By completely immersing myself within this practice, I learned that Yoga is so much more than just moving and bending one’s body. It’s an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. With the goal of using breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. Coincidentally, the only person I knew that did yoga, practiced Ashtanga Yoga. “Ashtanga” literally translates to, “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). Yoga to me is a path; an eight-fold path, which if followed, will lead me to being a more whole person.image4.

What inspired you to start your practice?
I was literally at my wits end about to kill myself. I was so uncomfortable in my skin and with who I was being at the time. I needed a major change and my favorite thing to say is that discomfort is the catalyst to change. I watched someone who basically was immobile and emotionally worn out, recover like nothing ever happened because of fully investing themselves into yoga

What are some goals you have for yourself?
To spend more time actually doing yoga instead of talking about how much it changed my life, lol. Actually, I would like to reinvest my time in mindfully practicing the first two limbs of yoga and less on the third limb, asana, or physical body postures. Might seem counterproductive to a physical practice, but that’s the beauty of yoga. You find yourself expressing your best and truest asana when you’ve been fully immersed in the other aspects of self that have nothing to do with moving.

Do you struggle with motivation?  How do you overcome that?
There was a time when I struggled with how much better other people were at yoga than I was. How much stronger or bendier or handstandier they were. And that’s when I remembered how much stronger and bendier and handstandier that I was than when I first started and that THAT GUY was the only guy I needed to compare myself to.


Dillon King, He/Him, @king_dillon , @flambeauxcrossfit
CrossFit Box Owner and Athlete

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Dillon is a Trans Guy from Louisiana

I started following Dillon a few years ago because, like me, he does CrossFit. Dillon is also a certified CrossFit Level 1 trainer who, with his wife, just opened his own CrossFit gym (called a Box), in his hometown of Metairie, Louisiana.  Dillon is an inspiration because of his seemingly boundless energy– when he’s not coaching or working out himself, he also works as a hairstylist. Dillon is the kind of person I look to when I struggle to find enough time in the day to prioritize my fitness, and I am so proud to consider him a friend.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
Nope! I was raised in Martial Arts (Kung Fu) but that was very on and off. Growing up I’d say I tried out for a lot of different sports and even made some teams but definitely wouldn’t consider myself an athlete. Not until my early 20’s did I enter my athleticism.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?
Man, this one has me stumped because I’m not competitive.  I guess I’m a happy athlete, haha! I enjoy and appreciate all the benefits my fitness has brought my life and I love that it has led me to a path of helping others.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice, whatever it is?fullsizerender-8
So many! I do CrossFit, so the #1 benefit has been the community, friendships, camaraderie, and support that come along with the sport of CrossFit. Health benefits of course, which I know will help me in the long run to be the most involved, active, and fun parent I can be in the future. It has also given me the opportunity to rise above insecurity and into confidence while leading me to the path of training others. Helping my members succeed and exceed their goals is priceless.

What inspired you to start your practice?
In 4th grade, the doctor said I was over weight– I weighed 158 lbs and I was only 4’8″!  I was so embarrassed. My mother, who was also overweight, wasn’t very encouraging with me. So I was very unhealthy, not just physically, but mentally, too. Hearing that I was doomed to only get fatter was traumatizing. As I grew up, I just honestly was so ashamed of myself that I just said “This isn’t who I want to be” and I changed my unhealthy habits into healthy ones little by little. Over a period of time healthier choices weren’t even difficult to make anymore. It’s truly a lifestyle.

What are some goals you have for yourself?
I would like to get to 15%-17% body fat and maintain that. Nothing crazy, but a healthy range just to prove to myself I can do it– I’m completely aware that this goal probably stems form my childhood, but it’s important to me to conquer my fears about being able to be anything other than overweight. I’d love to place top three in a CrossFit competition. Even in a scaled category, that would just be an amazing accomplishment for me!

fullsizerender-3Do you struggle with motivation? How do you overcome that?
Absolutely, I think everyone does. We’re human. Sometimes I ask a reliable friend to workout with me a few days and that helps me feel better and find my own motivation. Other times I order pizza, let go of the fitness mind, and just allow myself to be human for the night. Restart in the morning.

Do you have any advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
Do it! There are so many videos out there you can literally Google a muscle group and find a library of how-to work out videos. Hard work pays off! I began being able to do ZERO pull-ups and now I can do pull-ups with a 25 lb. weight hanging from me. Some days suck and that’s normal– not every
day is going to be your best, but if you keep trying, progress happens over time! Before you know it, 2 years pass and you’ll look back so thankful you changed into the healthier version of yourself.


Loren Evans, He/Him/Them/Them, @queer_4flannel
Mountain Biking and Hiking

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Loren is a non-binary trans man.

Loren’s fitness pursuits are life-giving, which is one of the big reasons why he makes the TransFit inspiration list.  Loren is always seeking an adventure, whether on a hike or on two wheels, flying across a mountainside. Loren also is continually challenging himself, and recently completed a grueling 100-mile mountain bike race.

Loren also has an inspiring point of view when it comes to health, happiness, and what it means to be fit.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
I have always been physically active. Did sports all growing up. Was a college athlete, always an outdoor type person, grew up in the mountains camping and hiking. Transitioning allowed me to be more active and comfortable in my body, which lead me to more adventures.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?
My idea of an athlete is not based off of a body type, a six pack or even having to compete against other people.  An athlete to me is someone who has passion for testing themselves physically. Athlete does not exclude any person or body. It’s the idea that you get out there and have the commitment to yourself to see what you are capable of. Whether it’s able to walk a mile, or run 100 miles. As long as you are pushing yourself, you’re an athlete. So when I think of myself as an athlete I think of myself as someone who goes out into nature and tries to see what I’m capable of while being at peace with nature.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice, whatever it is?
The benefits I have received from biking, hiking, backpacking, are not just a feeling of overall peace inside, but also respect for my body, what it can handle. I have received strength physically and mentally. It gives me a broader picture of the world we live in and what is important to me.

What inspired you to start your practice?
I really became serious about taking time each week to go outside and be active after watching my sister run an ultra marathon that was 100 miles in the Colorado Rockies. Watching her push herself inspired me to get outside and LIVE!
What are some goals you have for yourself?
This year I want to run a backcountry half marathon, I also am planning on doing a 50 mile mountain bike race in Vermont.  Outside of racing I want to backpack more and climb a 14er [a 14,000+ foot mountain] in Colorado.
Do you struggle with motivation?  How do you overcome that?
Last year I competed in a 100 mile mountain bike race. I trained for over a year. Many days in that I did not have motivation, but what I did have was a commitment to myself to finish that race in under 12 hours. Once I decided to honor myself and that commitment to myself,  lack of motivation no longer held me back. I would get out of bed and train anyway. The moment you decide to not quit on yourself is the moment motivation no longer controls your goals. You just don’t quit, you keep moving!
Any words of advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
My advice is if you want to active, find something you love. Not everyone loves going to the gym. Find what you love and do that, whether it’s yoga, walking, biking, hiking, basketball, whatever… just go for it. Love your body, love yourself, honor yourself. And NEVER compare yourself to anyone else. This is your journey so go create your own adventures!

Elliot Dean, He/Him, @elliotdean83
Olympic Lifting and Sweat Enthusiast

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Elliot identifies as a trans guy.

I have been following Elliot on social media for a while now.  I initially found him because of a common interest in CrossFit, but as I have seen glimpses of Elliot’s life over the last few years, I have learned that he is into way more than just CrossFit. Elliot seems to find a way to be active no matter where he is– whether at work, on a playground, in a yoga studio, or in an actual gym. His array of #sweatypursuits is enough to make any fitness fan jealous! The thing I find most inspiring about Elliot is the amount of joy he gets from being active.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?
Sweaty Generalist with a concentration on Olympic Weightlifting. I don’t like limiting myself to just one activity and luckily I work for a company [lululemon] that funds the majority of my #sweatypursuits. On top of Olympic Weightlifting I CrossFit, spin, and do yoga. If you bribe me with tacos I might run with you, but don’t expect me to run over 3 miles.unnamed-3

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice, whatever it is?
Mental strength. Your mind is much stronger than your body. Patience and to some degree self discipline. Olympic Weightlifting requires a lot of discipline with eating habits. I’m still learning how to turn down cookies. My coach calls me the Cookie Monster and all my friends call my Chunky. #chunklife

What inspired you to start your practice?
My friend and I had already been doing CrossFit for quite some time but when she switched over to Olympic weightlifting I decided I would give it a try as well. I was immediately hooked because it was mentally more stimulating and there are so many nuances to the sport that you are always learning something new.

What are some goals you have for yourself?
I recently accomplished a goal of competing in my first USAW meet. It was incredibly scary and nerve wracking. I had to wear a singlet which was also scary. HAH!

Do you struggle with motivation?  Hunnamed-6ow do you overcome that?
I don’t struggle too much with not being motivated. My lifestyle is fueled by working out and all of my friends live a similar lifestyle so we all hold each other accountable. Having friends keep you accountable is key.

Any words of advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
For Olympic Weightlifting – find a USAW affiliate coach and don’t be afraid of wearing a singlet– no one is looking.


Kit, He/Him/They/Them, @butchofwands, www.thelittlevolcano.com
Yoga Instructor and Entrepreneur

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When asked about gender identity, Kit said “When I feel into my own identity, none of it resonates.  I’m just feel like I’m me, and I don’t have a specific label for my identity.  I use labels for the sake of others, its easier for people who are new to different gender concepts to have labels.  I like to meet people where they are at to create bridges of understanding, so I entertain trans, ftm, non-binary, etc.” 

Kit is a badass trans yogi whose sassy Instagram posts, fabulous yoga outfits, and larger-than-life personality inspire me to have more fun, get a little weird, and, most importantly, work to cultivate happiness in whatever I’m doing.

Kit is also a yoga teacher, and has made teaching other people how to cultivate that same happiness his life’s work.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
Yes, I have been involved in every sport imaginable since I could walk. I’m very drawn to the sense of play and games, sports always blended with that.  I played sports all through high school, a year of college basketball. Two years of Women’s semi-pro football, one year of roller derby, and have ran a marathon and many half-marathons.   Now my primary physical practice I do is yoga.  After years of beating up my body, and breaking down my psyche with the intensity and cattiness of competition, I needed a more healing way to be active.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?  
I am a yoga teacher who combines the science of healing, with woo woo magic, and doing fun things with the body. I just finished my first world tour teaching yoga in the UK, Europe, and across the states.

What inspired you to start your practice?
When I was a derby skater, I decided to skip practice because a cute girl invited me to an acro yoga class.  In derby, a hardcore aggressive attitude can be often celebrated.  There is competition against other teams, and within the team.  The goal is for you to win, and someone else to lose.  It breeds the idea of “other.”  It can become breeding ground for unhealthy comparison, pack mentality, and the idea that you’re not good enough unless you’re better than everyone else.
When I went to the acro class, I was greeted as I was, not for what I could do for others.  I finally found a physical practice and a community where I was enough. The people were encouraging, and welcoming, and there was this beautiful wholehearted sense of community.  People were open with their affection, and willing to connect. It lit a spark inside me.

unnamed-1After the derby season was over I hit a huge depression.  The spark that was lit in the acro yoga class called me to explore yoga as a possibility to heal my depression.  I heard about the magic of yoga, but I had “bro” conditioning from 20+ years of competition sports. I started going to a studio down the street that teaches Forrest yoga, which combines a strong physical practice with concepts for healing the mind.

The first class I attended the teacher taught about self love. Just the idea of that created a burning of discomfort underneath my skin. Hating yourself is quite glamorized in mainstream culture, and I had adopted that ideation for myself.   Despite my discomfort, I knew I was in pain, and was desperate to try anything to bring me closer to happiness. I kept going, and watched the yoga magic slowly unwind my toxic programming.
I had found that thing that helped me find peace in my mind, body and spirit, when you find something that sacred, the best thing to do is keep going never look back. That’s exactly what I did. A year later, I went to teacher training, quit my job, and have been leading others through the same kind of transformation that I went through.

Any words of advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
One of the easiest ways to start down a yoga path if you’re new is to get an intro deal at a studio nearby, then take as many different classes at the studio that you can.  There are many styles of yoga, and many different teachers. You are going to want to try as many as possible until something resonates.

Don’t let your fears or insecurities get in the way of trying and trying again.  Most yoga settings will welcome you with open arms, and will respect your needs and desires if you let them be known.  In the next year my wife and I plan to start putting out videos on the internet you can follow from home, as well as doing another world wide tour.  If you’re somewhere that needs some yoga magic, we can try to set something up to come teach where you live. I’m here on the internet if anyone has any questions, and I try my best to respond on my Instagram account.


Leo Sheng, He/Him, @isupersheng
Student and Exercise Advocate

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Leo is a trans man who, when he’s not studying or advocating for the trans community, finds inspiration for exercise in a variety of settings.  I picked Leo for this fitspiration list because of his attitude toward exercise and fitness and his honesty about the evolution about his ideas around why we should exercise.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
Yes and no
. I did sports all the way until high school. I swam competitively, played volleyball and basketball for my middle school teams.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice?
With my own anxiety and depression, staying active definitely helps me feel level and balanced. When I exercise just to exercise, I find myself feeling stronger. I can think clearer. I feel better about myself.

What inspired you to start your practice?
The last few yeleo
ars, even though I’ve been comfortable enough to go to the gym, I’ve been comparing myself to other guys and their progress. Instead of working out to attain muscle, the way I was, I feel like it would’ve been more beneficial to me to stay active just to stay active.  Originally, I just wanted big muscles and a six pack. But now, I want to get better at things for myself– to prove to myself that I’m capable of walking on my hands or doing a muscle up (still working on that one). 

Do you struggle with motivation?  How do you overcome that?image2
Oh definitely. I can stay on a gym routine for a few months then completely lose it and stop for another few months. I don’t think I have any tricks or advice. 
Any words of advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
Do it for yourself. Working towards physical goals is great and it can serve as motivation, but make sure to pay attention to your mental and emotional health as well! Nothing wrong with doing something just for fun!

Rock Hudson, He/Him, @therealrockhudson

Trainer and Pistol Squat Enthusiast

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Rock is a trans man who makes the fitspiration list because Rock utilizes creative ways to use conventional fitness equipment or techniques in his daily fitness practice.

He is a professional personal trainer with a wide range of clients, but when he’s not helping other people reach their fitness goals, he’s challenging himself in a variety of ways. If you want proof, watch his progression on Instagram as he learns and then perfects the Pistol Squat. And then does a 75# overhead Pistol Squat. Go request to follow him– you won’t be disappointed!

One of the things I find most inspiring about Rock is his willingness to try new things and to challenge himself. Now that I’ve learned more about him, I understand why!  Rock also frequently talks about the need for self-care, which is always a good reminder when you’re getting into fitness. Remembering to slow down and take in the beauty of the moment is always important when you’re in pursuit of something, and Rock shows us that, too.

Have you always been an active person?
I’ve been physically active and working out for the last 4 years. Prior to that my activity was mostly playing roller derby for 5 years, until a back injury removed me from the sport. I was active as a child, but never athletic. I’ve been skating since I was 5, but was still awkward and lacked coordination. As an adult the awkwardness carried over and then being extremely overweight limited my movement even more.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete?
I didn’t used to consider myself an athlete. I was good at derby simply because I was skating from such a young age. Coupled with my size I was strong for a woman, even though I never actually pursued strength. In hindsight that is something I wish i had worked on. Now, I see myself as capable; if I want something bad enough I will find a way to make myself do it.

rock-pistolWhat are some of the benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice?
People think I’m 10 years younger than I am! My back doesn’t hurt, my feet don’t hurt, nothing hurts. Being fit and active wasn’t part of my life for a long time, and I feel people forget that everyone starts somewhere.
People have told me that they could never do some of the things I’ve done, but these people also don’t believe that my starting point was a serious back injury. The way people see me now, as a fit healthy and attractive person is completely different than how I’ve been treated in the past. I look better, I feel better about myself, and people treat me better.

What inspired you to start your current fitness practice?
When I was 31 I sustained a serious back injury that left me laid up in bed for a month. I seriously thought my life was over and that I  would never be able to move properly again. At that point I was willing to do anything to be active again. 

What are some goals you have for yourself?
Staying healthy and mobile is my main focus. My other goal is to one-by-one check off everything I once said I would never be able to do; such as a muscle up, a backflip, or swimming.

Do you struggle with motivation? How do you overcome that?
From time to time we all struggle with motivation. I give myself the time and space I need, then refocus on my goals. I keep motivational quotes all around me, and my life is set up in such a way I am always accountable.
I try to make my life structured in such a way that my motivation and support comes from the people around me, the schedule I keep, everything. By making choices simplified, the actions get easier. It’s not about the action, it’s about making the action easy.
So in the end things like going to the gym aren’t a struggle to complete, but just a part of my life the same way eating breakfast is.

What advice do you have for guys looking to do what you did?
Go slow and learn your body. Get the movement right first and utilize the power of mobility work. Nutrition is key. It separates the men from the boys.


Jaden Fields and Destin Cortez, He/Him & He/Him@thedappermrjadenToolBox Trans LA

 

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When I was coming up with the list of which trans guys I was going to add to this inspiration gallery, Jaden and Destin immediately came to mind.

 

Together, they run a transmasculine social support space called Toolbox, here in Los Angeles.  A big part of the goal of the Toolbox is to create a safe space for trans men to work on their relationships with their bodies, and a big component of that is movement. It is here where they both achieve fitspiration status– their movement space isn’t about what mainstream society considers fitness, but is instead about cultivating a mindful, positive connection to the body.  If fitness is truly about bettering oneself, not just physically but also mentally, then what Jaden and Destin do is actually more about fitness than most gym routines.  On days when I personally struggle with feeling like what I have done for myself is “enough,” I often think of the message these two share, which is just to connect to your body in any way you can, in the moment.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
Destin
: Somewhat. It’s been circumstantial, depending on if I had resources and health to support an active lifestyle. In my younger years, my relationship to being physically active looked like trying to fit the societal goal of what a woman’s body is supposed to unrealistically look like. Post-transition, it was to explore how my body could grow, and to fit the societal goal of what a man’s body is supposed to look like. I physically and emotionally injured myself trying to attain this. Now movement is more important to me than being “physically active”; to move and to express without pressure or expectations is healing.

Jaden: Not really. Growing up, my relationship to being physically active came through the lens of not being fat anymore. I was navigating the world as a bigger black girl with an eating disorder that nobody believed I had (because the belief is that only white cis girls get eating disorders) and was expected to be trying to attain white beauty. Exercise felt like punishment for body. Now, our movement space feels like an opportunity to connect with my body. I’ve always had a strong body, it just wasn’t conceptualized that way because it wasn’t thin. I will admit that I feel the pressure to look like a big, buff, cis-passing guy, but I appreciate how our movement space isn’t about weight-loss or working out; it’s about trans/gnc folks giving thanks for the strength our bodies hold.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice, whatever it is?
Destin
: I practice Qi Gong, which is a Chinese holistic system of movement, breathing, and meditation used to maintain health and spirituality. It has definitely healed the relationship I have within my body. I’m much more connected and aware of what’s going on. I’ve began sharing some of this knowledge in our trans movement space.

Jaden: I’m still figuring out what that looks like for me. It usually looks like some kind of dancing because that’s when I feel the most connected to my body; that’s when I’m in love myself the most. I really appreciate the movements we do in our trans movement space because they are tied to movement as a form of resistance.

What are some goals you have for yourself?
Destin:
To learn more and share more with my community.

Jaden: My goal is to understand that my health isn’t tied to weight or muscles. My goal is just listen to what my body is telling me and to cultivate space for other trans/gnc folks to navigate loving themselves and their bodies in a space that isn’t policing their bodies and how they move.

Do you struggle with motivation?  How do you overcome that?
Destin:
I don’t struggle with motivation as much as I struggle with having the time for self-care. I do my best to take breaks during the day. I have to constantly remind myself that I am worth my time.

Jaden: I struggle policing my body. To overcome that, I remember that my favorite movement is dance. And then I have a dance party.

Any words of advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
Destin:
We have an open trans movement space at our office. Every 1st and 3rd Thursday, 6pm – 8pm, 1730 W. Olympic Blvd, #300, 90015.


Jens Cinquemani, He/Him, @jensrwc
Vegan Competitive Powerlifter

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Jens identifies as a Trans man.

Jens has been someone who I have looked up to as an athlete for a decade.  Jens and I first met playing women’s rugby in Seattle and I’ve followed his journey through various sports to arrive at powerlifting

One of the biggest reasons Jens is inspiring is the sheer dedication he shows to his sport. Anyone can dabble in lifting, but it takes a lot of practice and hard work to get really, really good at it. Just when I hit plateaus in my own lifting, I think of Jens and am reminded that it is possible for a trans guy to hit big numbers, and I am reassured that all I have to do is practice.  I also admire him for his big heart and love of community, which he seems to cultivate everywhere he goes.

 

Have you always been a physically-active person?
I have been physically active since I was a small child. I did tap dancing from ages 3-5, martial arts from ages 5-13, softball from 10-13, basketball, soccer, track and field, and ice hockey all throughout high school, rugby from ages 18-26, and now I do powerlifting. I dabbled in some crossfit, but there is some strange belief in that culture that shirts cause a hindrance in performance… not my cup of tea 😉 I was also a NASM personal trainer at a few different gyms, and a boxing trainer for a while.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete?
I would say as an athlete I love friendly competition. When I say “friendly,” I mean it. I support and cheer for my teammates, and those of the other teams. I celebrate the victories of others and enjoy watching people succeed. I love my sport, and I have a strong connection with others who love it. I am decent at what I do, and I love to learn from those who share similar goals as I do.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your practice?
Bottom line: Powerlifting has changed my life and made me happy with by body and the meat on my bones.  
There are so many benefits to powerlifting, it is hard to pinpoint one, or even just a few. Powerlifting has brought me into a community of people that I may have never met outside of lifting. I lift with people who are 16 years old to 75 years old. I lift with beginners to world record holders. We are all there for the same reason, and we all support each other. In the beginning of my transition, I never thought that I would be able to find a community outside the “trans* community,” but doing this sport that takes so much commitment and hard work, I found a community that has accepted me, and shares a common passion.

What inspired you to start your practice?
With powerlifting specifically I was hugely inspired by a former partner of mine named Sara who is a bad-ass bodybuilder and powerlifter. She helped steer me into the direction of a sport that fit my skill set and the needs of my body. A sport where visible abs mean nothing, and where everyone keeps their shirt on while training! She helped me dip my toes into powerlifting, and spent nights as late as 2am training with me to help me get stronger so I would have the confidence to find a coach and lift with actual powerlifters. I was also hugely inspired by a blog I found a few years back by Kinnon McKinnon. At the time he was competing and preparing for the Gay Games (which he won!). It was nice to see a trans powerlifter about my size just killing it! I have also been a fan of Janae Marie Kroc for many years (pre-transition) because she was such a beast, it was hard to believe. Now that she is openly trans, she has opened up the minds of many people in the strength sports world, and I am forever grateful to her for being so open. It gives vocabulary and understanding to people who may not have had it before, making me feel more comfortable to travel outside of Seattle for powerlifting meets. image1-2

What are some goals you have your yourself?
 I have a few goals for 2017.  I would like to get a 405 lb. squat and a 540 lb. deadlift at a bodyweight of 165 lb., and also a 415 lb. squat and a 560 lb. deadlift at 181 lb. bodyweight.

 Do you struggle with motivation?  If so, how do you address it?
I don’t struggle with motivation very often, but it can be very hard to get the energy to train after working 12 hour shifts in the emergency room, and also going to graduate school. My wife, Yaara, has given me the space and time, and helps me with $100s in training costs a month to do what I love to do.
What advice would you give to a trans guy looking to get into what you do?
If someone would want to specifically do powerlifting, I have a few words of advice.
First, hire yourself a good trainer. My coach, Todd Christensen, has been powerlifting for longer than I have been alive. Do not go to a coach who has never been in competition, do not use a coach who doesn’t keep track of your goals and milestones, and find others who are also being coached by the same person.
Don’t train somewhere where you would feel scared to be out as trans (if that is how you usually identify).
Do not compare yourself to others. When I am gearing up for a competition, I do not look at who I am competing against. I make sure I make my weight class, and I make sure I am following my program. That is it. If you have a coach who supports you and knows what they are talking about, you just have to show up and do the work.
Stop looking at Grindr-esque iPhone mirror selfies of trans guys with good lighting and modeling contracts and thinking those should be “goals” for you. Powerlifting is about grit, hard work, determination, commitment, and strength. It’s hard, it’s loud, and it’s gross.
Celebrate the successes of other powerlifters. Don’t be a dick. If you are in the Pacific Northwest area, contact me if you really want to get into powerlifting. If you are outside the PNW, contact me and I will get you into contact with coaches.

Devin-Norelle, Ze/Zim, @steroidbeyonce
CrossFitter and Trans Activist

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When asked about zis gender identity, Devin-Norelle responded “Prince. Seriously! But I refer to myself as An

Devin-Norelle has been inspiring folx left and right over the last year. From being featured in Buzzfeed articles and videos to runway fashion shows and the White House, Devin-Norelle can be described by many as #goals.  I am personally inspired by Devin-Norelle because of zis hard work and dedication to self-improvement, as well as zis openness about zis identity and honoring all of the aspects of zis gender.

Have you always been a physically-active person?
Yes, I have played sports since childhood. I also have a ridiculous amount of energy and don’t know how to sit down. Basketball and Track were huge parts of my identity for a significant amount of my life. In their absence, I’ve moved into other forms of fitness.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?
As an athlete, I’d say I’m adventurous, always trying something new, especially if it is challenging.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice, whatever it is?
I benefited from increased strength and endurance. Mental discipline is definitely a learned behavior that a I’ve acquired from fitness. My physical health has always been great and lifting/CrossFit has been a great outlet for releasing everyday stress.

What inspired you to start your practice?
When I stopped playing team sports. I looked for other outlets. I picked up lifting, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel satisfied after each workout. I didn’t feel I had expended enough energy.  Eventually I stumbled across CrossFit and  have reaped many of its benefits.

What are some goals you have for yourself?
My first and most important goal is maintaining my health. My parents and grandparents have many health issues I’d like to avoid (if I can).

Processed with VSCOI am very competitive. I challenge myself to beat last week’s best or continue attempting moves that are difficult for me. This might mean trying a 500lb deadlift to out perform last week’s deadlift or training to better my time at a Spartan Race. Additionally, I encounter insane body builders at my gym. Many pull off nearly impossible moves. As aforementioned, I’m competitive; I sometimes change my entire routine in order to practice and learn their moves. My favorite is the hanging windshield wiper that I learned 3 years back. I’m currently teaching myself to balance on four 45lbs weights and while doing push ups, something I saw on my friend Elise’s (@elisebodyshop) Instagram. If I see something that looks difficult (in the gym or even on Instagram), I’m probably going to keep at it until I can do it.

Lastly, I desire build my endurance. As someone whose mother ran away from the falling buildings of 9/11, I was taught to always be prepared for this type of extreme danger. If I need to escape or even defend myself, I believe high endurance would help me in a dire situation.

Do you struggle with motivation?  How do you overcome that?
I don’t often struggle with motivation because fitness has been habitual for me since childhood. I do tend to slack off sometimes during the coldest days of winter (I rather be in bed) or the warmest days of summer (I rather be outside). When I nee13501609_10154284230587953_3631817799638423585_nd to motivate myself those days, I’ll watch fitness videos on Instagram or trick guilt myself into by saying, “the only workout I’ll regret is the one I didn’t have.”

Any words of advice for trans guys looking to
get into what you do?

I learned a lot by researching, but there are so
many resources now. Instagram is a great resource for different tips. Set alarm with motivational sayings like, “The only workout I’ll regret is the one I didn’t have,” or “Clear your mind of can’t.” I realize this doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes the hardest part about working out is putting on your workout clothes. But doing this, it will change how you feel about working out that day.


Ilya Parker, He/Him@forsecafitness
www.forsecafitness.com
https://transempowermentnetwork.wordpress.com/

Personal Trainer, Specializing in Physical Empowerment for the Gender Non-Conformingtrans-fit-3

Ilya belongs on this list because of his personal journey and his dedication to helping other transgender and gender non-conforming folx realize their potential and make peace with their bodies.  In addition to being a personal trainer who focuses on working with those who are typically outside of the fitness community (namely gender non-conforming, chronically-ill, disabled, and transgender folx), Ilya is also a writer and community activist. I am personally inspired by Ilya’s attitude towards making fitness inclusive of all bodies and am so happy he is doing what he is doing!

Have you always been a physically-active person?
No. I was once very sedentary and dysphoric (m
y dysphoria currently ebbs and flows). I was also diagnosed with hypertension and deemed pre-diabetic.

How would you describe yourself as an athlete (whatever your concept of that is)?
I do not consider myself an athlete. I consider myself someone who is reclaiming ownership of his unique body, engaging in functional movement and appreciating the freedom/flexibility. I participate in strength training to sculpt my physique in ways that look and feel right to me. I am utilizing fitness and functional mobility as a healing modality, which helps me learn to love my body more each day.

What are some benefits you’ve gotten from your fitness practice, whatever it is?
Some benefits that I’ve received from my fitness practice is: regaining my sense of empowerment. I have been able to reclaim my health and vitality (mentally, physically, emotionally etc.) through movement and exercise. I have been able to merge my social justice work, medical training and love for fitness into a compassionate and affirming practice…that servicestrans-fit-pic-1
our most marginalized populations.

What inspired you to start your practice?
Forseca Fitness was established in memory of my friend “Big J” Forseca who passed away of lung cancer April 2015. Forseca Fitness was birthed from the need for trans, gender non-conforming, disabled, chronically ill bodies to have better access to health and wellness services. Our mission is to aide in decolonizing toxic gym and diet culture while affirming all those who seek to reclaim, define and love their bodies.

What are some goals you have for yourself?
My primary goal is: to create and implement more health/wellness based fitness programs (in the Southeast Region of USA) that center trans, gender non conforming, queer, disabled and chronically ill people; ensuring that folks have access to this type of care. I believe this work is important as it is an extension of healthcare…it also can help folks to heal their bodies and spirits.

Do you struggle with motivation? How do you overcome that?trans-fit-pic-2
I do struggle with motivation from time to time (I think we all do). When I feel this way, I remind myself to be gentle and kind during these time. To take a second and just relax. I then reflect on the reasons why I may be stuck…then I am able to work through it little by little.

Any words of advice for trans guys looking to get into what you do?
The advice I would give is to research various avenues; as there are many ways that you can take part in the fitness community. Research online and join diverse Facebook Fitness groups especially the Trans specific groups. Ask plenty of questions (and although it’s not mandated). Get a personal trainer certification from an accrediting body. The knowledge and insight you will gain may be very beneficial in ensuring your success. I would also like to encourage folks to be mindful of the ways their fitness practices maybe reinforcing rigid heteronormative standards. Please make sure that your work is inclusive of individuals that many may not equate with fitness.

The Art of Trans Bodies

This post is a collaboration between your author, That Guy Kas, and the wonderful, open-hearted Heath Foster Collison. Thank you for reading and sharing!

 

Lately I’ve been really upset about the amount of censorship I’ve seen towards FTM trans bodies. I’ve seen both FTM trans post-op and pre-op folx have photos deleted/removed from Facebook and Instagram for not meeting community standards while cisgender men celebrate their bodies freely.

It’s disheartening and hard to be body positive as a trans person in a world that constantly insists that our bodies and lives are unfit for viewing.

I know many trans folx, like myself, believe that our bodies ARE a work of art and should be celebrated just as much as cisgender folx.

Additionally, I think it’s important to show just how diverse FTM trans bodies are to the world. We come from all walks of life and that’s a beautiful thing. Let’s celebrate that!

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Note to cisgender folx:

The attached photos are of US celebrating OUR bodies. The bodies of folx who identify as non-binary and/or FTM. We are who we say we are. We exist and we deserve to be as unapologetic in our self expression and self love as anyone else.

Censorship based on how you perceive us and our bodies often lacks full understanding of our gender identities.

We exist in all different forms, shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities. We have various background, jobs, successes, traumas, and personalities.

Let us celebrate all that we are.

In fact, we grant you unapologetic permission to celebrate body positivity with us! The world could use some more of that.

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Breaking Up While Trans

It happened. My relationship ended.

It sucks.

But thinking about all of the sucky things that have come about in the aftermath, there are a few things that keep coming up. They’re big things. Existential things. Probably the things you always feel lurking in the back of your mind and you don’t even know it.

I had to wonder– how much of what I’m feeling has to do with my trans identity? And by that, I mean, the identity of a person who spent a good deal of their life pretending to be something they weren’t.  This isn’t unique to trans folks, of course. But that’s where I am.

Recently I have been trying to work on making myself more open to vulnerability. Not like weakness. But openness. Softness. Feeling. Sharing. Daring. Risking. I saw a TED talk by Brene Brown that basically changed my life, and so I’m trying to practice that in my life.

So I am going to be vulnerable and tell you what it is that really scares me about being broken up with.

  1. I am unlovable.

This is the big one. The one that underlies just about everything, when it comes to it. I know a lot of folks struggle with this. But I think, perhaps, those of us that exist outside of the binary may experience this more than others. When you come of age feeling like you’re an outsider, like you are not reflected in culture or media, like you have no voice, it’s easy to interpret those feelings as you being inherently undesirable. Unwelcome. Unlovable.

Any family shit you have beyond that is basically just icing on the cake.

2. No One Else Will Ever Get It

Another doozy.  When discussing my current situation with a friend, they commented on how my situation is basically a typical first-love coming-out scenario. Basically that you fall really hard for the person who you feel really truly sees you for who you are, or as you see yourself.  It could be your first girlfriend after you come out as a lesbian.  Or your first partner that sees you as a trans person. They’re the first person you feel loves you for you. Sees you as you see yourself. Treats you as you want. After years of never feeling this.

Of course anything of that magnitude would leave an impact. It’s no wonder I feel like I have been cratered.

3. Was I Not ________ Enough?

Fill in the blank. Doesn’t really matter what it is that you have to fill in there, if you find yourself asking this question, you’re not alone. I think especially as a trans person that likes queer people, male and female, it’s easy to feel like you might not have been _____ enough. If you’re with a queer female person, was I too much like a boy? If you’re with a queer male person– was I not man enough?  It can be extremely terrifying to be in a situation where you feel like you’re trying to convince someone you’re still _____ enough to be worth their time.

Yeah, relationships are hard. Yes, breakups are terrible. But for those of us who are trans, it can be a lot more complicated than that. Have empathy for your fellow humans. Be most excellent to each other.

 

Reflections on Trans Day of Visibility

Good day, dear readers.

If you haven’t read my last blog post, #MoreThanVisibility, go read that first, so this will make sense. Thanks!

I could not have anticipated the reaction to my TDOV photo collage campaign or this blog post. I was blown away by all of you, and I am so grateful for your support.

I had strangers messaging me on Facebook and Instagram to talk about how at home they felt within the collages or the blog post. I had one trans guy tell me that he had always felt excluded from trans representation because he doesn’t fit the cis-normative, hypermasculine archetype that we see in media (sadly, trans-centered media is equally as guilty of this trend as mainstream media). I had cisgender friends on Facebook sharing my post with their other friends, and trans friends who were tagging friends and sharing in groups.

I sincerely hope that the subjects of my last post somehow heard about it and read it. My comments and thoughts don’t exist in a vacuum and I want them to know how many people feel the same way I do about their impact on the community.

And then something magical happened. The Queen herself, Laverne Cox regrammed three of my TDOV collages.  Before I knew it, my phone blew up. People responded. The three collages together earned 46,800 likes. 46,800. You can see the rest of my collages that did not get regrammed here. 

The best thing about TDOV was seeing my friends, the ones in the collages, the ones that represent the true diversity within our community out there on Laverne Cox’s platform. To read the excited comments of friends who saw their friends on her Instagram feed. To see a whole lot of people smiling around them, to see them feeling validated. Validated by a mainstream media star for being their unique, beautiful selves. I cried a little.

But the reaction from the community has not only been positive. Jake Graf continues to delete comments on his photo calling out the lack of diversity. I’m posting a photo here of some of the comments that followed mine, in case they also get deleted. You read it here first– we are being silenced.

My friends Jordan and Devin-Norelle also wrote really great pieces that have gotten attention.

However, there are some people who feel like voicing opposition to others within the community on the issue of inclusion and diversity is trans-on-trans shaming. There are people who think that we should celebrate the successes of those cisnormative model types and just also find some way to raise ourselves up. They think that having the conversation about privilege and representation takes away from our community being a “safe space.”

I’ll start with the last point first– I am not sure that those who have been excluded from representation (TPOC, fem trans men, masculine trans women, non cisnormative, disabled, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the list goes on…) ever felt like the community was a “safe space” for them.  So, if calling out privilege and power makes those within the privileged group uncomfortable, I think its worth it if we heal some of the hurt for the rest of the community overall. I offer my privilege up for this cause, and I don’t get why it’s so hard for other people to do the same.

Second, I think playing the “why can’t we all just get along” card is dangerous. No, those who are not in the position of privilege should not stop speaking for the “greater good” or “unity” of the movement. We fell for that argument when it came to gay/lesbian rights. From the very beginning of the movement toward marriage equality, which lasted decades, there were those who said that we should focus on securing basic human rights, like employment security, housing, and decriminalization first. But, the privileged within the community (read: moneyed white cisgender men) focused on marriage, and marriage was almost the only thing we worked on for 20 years. And you know what? You can now get married in all 50 states, but you can still get evicted or fired for being gay in over 20 states.

So no, I don’t buy the “wait until we are more accepted and then we can branch out and show our true spectrum” narrative at all. Once we set a precedent, it’s very hard to change. Hell, our culture generally has accepted the idea that the types of folks that are on magazine covers are an irrational and very unrealistic image of beauty, but they still cater to that norm. Why in the hell would transgender people want to play into the same problems? We are starting from scratch– let’s create a narrative that is real and good from the very beginning, shall we?

Trans Day of Visibility should not be about each individual trans person posting a selfie and saying “I’m trans.” Trans Day of Visibility should be a celebration of the trans community– to bring to social media those who don’t usually get the spotlight. To show the cisgender world how unique we all are– we can’t be classified, stereotyped, or put into a box. Trans isn’t just something that you should be able to identify based on some cookie-cutter idea of what trans looks like. The people who appear in the mainstream media don’t need as much of the protection that visibility and awareness brings, but for the rest of us, it could actually help save our lives.

Be excellent to yourselves, and each other.

 

#MoreThanVisibility

Dear Readers,

Hi! It’s been a while, I know. Work has been busier, I took a few small vacations– life has been pretty good. I hope you’ve all been well.

Today, March 31st, is Transgender Day of Visibility, also known as TDOV. TDOV was founded in 2009, and has grown exponentially in recent years due to the rise in trans presence on social media. Each year has a theme, and this year’s theme was “#MoreThanVisibility.”  That’s going to be our theme for today’s blog post.

TDOV began for me as a day of celebration. I decided I would do my part not by posting photos of myself being trans (which is me, you know, all the time), but by collecting photos of my trans friends and highlighting the diversity of the trans community. I figured, if the day was really supposed to be about visibility, I could do my part by enhancing the visibility of those who tend to not get much press coverage. You can see them for yourself on my Instagram @thatguykas.

You see, there are some trans people who are actually quite visible. You know, white people, people of means, people who have the privilege of access to medical services for transitioning, people who pass, people who are hetero-identified and cis-normative. People like these folks:

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These folks are an assortment of internet activists– people who make films about trans folks, or who have seemingly made a name by being good at picking up heavy things or posing in their undies. Folks who, as far as I can tell, take the idea that being yourself counts as activism when you’re part of a marginalized community, and have run with it. These are the folks you see on the magazine covers that talk about trans people. People who get famous making their own videos about their lives as trans people.

The photo above, labeled TRANS VISIBILITY made me laugh at first. Seriously? That is trans visibility? Y’all are the same 6 people I see on all the trans things. Then it made me mad. This photo, these 6 people, are the minority in the trans community. And yet, they seem to be the trans folks popping up in mainstream media (other similar examples not pictured– Aydian Dowling, Benjamin Melzer). How is it possible that folks that are actually the minority within the trans community became the mainstream standard-bearers of trans image?

Because they’re beautiful. They’re mostly white. They’re fortunate enough to have lived in a place where there is access to healthcare. They conform to stereotypical physical gender norms. They’ve had medical intervention. They’re in shape. They have enough money to afford self-care.

Now, to be clear, I possess most of these characteristics, too. I’m white, I pass, and I have had access to surgical and hormonal intervention. I have a graduate school education and I live in a major metropolitan city. I am definitely occupying one of the highest rungs on the trans privilege ladder. And I understand that and I accept it and I’m committed to doing something to help change that for other trans people. That’s why I put together collages of my friends. And that’s why I decided to take Jake Graf on and to call him out for the lack of diversity in his representations of trans folks.

I wrote: “Where’s the diversity?” Jake replied: “A  Jew, a Jamaican, a Kiwi, two Welsh girls and a Dominican. Seems pretty diverse to me. :)”

I, realizing that Jake lives in the UK, replied: “In America, this looks like beige, white white white beige white. All passing. All cis-normative. Y’all can do better!” I tagged my friend Jordan, @luckypandacub, who is trans, Asian, and an acivist.

Jake replied: “I think we’re doing a great job, and by all means, if you think YOU can do better, be my guest! :)”

Jordan wrote: “Agreed. Those facing the brunt of the discrimination in our community aren’t the people that look like this.”

And less than a few minutes later, our comments were erased and Jordan and I were both blocked. The king tolerates no dissent, even when it is respectful and meant to help make our collective community better. Go see for yourself– there are no negative comments on this post even though I spoke up and others did as well.

Jordan is right, and it begs the question– who are these folks representing? If you ask them, they say they’re fighting for trans awareness. They’re activists. But the truth is that they routinely exclude from their publicity the very folks who need activism. The trans people that are most often victims. The trans folks that are beaten, murdered. Those who are people of color. Socioeconomically disadvantaged. Living in rural areas. Those wihtout access or privilege. Those who don’t have six-pack abs and fine cheekbones. Those are the people who need visibility in some form other than a picture on a memorial list of trans people who we have lost. They deserve representation because they are the majority. They are the norm. Below are the photos of just some of the trans people killed since 2015. Where is their representation? Where is their visibility?

Our community cannot afford to continue to only lift up the beautiful, the passing, and the able. We need to paint a realistic portrait of the trans experience. We need to remind the world and ourselves that these folks aren’t meant to be some sort of standard by which all trans folx are measured. We are each beautiful and we are enough.

This post is for all the trans folx who don’t show up on magazine covers, and a call to action. #MoreThanVisibility

We need leaders who lead. We need role models who are more than pretty. We need representatives that are going to use their power to discuss the things that impact the rest of us. We need people who tolerate dialogue and want to improve the lives of all trans folks. We need to see ourselves in them. We can do better. #MoreThanVisibility

CrossFit Has a Trans Problem

I SUPPORT ALLDear Readers,

Many of you who know me in real life (as in, not only as a blog writer) know that for about the last three years I have been doing CrossFit. To me, CrossFit is a way to stay healthy and maintain community. As a former rugby player, I needed something that made me feel excited about fitness and made me feel like a part of a team.

CrossFit has become so much more than I thought it would be. It has become my family, my church, my therapy, and my release. It has become the thing I do when I need to step outside my head and exercise some feelings while I exercise my body.

CrossFit keeps me sharp, makes me think, and challenges me. It also soothes me and inspires me. I get endless amounts of happiness and pride watching other people in my box (what we call CF gyms) conquer their own challenges.

But this relationship is only one way. My box is a CrossFit “affiliate,” which means it is independently owned and run and licenses the CrossFit name from CrossFit® Headquarters (“CrossFit®  HQ”), run by the corporate brand CrossFit, Inc. and heavily affiliated with Reebok. My box, like all the others around the world, is affiliated with CrossFit® the brand only by name.

It is CrossFit®  HQ that organizes and holds the CrossFit Games® , an annual competition that allows athletes from all over the world to match up against each other in a quest to earn the title as Fittest on Earth.

The competition begins each year with Phase 1, the CrossFit® Open, which is a 5-week series of workouts (“WODs”) designed to determine who is the best. At the end of the Open, the highest ranked athletes compete at the Regional level, and then advance to the CrossFit Games®. From February to July, a field of over 270,000 athletes compete to become one of only two people, a man and a woman, who are crowned “Fittest on Earth” at the Games.

My box and my local community have always been a rock of support during my transition. CrossFit® HQ, however, has not. You see, CrossFit® HQ doesn’t believe that I am a member of the community. CrossFit®  does not believe that I should be able to compete in the Open (or Regionals or the Games) because I am transgender.

This is not news. In 2014, transgender athlete and powerlifter Chloie Jonsson sued CrossFit® HQ for its discriminatory policies. Jonsson, who transitioned over a decade before the controversy, sought to compete in the Open, but was denied. According to CrossFit® HQ, because Chloie was born with a Y chromosome, she cannot compete as a woman. CrossFit® HQ told her if she registered, she would have to register as a man.

In a letter written to Chloie, responding to her desire to compete, CrossFit® HQ wrote:

“Our decision has nothing to do with ‘ignorance’ or being bigots — it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.”

CrossFit® HQ went on to explain that despite having gender confirmation surgery and having undergone estrogen hormone therapy for the better part of a decade, Chloie’s Y chromosome gave her an innate advantage over XX chromosome female competitors, and that she would not be allowed. One of my favorite responses to this debacle can be found here— CrossFit affiliate owner Alyssa Royse comments on how CrossFit® HQ’s behavior hurts us all.

Okay, let’s put aside the fact that Chloie is 5’4″ and 150 lbs. and that she has no size advantage compared to Games athletes, like Brooke Ence (5’7″ and 150 lbs.), Elisabeth Akinwale (5’7″, 158 lbs.), Annie Thorisdottir (5’5″, 152 lbs.), and Katrin Davidsdottir (5’3″, 152 lbs.). CrossFit® HQ’s position is ignorant and ignores what most other major sporting organizations (including the International Olympic Committee) have known for a while now: trans athletes are just like other athletes.

Scientifically, an athlete who has been on hormone therapy for 2 or more years is operating on the same level in terms of muscle ability as those born the same sex. There is no magic advantage to having a “Y” chromosome, though I’m sure we can all understand why a bunch of meathead dudes would want to preserve this myth– it allows them to continue to believe they’re “special” because they were “born men.” But I digress.

So, friends, the ugly truth is that while I have devoted thousands of hours, gallons of sweat, and, on some days, all that I have left in me to this sport, I am not allowed to compete. CrossFit® HQ would force me to register as a woman, but then would ban me from competition even if I want to do that (which trust me, I do not) because I take testosterone (a “performance enhancing drug”). I cannot compete as a man because I have two X chromosomes.

So, this year, I am taking the $20 I would have spent to register for the Open, and I am donating it to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group that helps fight against discrimination for trans people all over the US. If you believe that CrossFit is for everyone, if you believe that CrossFit should be a space where ALL athletes can compete, then I ask you to do the same.

https://www.lambdalegal.org/donate

Let’s send CrossFit® HQ a message that we #SupportAllAthleTes.

I SUPPORT ALL

 

Trans People Can Struggle With Getting it Right, Too…

Hey readers!  First, I want to say Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope that this season finds you happy and healthy. Best wishes for the New Year.

Okay, on to the post.

I saw something today that made me reflect upon just how challenging ideas about gender can be. So challenging that even those of us who must constantly confront and process gender norms, even we still get it wrong sometimes. Goodness knows I have spent a lot of space here talking about how cisgender people often get it wrong. I figured it was only fair to discuss all the ways that trans, gender nonconforming, or just even gender conscious can still mess up, too.

I was browsing my Facebook feed this morning and came across an article that a trans friend of mine posted, titled “6 Reasons Your Discomfort with They/Them Pronouns Reveals Unchecked Cis Privilege” . I opened the link, curious as to how the author would articulate cis privilege. But as I read, I realized that this article was not just talking about cis privilege– it was also talking about just how deeply engrained our cultural ideas of gender truly are.

What I mean is that sometimes I screw up they/them pronouns, too. Which is ridiculous because I like they/them a lot, I advocate for its use, and generally I consider myself to be pretty progressive on the gender stuff. BUT– yes, even I occasionally misgender someone whose pronouns are they/them.

For those of you who have not known someone whose pronouns are they/them, the basic idea is this: some folks don’t really identify with or feel that they belong to either binary gender (male/female) and so they refer to themselves with gender-neutral “they” and “them” in place of she/he and her/him. While gender-neutral language is nothing new, the they/them movement has come a long way of late. Mental Floss magazine recently did a cool piece on the Washington Post’s addition of “they” to their usage.  The article also discusses the long history of the usage of “them,” which it turns out we have been doing for hundreds of years.

Anyway. Some folks have they/them pronouns and it’s not really that controversial when you really think about it. I mean, we live in a country where a musician changed his name to a symbol, a basketball player changed his name to Metta Worldpeace, and Puff Daddy/Puffy/P.Diddy/Diddy/Sean Combs calls himself something different every 18 months and that is all fine. So why is it so hard for people to agree to and get used to calling someone they/them?

Because gender shit runs deep, y’all. For those folks who refuse to even consider or attempt to call someone they/them,  that’s unchecked cis privilege and that person needs to read that article above, stat.

But for those of us who know, respect, and understand that nonbinary people exist, who try to fight the status quo, and who feel like total assholes when they misgender someone, when we can’t get they/them right? You realize just how very, very, very deep al the conditioning we receive really goes.

I have a friend who uses they/them pronouns, and I have misgendered them twice. This person identifies as nonbinary and sometimes my brain can’t process that fast enough to overcome instinct and conditioning. When I see them wearing skinny jeans, eye makeup, or long earrings, my socialization takes over and my mouth says “her” before my brain remembers “them.” And not only do I feel terrible for messing up and not honoring their identity, I also realize how deep sexism runs and I feel ashamed.

Really? Me? A person who lived their whole life pre-transition in a state that very much went against gender norms? When I see someone’s clothing or makeup choice and assign that a gender, even though I know that there are really no rules about gender and appearance, I get angry.

I get angry because I realize how much socialization can control a person. I get angry because there are so many people whose gendered ideas run so deep that they will never be able to strip them away even as much as those of us who are conscious and try are able to do.

But, realizing that gendered socialization runs deep also gives me a good deal of empathy. I have empathy for folks like Caitlyn Jenner, who has repeatedly said things that are narrow-minded and cissexist, even as she has become a part of that marginalized group herself. She is a person who has been put into the spotlight and has been asked to speak about things that are incredibly nuanced and complicated, but with very little experience with actually confronting or trying to defeat sexism. Her white, straight, rich, male life that she led pre-transition was with her for far longer than her life experience as a trans woman. She can’t automatically undo all of that because she’s trans.

I am here to admit that yes, even I fuck this up, too, so maybe we can all just have empathy for one another and to talk honestly about how hard all this is, rather than acting like it’s something we could just fix if everyone tried. It is going to take so much more than trying to undo all this nonsense that has been engrained in us. We all need to try, but we also need to talk and acknowledge that we are not perfect and commiserate about how challenging all this can be.

Be excellent to each other.