It's More Important Than Ever To Make Wellness Spaces LGBTQ+ Friendly. Here's Your Checklist
It has been my experience and privilege as a cis, queer male, that I have been able to walk into modern wellness spaces relatively unharmed. My body has allowed me to shuffle in, do my do, and slide out. Still, it is important to recognize, even as well-meaning straight (especially cis white) folks, that unconscious biases, transphobia, and racism do permeate yoga and wellness spaces. Queer people, especially trans and nonbinary folx, do not always have the same immunity. And it can take tremendous energy to engage in spaces that operate within the context of oppressive social standards.
LGBTQ+ people have carved out our own spaces for years. We've had to. We still have, and choose to. These enclaves have looked like bars and balls. Cloistered beaches and forests. Living rooms and book clubs. When a group is marginalized, self-elected spaces are both a haven and a rejection of socially constructed norms.
For many, it's the same in the context of yoga, meditation, and related practices. With dedicated queer classes, we aim for safer spaces that acknowledge the legacy of systemic queer-harm in our world. By being in communion this way, the body may soften in the subtle ways it was otherwise unable to. If our bodies are the temple, the doors to the temple open when a threat is no longer perceived. The "work"—yoga, acupuncture, food gatherings, Reiki, and more—can really work. And healing can happen.
Short of enlightenment, the job of a yoga or meditation space is to support in self-awareness, healing, and greater personal and collective resilience. For many LGBTQ+ people today, an expressly queer space supports that. But for the students and teachers engaged in more general classes, here are some points to consider when wanting to support safer, more inclusive spaces:
1. Acknowledge there's some work to be done.
Look around the next class you're in. The wellness space probably looks largely straight and white. To get closer to the unity that we interpret from ancient texts, we need to recognize the privileges we hold that got us to the books and the classes in the first place. We need to see that micro-aggressions, especially against trans and queer people of color, are still common inside the walls and forums of wellness spaces.
2. Leave space for questions.
Please, just listen. If there's one thing that yoga teaches, it's that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. If you're in a leadership role, invite honest feedback from folks of different backgrounds and identities—even if it's anonymous. If you're a student or practitioner, work to build authentic relationships, and leave space to listen, learn, and change.
3. Make. Hires. Happen.
I cannot express how important this is. We need to see ourselves in spaces to feel that we are welcome and wanted: seen and heard. Not only is economic equality an obvious win, but better representation in leadership will change the collective assumptions around who yoga is for (it’s for everyone), and invite newcomers into the space. We can all express this to employers.
4. Decide how you will show up.
Get your head in the books. Read works by queer leaders. Leaders of color. Leaders with bodies different from yours. Actively challenge inappropriate cues, adjustments, and jokes. Encourage trainings, modules, and workshops that address and retrain tired ways of thinking. Express your interest and the importance in all of this so that decision-makers hear it.
5. Lead with love.
Leading with love doesn't mean that pain and suffering don't exist or that it all has to look perfect. Leading with love means complete and total acceptance of yourself, the newcomer walking in the door, the person who doesn't look or talk or think like you, and so forth. It means holding space and celebrating difference as a way toward a genuine, more just union.
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