Recently, Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener began offering Queer & Trans Yoga as a part of their weekly yoga class schedule. It is basic level class with a sliding scale monetary donation request, specifically for members of the LGTBQ+ community. The class originally started last year after consultations with local LGTBQ+ community members, but had been put to a pause after the teacher announced her relocation to another city. QSY was passionate and committed to finding a LGTBQ+ identified teacher who would run the class. Last week was the first week of the class resuming, with 14 members of the local LGTBQ+ community joining the class. This started a conversation among my social circle around the question “Why is there a need for Queer & Trans yoga?”. Several individuals questioned me on this, stating that yoga is a practice based on the acceptance and love of all peoples – so why would we need a “special” class for members of the gay community? Isn’t this excluding “straight people” from an inclusive practice?
Having a yoga space which offers specific classes for the LGTBQ+ community provides an environment for individuals who may not feel comfortable in a regular yoga class setting to partake in the practice without being distracted by feelings of potential judgement or self-consciousness. In the western world, many yoga spaces have become Eurocentric, filled with wanderlust skinny white girls in Lululemon clothing doing complex postures (In all fairness, I acknowledge that I am a part of this description to a certain extent). These environments can feel overwhelming for individuals who do not “fit” the western world societal definition of what a “yogi” is. Members of the LGTBQ+ community are often individuals who have lived their whole lives living outside the boxes of societal definitions and who have often experienced discrimination because of this. Whether it is haircuts, clothing, gender and sex definition or relationship status, LGTBQ individuals need spaces where they are not needing to focus on the way others may judge them based on their external appearances or sexual expression. They already do this every day, all day.
In addition, there are not many spaces in Kitchener-Waterloo which create a sense of community among the LGTBQ+ population. Members of the gay community do not have a selection of safe spaces which they are easily able to let their guards down to meet and interact with others similar to them. A sense of community among marginalized populations, such as the LGTBQ+ community, creates a sense of “togetherness” and can contribute to feelings of safety – a feeling of “we are in this together”. A sense of community is linked to a number of positive outcomes for the members which are a part of that community. These positive outcomes can include feelings of purpose and inclusion, a higher number of peer and social supports and positive effects on mental health. If QSY continues their Queer&Trans Yoga class, eventually a sense of community will begin to build within the class among the teacher, space and members. This will then, hopefully, have small but positive impacts on the whole beings of the individuals in that community.
The cost of the class, which starts at $5 (however no-one will be turned away for lack of funds), is an act which acknowledges that the marginalization of LGTBQ+ individuals is often seen in terms of economic status and poverty. According to a study by EGALE Canada, 40% of homeless youth are LGTBQ identified. Many members of the LGTBQ+ community also experience struggles related to mental health, unemployment and addiction. These are all factors correlated with lower economic status and financial ability. The affordability of the class, and the practice that no-one will be turned away for lack of funds, is a way of the studio eliminating financial barriers which may prevent some members of the LGTBQ+ from being in a space meant to welcome them with open arms.
As a member of the LGTBQ+ community and as one of the individuals who advised the QSY studio on the Queer&Trans yoga class, I may be biased in my opinion. However, I hope that my opinions will answer the questions mentioned above in a way that sheds light into why LGTBQ+ specific yoga spaces are important and needed.