Creating Trans Inclusive Spaces

This particular moment in our culture and world asks us to show up for others who might have different identities and lived experiences than we do. If we are to create a reality wherein basic human rights are granted to every individual, we must consider and reflect on how we can commit to solidarity and actionable allyship.
While we cannot promise a harm-free environment—in or outside of yoga, we do have a responsibility in creating safer spaces, more inclusive spaces, and spaces that are infused with the teachings of yoga—teachings that take us beyond the physical body and into our daily lives and actions; teachings such as truth-telling, non-harming, and being with discomfort as a way to cultivate transformation, change, and, for many, healing. 
The unprecedented amount of anti-trans legislation and widespread transphobia and anti-trans bias, perpetuated by mainstream media and news narratives, relies on the proliferation of a mistaken, false, dated and highly dangerous narrative that gender is inherently binary and connected to our sex (anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, etc.). Yet when we study the truth of history across time and space, we are able to clearly see a more expansive understanding of gender.
“While the actual words [nonbinary and gender-fluid] might not be new, living beyond the gender binary is not. Indigenous people outside the Western world have long existed outside of the gender binary: two-spirit among American Indians, hijra in South Asia, waria in Indonesia, muxe in Mexico, just to name a few. In many of these societies, people living outside of the binary were and continue to be recognized as leaders. It's not that these people do not exist, it's that they have been erased to make the Western gender binary system seem like the only option, and not a particular and specific cultural worldview. What is regarded as masculine and feminine is not set in stone but actually shifts across time, culture, and space.”
—Beyond the Gender Binary, Alok Vaid-Menon
As our language evolves to better describe the myriad of embodied experiences of what it means to be human, it’s important to stay up to date on relevant terminology. Language can be a tool for liberation, and for solidarity. It can also be a tool of harm. The following non-complete list of terms is a great place to start learning as we continue to embrace the expansiveness of gender beyond its narrow binary construct.

Gender 101

  • Cisgender: one who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth; sex is assigned at birth based on genitalia, hormones, chromosomes, DNA, etc. 
  • Transgender: one who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth; an “umbrella” term that also includes trans men, trans women, non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and many other identities.
  • AFAB/AMAB: the current language and acronym used to describe folks who were assigned female at birth or assigned male at birth.
  • Gender binary: Classification of gender into two distinct, immutable categories: 'man' or 'woman.'
  • Pronouns: Words we use to substitute for names; used for everyone, regardless of gender identity. Some folks use two sets of pronouns (i.e. she/they), some use neo-pronouns, such as ze/zir, some people want to be referred to by their name and no pronouns at all. We cannot know someone’s pronouns based on appearances and we cannot necessarily know one’s gender based on pronouns. Pronouns are not a “preference;” just like our names, our pronouns are simply what we state them to be. 
If this information is new or uncomfortable for you, that’s okay! Yoga offers us so many skills to hold ourselves through learning new things. Our culture is rapidly shifting. In an effort to create a more inclusive community for yoga, rest, practice, and care, I invite you into this learning, and to the many changes Kripalu is making to affirm and welcome trans and gender non-conforming guests and students. We cannot simply use the word “inclusive” without committing to real, actionable change and you, as a Kripalu guest, are part of this process whenever you walk onto campus or enter our digital offerings. 
To learn more about gender, trans identity and lived experiences, and ways to show up in solidarity with the trans community—within the walls of Kripalu and beyond, please consider engaging the following list of resources:
  • The Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
  • Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
  • Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
  • Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock
  • A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham
  • Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
  • Trans Like Me by CN Lester
  • Life Isn’t Binary by Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi
  • They/Them/Their by Eris Young
  • The Pronoun Lowdown: Demystifying and Celebrating Gender Diversity by Nevo Zisin 




  • Gender Reveal
  • Queersplaining
  • The Laverne Cox show
  • Dear Schuyler

Tristan Katz (he/they) is a writer, digital strategist, and equity-inclusion facilitator who specializes in education and consulting centered around queer identity and trans awareness.

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