217: The Yoga of Trans* Affirmation with Avery Kalapa & Maygen Nicholson

The trans and gender non-binary community is one that has often been marginalized and made to feel unwelcome in many places, including yoga spaces and communities. Back in March 2021, a prominent podcaster and yoga teacher, J Brown, released an episode that contained some harmful, inaccurate and hurtful content around gender and trans people (trigger warning: transphobia). However, an important part of yoga is ahimsa (not harming others and non-violence). In line with that, and with the aim of sharing the correct information about this group of people who are often misunderstood and misrepresented, this podcast episode focuses on sharing insights from people from this community.

Avery Kalapa (they/them) is a yoga teacher, community weaver, organizer, and educator with 20 years experience. They hold special certification in Yoga for the Pelvic Floor, which they completed in 2014. Avery’s approach is rooted in anti-oppression, and they focus on yoga for inner healing and collective liberation. They love creating healing spaces that cherish and center queer & trans folks, that don’t require assimilation. In addition to that, Avery is involved in various yoga equity projects, such as ABQ Queer Trans Community Yoga.

Maygen Nicholson (she/they) is both a former yoga teacher and dancer. Maygen has seen the Queer and Trans exclusion and discrimination in both yoga and dance spaces. This is what led them to educate within these industries to create access, equity, and inclusion for their LGBTQIA+ siblings. Maygen believes that the systems that harm all marginalized people actually harm us all, and they specialize in LGBTQIA+ inclusion and validation education with the aim of helping liberate hearts and minds free of biases and beliefs that inevitably hold us back from our true, authentic selves.

In this open, and honest conversation Avery and Maygen share more about what it means for yoga teachers to create anti-oppression, inclusive yoga spaces, and how to create such spaces. They also explore the resistance cis people have toward trans and gender non-conforming people that shows up in their interactions, the impact of these interactions, and how we as yoga teachers can learn together and do better moving forward.

Key Takeaways:

[4:19] Shannon shares about the open letter she wrote to J Brown.

[6:49] Shannon introduces her guests for this episode – Avery Kalapa and Maygen Nicholson.

[9:28] Shannon reads the open letter she sent to J Brown.

[13:23] Avery leads an opening for the podcast.

[19:00] Maygen and Avery introduce themselves and the work that they do.

[23:37] How can yoga teachers create anti-oppression, inclusive yoga spaces?

“It’s really important that we are acknowledging where we have privilege and where we are marginalized, so it just really informs how we show up in this work, and also how we show up for ourselves in this work.” ~ Maygen Nicholson

[27:59] Avery highlights that anti-oppression work isn’t separate from yoga.

“Anti-oppression work isn’t separate from yoga.” ~ Avery Kalapa

[31:53] There is some sort of awkwardness that happens when cis people are around gender non-conforming people. Avery explains the need for people to shift and change how they are showing up.

“We don’t always realize the ways that we uphold those norms that say some people belong and some people don’t.” ~ Avery Kalapa

[35:22] Why does this awkwardness exist in interactions between cis and gender non-conforming or trans people?

“Biases are inherent in all of us. Transphobia lives in all of us. These are conditionings we have been taught that have been passed down to us. It is deep internal work to release all of these things that hold us back from being able to love others fully, but also to be able to fully love ourselves.” ~ Maygen Nicholson

[38:41] Avery speaks to why cis people may have resistance to letting go of the false idea that gender is strictly binary.

[47:49] What are Maygen’s thoughts on the J Brown podcast episode?

[55:41] We need to move beyond acceptance into something much more than that. Avery touches on the idea of the false sense of scarcity that we hold.

“There’s room for everyone in the gender justice extravaganza. You might not get to be the big star of the show if you’re cis, but there’s room for all of us in this process.” ~ Avery Kalapa

[1:02:28] Where can we learn more about the difference between biological sex and gender?

[1:07:03] Avery opens up the conversation about how we can approach people’s bodies in yoga.

[1:11:34] Find out more Maygen and Avery’s offerings in the links below.

[1:19:38] Shannon shares her key takeaways from this episode.


Gratitude to our Sponsors Schedulicity and Sketching Yoga Sequences with Eva-Lotta Lamm Workshop.