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March 31, 2021

The J. Brown Yoga Podcast & its Harm on the Trans* & Non-Binary Community. ~ Tristan Katz & Maygen Nicholson

*Editor’s note: We welcome vital dialogue, held mindfully. Join the conversation by commenting below, or posting here.

A Public Statement Regarding the Harm Caused by the J. Brown Yoga Podcast Interview with Katchie Ananda by Tristan Katz (they/them) and Maygen Nicholson (she/they).

CW: transphobia, misinformation, bigotry, and hurtful language 

~

On March 22nd, J. Brown released a podcast interview with Katchie Ananda on the topic of “Gender Spectrum and Biological Sex.”

Both J. and Katchie are cisgender individuals. The conversation they shared is rooted in biological exceptionalism, Trans* exclusionary feminism, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and tokenization.

We found it deeply hurtful and problematic and felt the need to address it publicly to stand in solidarity with our Trans* and non-binary siblings.

This particular episode spreads false information without support of studies or facts, and is the very messaging that is used to discriminate against Trans* folks, both overtly and covertly. This causes harm in massive ways that cisgender people may not have a lens to fully understand. Spreading false information damages the lives of Trans* people each and every day. This conversation is not one that deserves to be promoted, supported, or condoned in any way.

The teachings of yoga invite us into practices of awareness, social justice, and individual and collective healing. The yamas and niyamas of the Yoga Sutras speak to teachings of svadhyaya or self-study, ahimsa or non-harming/non-violence, and tapas, or dedication. This interview embodies the opposite of these practices. The conversation has no inkling of yogic principles within it at all, but rather spreads misinformation that supports transphobic viewpoints.

With a platform comes a responsibility. When harm is caused, it must be repaired. In this case, unfortunately, the harm was extreme.

J. has been invited into an accountability and repair process. Our initial requests for repair were offered on March 24th via social media and private email exchanges with J. (See images here, here, here, and here.) Since then, J. has only taken one half-action toward accountability by offering a weak “apology” on his podcast—“I’m sorry people feel hurt” is not an apology; it’s a classic example of gaslighting to avoid accountability. J. refuses to remove the episode after countless people have come forward and expressed how it has personally caused them harm, and so we must deem his podcast, and all of his offerings, toxic for all Trans* and non-binary people.

Because Katchie states “this is the hill I will die on” during the podcast interview, we’ve focused our call-in efforts directly toward J., as he has explicitly stated he’s interested and open to input and feedback from other perspectives. We must also be aware that Katchie deserves to be held accountable for the harm she is causing and perpetuating as well.

Until J. and Katchie commit to engaging in LGBTQIA+ inclusion trainings, and the deeper, internal work needed to question their own biases, privileges, and the ways they’re upholding and participating in systems of oppression, they are both demonstrating a lack of understanding relating to the yamas and niyamas.

The teachings of yoga ask us to engage in ongoing skillful self-inquiry (svadhyaya) and non-violent (ahimsa) practices. Neither Katchie nor J. currently demonstrate any willingness to commit to these teachings. This is not about canceling these two individuals, but about raising our own consciousness and awareness around the information we take in and the voices we platform and support.

Platforms that reject accountability and feature speakers who have no facts or lived experience relating to the topics they speak on are dangerous, and it’s our responsibility to think critically about what we consume and to speak up when we observe something harmful, violent, or lacking integrity.

We need cisgender allies to keep speaking up—email him through his website with your personal thoughts on the episode, and start supporting and following Trans* and non-binary yoga teachers and educators.

Some folks we recommend on Instagram are Trans Yoga Project, Rebby Kern, Daniel Sannito, Mx. Puja Singh, Noha Arafa, Zel Amanzi, M Camellia, River Aurora, Leucas Miller, Alle K, Avery Kalapa, Marc Settembrino, and Megan Peterson. Please feel free to add any other Trans*/non-binary yoga teachers and educators in the comments below.

Hierarchical systems of oppression intersect, overlap, and uphold one another in an insidious way that seeks to hurt us all. Some of us benefit from these systems, and others suffer, each in disproportionate ways. When we do the work needed to examine, unpack, and dismantle our biases and internalizations (svadhyaya), we are working toward individual and collective liberation—as human beings existing in relationship with one another, our well-being is bound and interconnected. Therefore, attending LGBTQIA+ and anti-oppression trainings and learning spaces, and implementing what you learn, not only lends itself to a safer, more affirming environment for Trans* and queer folks, it also liberates cis and heterosexual individuals from dominant paradigms that oppress us all.

The truth is that Trans* individuals have existed throughout history. We are now coming into greater awareness of this history, and discovering new language to speak to our identities and lived experiences as Trans* people. We’ve always been here, and we need you to show up for and with us.

For those of you who are new to the much-needed conversation on how to create and hold Trans* affirming spaces in the yoga community, you can start with this brief article, written by Tristan and published on their website.

Some steps you can take now to be in solidarity with the work of Trans* liberation are:

1. Attend as many Queer and Trans* led educational offerings as you can to help you on this journey.

2. Follow, support, and uplift Trans*, non-binary, and queer educators, leaders, teachers, and individuals.

3. Spend time in self-inquiry around the messages you’ve internalized relating to your gender and question whether or not they hold true for you. Gender roles and norms have been enforced for centuries, and you have the option to free yourself from those that don’t align with who you authentically are.

4. Question your assumptions about others’ identities and your language. Ask people what language feels best and respect what you receive as a response.

5. Watch any inclination to rely on cultural habits to gender language, i.e. avoid phrases like “ladies, you’ll want to explore this pose in this way…” Instead, try on phrases like, “bodies with breasts might benefit from exploring the pose in this way…”

6. If/when you misspeak, misgender someone, or use incorrect pronouns or language, you can affirm the person by using the correct language promptly and by not centering yourself in the instance of the error.

This work is urgent.

We need everyone to consider how this podcast episode affects the Trans* community beyond the yoga industry. The narrative Katchie presented, and J. platformed, are the very ideologies that cause real and everlasting harm to our community each and every day. Fed with false information, these ideologies turn into policies, covert and overt discrimination, and then cause major mental health disparities, houselessness, inability to get proper care, and beyond.

Anti-Trans* legislation is currently being considered and enacted in states all over the country. One “small” conversation is part of a much larger, deeply dangerous system that we all have a part in dismantling in order to literally save lives.

It is clear that this podcast episode, on a platform centered around yoga, is far from being in alignment with traditional yogic teachings. As Susanna Barkataki writes in her recent statement:

“I want to name that sharing this on a yoga podcast in the name of yoga is harmful to me as a South Asian. Hate is the opposite of what yoga is. The episode is promoting bigotry and hate and is problematic in the way that it’s misrepresenting yoga. Yoga is about ahimsa, as you know, and this is the opposite of that…. Clearly, it’s yogic and part of the tradition to live in and explore identity beyond false binaries.

To experience ahamkara (ego) unattached to form, shape, beyond definition, Advaita (oneness, no separation)… And, as a cis woman, I’ve experienced a lifetime of sexism which I continue to unpack. But any fear or pain we may feel doesn’t justify erasing or causing pain to others. Nor will it be healed by such actions. Oppressions are not competitions. They can only be healed with mutual care and respect.”

In order to create a world that gives Trans* people the ability to thrive—to be celebrated for being exactly who we are, we need every single person to commit to unlearning and to being in active solidarity with Trans* and non-binary people everywhere.

Believe Trans* people when we tell you who we are and what we experience in our day-to-day lives, question your assumptions, and stand with us as we fight to create this new world that is rooted in community care and unconditional love for all beings. We need you and we need you now. This is yoga.

In love and solidarity,

Tristan Katz and Maygen Nicholson

~

Tristan Katz (they/them) is a writer, educator, and digital strategist specializing in business and marketing coaching-consulting, web and graphic design. They serve a wide range of clients in the wellness industry, including yoga teachers, healing arts practitioners, and other prominent change-makers. As an equity-inclusion facilitator, Tristan offers workshops and trainings centered around queer identity and LGBTQ+ awareness with an anti-oppression and intersectional lens. Through their podcast, articles, digital workbooks, and marketing workshops, Tristan supports those who seek to grow their work while staying aligned with the practices of yoga, equity, diversity, and inclusivity.

Maygen Nicholson (she/they) is dedicated to helping liberate hearts and minds free of biases and beliefs that inevitably hold us back from our true, authentic selves. They particularly focus on issues related to their LGBTQIA+ family. They do this through facilitating spaces that focus on LGBTQIA+ inclusion and affirmation education with an intersectional lens all while remaining rooted in wellness. They believe that being well is inherent to our collective liberation and are always exploring and integrating where wellness and education intersect. Whether through their workshops, trainings, one on one sessions, their Patreon, or other platforms that they have the honor of educating on, Maygen is honored to guide wellness practitioners, movement professionals, businesses, entrepreneurs, and beyond into becoming a part of making this world a safer, better, more affirming place for Queer, Trans*, and non-binary people everywhere.

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Tristan Katz & Maygen Nicholson

author: Tristan Katz & Maygen Nicholson

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Editor: Naomi Boshari