We're loving' that slowed down feeling and it's showing up in our playlists. Have a listen below:
Everybody has an interesting story about their first time. Doing yoga, that is. Overwhelming, terrible, sweaty, euphoric... we heard it all in our My First Time Zine (available at Tight Club, Little Mountain Shop, Hot Art Wet City, Nice Vice, The Juice Truck, Landyachtz, MELU Juice Bar, and more!) Here are some of our favourite stories, because there's nothing like a little throwback to remind us how far we've come.
Keighty @ Tightclub Athletics
I was 23. I was working as a marketing assistant for a tech startup and I didn’t know anyone, and the girl who was in charge of the fun things at the startup would bring in a yoga teacher. Her name’s Allie Maz. I surprised myself; I was pretty bendy, I was pretty flexible, but I’d never done anything slow and controlled before.
It was in the office. We turned our work environment into a zen environment... and it was great. It was cool to be around people in a more vulnerable state than how I knew them. I was the new girl. Everyone was really good at their job and I kinda sucked at my job, but when we were doing yoga, we were all the same. We didn’t suck, we weren’t good, we were all just doing it. And there was no sense of competition. I think there was four or five of us, a nice small group.
I didn’t know what to wear, and this girl brought her hot yoga onesie with her just for me, because I’d forgotten it was yoga day. It was a very sexy, very minimal lululemon onesie with, like, underwear lining. There was no bra lining, so I think I had to wear a normal bra with this yoga onesie and I looked ridiculous. I felt very comfortable, the movement was very free, but it was like... cool, I’m doing forward folds in front of a bunch of dudes. So yeah.
Fast forward five years and Allie Maz is one of my best friends, and she owns a rad studio in North Van called The Distrikt.
Yash @ this open space
My first time doing yoga was at Bikram Yoga on Commercial Drive... I was 22 or 23. I didn’t realize it was going to be that hot, so I had normal clothes on. I was kind of awkward about taking my shirt off, but then I did fully after like, the first pose. It was really crowded, I remember, and I didn’t realize there was going to be so much ass-in-face, but it was really enjoyable. I like the heat and I like the lengthiness of it, and I usually fall asleep at the end of Bikram when we’re in Shavanasa. I went for a few years after that.
The last time I did yoga was at Social Yoga. It was a surprise birthday gift. I like to go, I just don’t, so I was surprised and forced to go.
Natasha @ Little Mountain Shop
My first time doing yoga was in Toronto, my cousin wanted to go. It wasn’t that long ago, to be honest. I was probably in my early 20’s. We went to Moksha, and I didn’t have any yoga clothes with me, so they found me a really small tank top. I had never done yoga, but learned I was really flexible, because I was able to do all the moves. It was my uncle, my cousin and I... a nice family bonding moment.
I found out that I actually really enjoyed sweating, because usually I’m not athletic and I don’t do any sports, so hot yoga was a nice way to learn how to relax and get some fitness in. I think I fell asleep in my first shavasana. I just remember feeling good, feeling cleansed.
From there, I tried different studios when I was back home in Vancouver. I had always owned yoga clothes before, and never used them for yoga, and now they actually had a purpose.
Here are nine of our top yoga poses for boosting the mood when the weather (or anything else) starts to weigh heavy on us.
It's happening. Our favorite bikinis got stuffed into the back of the drawer. Last year's scarves are coming out. The beach towels ended up on the top shelf of the linen closet. The strappy sandals we've been wearing every day are getting crowded out by boots.
The practice of non-attachment can be a total bish come summer's end, but don't worry. We feel you, and we're not letting the shorter days and colder nights stop us from feeling the good feels.
Put this playlist on and breathe deep... there's plenty to feel good about, starting with a few of our favourite mood-boosting yoga postures. If you're reading this and thinking, "I don't want to get out of bed..." well, you're in the right place.
legs up the wall
WHAT TO DO:
Scoot your bum against the wall and straighten your legs. Flex your feet gently and breathe deep for five minutes.
All the benefits of an inversion, none of the effort.
lazy standing forward fold
WHAT TO DO:
Start in mountain pose, reaching palms up to bring your arms straight overhead on an inhale, then exhale and fold. Let your knees bend so that your stomach rests against your thighs, then let your head hang heavy and hold onto your elbows. Get in a few good sways back and forth.
It's obvious from our playground days that brains like to be turned upside-down.
cat // cow stretch
WHAT TO DO:
Get on all fours, shoulders stacked over wrists, hips stacked over knees. Start with a flat back, then inhale as you begin to arch your back, keeping your head in a neutral position. Exhale and round your spine, breathing deeply from the space between your ribs. Repeat for 10 breaths.
Increase blood flow to the discs between your vertebrae, aka the pathway to your head.
Bonus: helps with period cramps!
puppy dog stretch
WHAT TO DO:
Start in the same position as cat & cow. Keep your arms straight and begin inching them forward. Without losing too much of the stack in your hips, lower tummy, chest, and chin towards the ground. Press into your palms and gaze forward (or stick your tongue out at the camera.)
'Cuz it's sexy. Nothing puts us in a good mood like feelin' ourselves.
WHAT TO DO:
Come up from puppy dog onto your knees, tops of your feet flat against the floor/bed. Tailbone angled down? Hips stacked over knees? Good, now bring your hands into prayer, roll your shoulders back and start to open your chest. When the back bend feels good, ditch the prayer hands and grab your heels. Let your head relax.
Camel gives you a wide-open heart and a sense of fearlessness as you bend backwards.
WHAT TO DO:
Lie on your back, feet close to your bum, arms by your side. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you begin to lift your tailbone and press through your feet. Roll your shoulders underneath you and clasp your hands.
Release those crunchy, tense areas in one fell swoop... Strengthen and stretch your back while lengthening and loosening your hamstrings.
WHAT TO DO:
After lowering down from bridge pose, bring your knees in towards your face. Lift the hips and bring your torso parallel to the wall, supporting your lower back with your hands (fingertips towards the ceiling.) Elbows stay on the ground, shoulder width apart.
It calms the nervous system, but unlike many inversions, you don't have to be nervous about getting into the pose *facepalm.*
WHAT TO DO:
From shoulder stand, start to lower your legs over your head. Let the tops of your feet land on the floor and "grow" the pose by lifting through the hips and getting taller through your spine. Take five breaths.
One last inversion before the big finale.
END UP HERE
reclined bound angle pose
WHAT TO DO:
Unroll from plow pose, lowering slowly onto your back. Let your knees fall open and bring the soles of your feet together, then scoot your heels in towards your pelvis. Place one hand on your tummy and one on your chest. Feel your breath rise and fall.
Let the effects of practice wash over you in this restorative stretch. You made it.
Thanks to Allie for demo-ing!
Bird By Bird: Some (Hilariously Biting and Widely Applicable) Instructions on Writing and Life
Bird By Bird is a sharp, funny, and deeply relatable novel by Anne Lamott about writing and the writer's journey, framed by practical advice for people who may or may not write. It offers convincing bits of solace that you are, in fact, not alone. Be it feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or uncertainty about the future, Lamott make them easy to laugh about.
Insight speckled with snort-worthy quips kept us turning pages and taking notes through the personal anecdotes and hilariously relatable paranoid internal monologues.
Whether you write for fun or work (or neither), Bird by Bird offers the sense of urgency to go out and get shit done... a kick we didn't realize we needed so much.
"When you need to make a decision, and you don't know what to do, just do one thing or the other, because the worst that can happen is that you will have made a terrible mistake." (114)
There's advice on relationships:
"You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can't fill up when you're holding your breath." (170)
And on the importance of finding a passion:
"To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass - seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one." (102)
Plus, some truth bombs to remind us how to wield our powers gracefully:
"You don't always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too." (156)
Looking for a new read, or just to get back into reading? Bird By Bird has got you covered.
(all photos via Instagram)
After becoming increasingly interested the in farm side of farm-to-table food, I spent the month of August WWOOFing on a permaculture farm 45 minutes outside of Seattle. What I learned changed the way I consider food systems, nature, community, and the cycle of life. However, I'm not so sure that the "pre-yoga" me would've had the mental or physical capacity to hit those pinnacle moments, and here are some of the reasons why.
Ducks don't shit in their food because they know we'll bring them new food. Goats don't break out of their pasture enclosure to spite me. Chickens don't crush their own eggs and eat them in front of us on purpose (so I tell myself). Find better ways to feed the ducks, learn to tie sturdier knots, and come up with creative ways to keep eggs safe.
Animals are inherently innocent.
Taking the time to observe them, understand their behavior, and stay calm when it seems like they're destroying all your plans is a process. That said, it's a beautiful one, and the nature of beings--furry, feathered and otherwise--can't be accepted without a healthy serving of patience.
A regular yoga practice translated to body awareness, sensory mindfulness, and a better understanding of ergonomic safety than I could've imagined.
Harvesting carrots and cabbage for homemade kimchi? Without a squat game that's absolutely on point, getting through more than an hour of labor-intensive, ground-level work would've been hellish.
A day spent shoveling wheel barrows filled with high quality duck pond can destroy shoulders and backs, but a lifetime of chaturanga helped me figure out scapular engagement within the first few scoops. When hazelnut and plum trees are at stake, keeping them healthy is a worthwhile investment with a delicious reward.
Before I started yoga, I'd never taken any active strides to control my breathing (unless we're counting holding it underwater all the way to the other side of the pool and back.) From the tang of aging goat cheese to apples baking in the oven, smells wafting through the kitchen warranted deep breathing all on their own. This is something I often forget to do when I'm in the city.
The less palatable smells -- that of an active compost pile, or a dirty goat pen -- took some getting used to, but because all of these scents served as constant reminders to breathe, I did. Taking it all in and experiencing my surroundings in full definitely takes a few solid inhales, and the effect of that wash of oxygen is not to be missed.
Threshing rye, felting wool, husking nuts, slicing tomatoes, collecting eggs... tasks that busy the hands can free the mind. Each simple, repetitive motion took on a quality of active mediation if I allowed myself to experience things from my senses, rather than from the chattery weirdness of my mind. The liminal space is a place I could return to by way of the thousand+ times I reigned in my thoughts during yoga.
When thoughts did emerge, they were crystal clear amidst the stillness.
We're on a quest to cure that extended summer hangover, and to get ourselves back in the game, we've whipped up a collection of new favorite sounds for fall. We're getting down to the fall grind playlist, and getting ourselves up and out of that post-summer vacation fog. Be on the lookout for our top mood-boosting yoga poses to match the tunes, dropping later this week!
As kids, eggs were one of the first things we learned to cook by ourselves. Cooking them well? Eh... that took a bit longer. The Food Lab, an awesomely nerdy cooking guide, gave us the scientific lowdown on why our eggs sucked and how to make them better. Here's the expert protocol on making hardboiled eggs like a boss... you'll be flaunting your new brunch stunts over Salmon Niçoise or fancy avo toasts in no time.
My eggs stick to the inside of the shell when I try and peel them.
Slowly bringing eggs to a boil causes the whites to fuse with the shell... it's still edible, but it feels pretty lame to have to scoop an egg out of the shell with a spoon.
By the time the yolk is cooked through, the whites have gone all rubbery on me.
Dropping eggs into boiling water causes the outer layer to set more quickly than the inside, making the finished product an unevenly cooked egg *womp.*
Start the eggs in boiling water for just long enough to set the whites (but not long enough to stick to the shell), then quickly lower the temperature by adding ice cubes to the water so the yolk can finish cooking evenly.
FOOLPROOF HARDBOILED EGGS
You'll need... 2 quarts water + 6 large eggs + 12 ice cubes
1. Pour water into a lidded 3-quart saucepan and boil on high.
2. Lower the eggs (carefully) and wait 30 seconds, then add ice cubes.
3. Keep the heat on high and allow water to return to a boil.
4. Reduce to below a simmer and cook for 11 minutes.
5. Drain and let eggs cool completely, then crack all over and peel under cold, running water.
Voila! The bomb-est hardboiled eggs ever.
For a simple but killer breakfast, top some smashed avo toast with sliced eggs, a sprinkle of sea salt & a drizzle of Sriracha.
How did you first become interested in holistic psychotherapy?
Psychology has ALWAYS been a major interest of mine. From a young age, I was intrigued by dreams, people watching, and getting to know what makes people tick. I started studying psychology while I was still in elementary school!
The "holistic" piece came into play when I was 15 on the day I went to a naturopathic doctor to seek resolution from my life-long journey with sickness. It was through him that I learned about the significant impact that food and our environment has on our body. As I grew, healed, and learned, I knew my purpose was to integrate these two passions to support others in their own health and happiness journey.
If you could tell the world one thing...
Oh, here comes my inner-hippie... I would tell the world: You really are enough. Within each and every one of us is a deep, radiating glow of love.
Sadly, we've all got a lot of layers covering it all up. Starting from that kid who kicked you in kindergarten, to that time your dad made fun of your weight, to when you lost someone who deeply love. All of these things add up and lead to feelings of defeat and being "less than."
Some layers are thicker than others, some are easier to let go of, but trust me... deep inside, you are full of love, and you truly are enough. Let go, and let it shine.
Best low-key way to de-stress at the airport?
My go-to de-stress involves a technique called "tapping," also known as emotional freedom technique (EFT). I'll be teaching about that, and a few other gems, in my upcoming workshop with Social Yoga. The Coles Notes version is this: you tap on particular meridian point of the body to get energy moving (think acupuncture points), while stating specific mantras. It's quick, easy, and effective. I use it any time I am feeling nervous or stressed out!
Personal and/or professional motto:
I feel like it changes all the time! It's totally dependent on where I am and what I'm going through professionally and personally.
Right now? Connect to and whole-heartedly believe in your purpose, and trust that everything will fall into place as it is meant to.
Favourite place for tea (or coffee) in Van?
My fave place for tea (or if I'm feeling fancy, a decaf almond milk latte) is Greenhorn Cafe in my 'hood, the West End. It's tucked away, has super friendly staff, and they make a mean Irish Breakfast Misto. The food and gluten-free treats are also amazing!
What was your last Halloween costume?
Oh, this was a good one! I was cookie monster! The best part? My friend went as a cookie! I still laugh every time I think about that.
One person that's inspired your career path?
Y'know, it's funny... I was asked this question a couple days ago, and honestly, I don't have any one single person who has inspired me. I've just always had a dream of helping others. Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of amazing, incredible, inspiring people, and I have gotten tons of value and insight from many of them. I just feel like I have my own unique path and mission, and I'm figuring it all out, one day at a time.
Tell us about one special object of sentimental value to you:
My most beloved possession is a ring that my parents gave me for my 18th birthday. It's the first ring my dad gave my mom (who, I'm proud to say, are still happily married.) Not only do I adore the sentimental value of it, but it's such a unique piece of jewelry and I have never seen anything else like it. It's my favourite thing, for sure.
Last amazing book you read?
I am SO glad you asked this question! I have been raving about this book to all of my girlfriends, it is a MUST READ!
Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. It's all about how to form relationships with our romantic partners. I have studied a lot of attachment theory in my day, and this book still opened my eyes to my own attachment patterns as an adult. It helped me develop a deeper understanding of how that impacts my relationship with my partner, and how my partner's attachment style impacts me. It's a game changer. Seriously. Go read it. Like, right now. Whether you are single, in a committed relationship, or in that "it's complicated" phase (especially if you're in that phase!) this book is for you.
If you've ever thought about tree pose, you may have noticed that it doesn't really look like a tree. The name "tree pose" comes not from its shape, but from the way we focus and root into the earth when we take the pose. Its origin hails from a love story, and like many a tale about true romance, our story begins with a good old fashioned kidnapping.
We'll start with the bad guy: enter demon king, Ravana. He's got ten heads that (to the deities) all look like Mark Wahlberg circa 1992, and he runs the game like Pablo Escobar in season one of Narcos. He boasts a harem of 100 satisfied wives and a squad of elite monster-baddies to do his bidding. But, like any worthy bad guy, Ravana wanted more...
The "more," and heroine, of our story is Queen Sita. Her husband is Rama, a form of Vishnu (aka the Protector) and an all-around respected dude. She's known for being the tiptop of wifey and feminine virtues, and on top of that, she's the goddess of wealth.
So one day, Ravana catches a glimpse of Queen Sita on the divine IG and hits her in the DM. She, of course, blows him off.
In a total cliche demon move, he kidnaps her and brings her to his private island/fortress, called Lanka. He's pretty sure that once Sita sees his crib, car, and clothes, it'll go down. He presents her with the most beautiful, pleasurable, rare, and spectacular things in existence, but she shoots them all down. "You seem to forget I'm taken," she hissed, "but Rama hasn't, and you're going to wish you'd never touched his game."
"Rama's pool is nice, mine's just bigger is what I'm saying..." he pleaded, to no avail.
Ravana even promised to make her his main, but Sita laughed him off. "Thanks for the prison tour," she said, leaving the palace without even getting to the aquarium or the movie theater. She headed for the forest, where she sat with her back against an ashoka tree.
The island lady-beast squad took to Sita, trying to persuade her to get with Ravana, promising she'd love it and that, real talk, she wasn't going to leave the island alive... so she may as well join in on the fun.
Sita stayed calm and rooted herself; after all, she was the daughter of earth itself, Bhumi Devi. She figured if anyone could go Lorax and speak to the trees, it was her. Her mantra became "Rama, find me..." and she fixed her focus on him. By meditating on Rama (a form of god), she felt the trees reassure her that rescue was near, and they echoed her chant out into the universe.
On the mainland, Rama summoned his loyal flying supermonkey, Hanuman, and commanded him to rescue Sita. He gave Hanuman his ring, as proof for Sita. When Hanuman arrived at the ashoka tree, Sita heard him chant "Rama" with the same conviction as her own voice, and she knew Hanuman was her rescuer before he even whipped out the bling.
So wait, where does yoga come into all this?
When we practice tree pose, or vrikshasana, we're channeling Queen Sita.
We root ourselves into the earth (against the ashoka tree) for stability and strength.
We focus on a single point (devotion to Rama).
We clear our minds of the outside chatter (Ravana's efforts).
In a place of mental calmness and clarity, we are open to receiving what we need (Hanuman's rescuing).
It's true, when we're not distracted by the persuasions, temptations, or pressures of the outside world, we are more likely to find the answers we're looking for. Next time you find yourself wavering in tree pose, think of Sita's devotion and focus on a fixed point. But, if a divine monkey comes down from the sky, call animal control.
“You are powerful in your letting go. You are more powerful in your letting go than in your holding on. The letting go is your strength. The more you can let go, the stronger you become. Fear causes people to grasp and hold. Letting go creates Infinite freedom. I suggest you take Infinite freedom.”
~Divine Mother through Connie Huebner
I don’t think I’ve ever really been a team player. Don’t get me wrong- I love people, I just don’t like working with people. I’m the kind of person that, when I have a vision for something, I get on that one-track-mind life and plough forwards to make it happen. Inefficiency frustrates me and dilly-dallying on decision making is the bane of my existence.
This last year, I’ve gone from being an independent one-woman show to working with two other partners on an upcoming project.
Backstory- After hosting the one day mobile meditation studio pop up last December, a man named Evian reached out to me and said he wanted to chat as he was already planning a very similar idea for a business. Long story short, I met with him and his business partner Hiroko and together we became the trio behind Moment Meditation.
Like any relationship, our business partnership started out with glowing excitement. We couldn’t stop talking about big picture and the wonderful places we wanted to take this idea. However, like with any relationship, we soon had to have the tough conversations and make tough decisions. In particular- a conversation around money surfaced. How much money was each person going to contribute?
Because the branding behind “MOMENT” was something I had worked on, on my own, almost two years ago when I hosted the pop up meditation studio, this new company founded by the three of us was going to “buy the brand” off of me, the individual, and this would be a part of my contribution. Immediately, I felt a sense of resistance well up within me. The truth was, I was afraid. I was afraid they would try to change the MOMENT brand. I was afraid of being used. I was afraid of being nudged out of my own “baby”- that they, these strangers I had just met this year, would purchase this brand from me and then kick me out of it. After all, I was the new one. They had been talking about this long before I was around. I was the addition. I was replaceable.
This fear and lack of trust meant I needed to protect myself. As they say, I had to look out for number one. So I raised my walls, put up my guard, and I dug my heels in on matters that required me to give- even just a little. I had heard horror stories about partnerships gone wrong and I was convinced that could happen in this case so I turned myself into an obstacle, halting progress, at least until we signed papers with a lawyer.
And surprise surprise, that didn’t work.
As my business partner Hiroko likes to remind me, the brain’s job is to keep us alive- which means seeking out all the things that are wrong in the situation and making sure we’re aware of them. What we’re trying to do with meditation is to notice the sometimes outrageous stories the brain weaves. I’m not sure what clicked but at some point, I decided to stop resisting. I made the conscious decision to turn away from my chattering brain and to turn towards trust. I forged ahead, not looking back. (And fortunately for us as a lawyer’s docs wouldn’t arrive for another five months at which point we had already secured an architect.) When I decided to trust my partners and let go of the vision that I clung to in my mind, things suddenly became smoother and easier. I was moving with the flow rather than against it. Decision making moved more quickly when we were all, truly, open-minded. I no longer felt the imagined animosity that I had been feeling and instead, finally, began to feel like a part of a team.
We're burnt to a crisp and there's sand in our hair but we aren't quite ready to say goodbye to summer. This month's playlist is helping us through this tough time.
Be sure to follow us on Spotify by searching "thesocialyoga" to never miss a beat. Or if 8tracks is more your jam:
Big Talk is our long-form interview about Stuff That Matters. We interview rad people who are also passionate experts in their field. We can often get lost in the little details of day to day life and the intention of Big Talk is to get you thinking about the bigger picture, while perhaps learning something new.
Our Big Talker this week is Jessie Anderson, owner of Big Bro's Barbershop. Earlier this month, Pride took over for a weekend in Vancouver (and in many cities around the country). We thought it would be a fitting time to chat with Jessie about Pride, growing up Trans, and the story behind Big Bro's.
Tell us about yourself in 140 characters or less
I'm an activist for trans rights, former sex worker, & the owner of Big Bro’s Barbershop, a beauty/resource centre for the trans community.
Let's flesh out the story a bit and take it back to the beginning. What do you think were some key monumental moments growing up?
1990: born in Toronto, ON
- moved to Vancouver, BC with mother and stepfather;
- grew up in East Van
2001 : mother was diagnosed with her first round of cancer and conquered it after a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments
2003 : determined that I was attracted to girls/was likely a lesbian
2003-2006 :was class president of the academically-advanced Summit program at VanTech, despite being an artsy theatre/film student at heart
2004: started finding older queer kids to hang out with outside of school, including a Seattle-based posse who called themselves “The Goddamn Lesbians”
- began dating one of the Goddamn Lesbians;
- fell in love for the first time
- heart broken for the first time
- fell into a depression, later linked to gender dysphoria;
- visible turmoil developed between parents until my stepfather left the family
- began hormone replacement therapy;
- mother was re-diagnosed with cancer and conquered it after another year of chemotherapy;
- graduated from high school - birth-father, stepfather, and first girlfriend came the the ceremony while my mother had to remain in the hospital
- mother almost immediately re-diagnosed with now-terminal cancer (estimated two years to live);
- I tried to figure out What To Do Next after high school knowing that my only active parent could pass away at any moment;
- I started working at Fantasy Factory and volunteering with PlanetAhead-Condomania to teach safer sex workshops to high school students
- my mother and I were evicted from our house in favour of selling the land;
- I used this as a prompt to get my first VERY tiny apartment
- Began dating a prominent queer organizer and moved in with her;
- started working at Little Sister’s Bookstore and at a men’s bathhouse;
- began getting involved in the indie queer porn scene on an international level as both a producer and a performer under the alias Charlie Spats, and left PlanetAhead-Condomania in case an offended parent found out about my side career
- Broke up with my partner after she repeatedly sexually assaulted me, but continued living with her from inside the walk-in closet until our lease ran out;
- moved in with my mother four months later, but she passed away at the hospice the night that I moved into her home;
- I struggled to maintain my own life while also trying to pick up the pieces of hers all by myself
- Battled depression, suicidal thoughts, and grief;
- kept myself alive by launching my own queer porn company;
- started dating men for the first time;
- started dating my most recent partner while she was in an open marriage
- Threw a few play parties for the community alongside my ex and a mutual friend, but eventually stopped participating in those events and publicly called out my ex as a manipulative ongoing abuser to trans men in the community;
- my partner divorced her husband and we developed our relationship further;
- Jim Deva, one of the owners of Little Sister’s, passed away suddenly and the store atmosphere changed immediately following his death
- Quit my job at Little Sister’s to go to barbering school;
- launched the initial version of Big Bro’s Barbershop
- Won the “Best Emerging Entrepreneur” award at the Small Business BC Awards;
- launched the official storefront location for Big Bro’s Barbershop;
- was dumped by partner two months before planning to start a family together;
- now settling into working on myself, unpacking my C-PTSD, and strengthening my emotional resilience to trauma
Before we dive deep in to Big Bros, I have to ask- can you tell us about your experience working in the adult entertainment industry. Highs? Lows? What got you interested in the industry and why did you end up deciding to leave the industry?
I got really into queer porn as a fan! I used to be really into filmmaking, and at 16, I fell in love with the movie Shortbus, which I believe is the only American film to incorporate sex into a narrative feature. It’s really not pornographic, while still being very explicit; the sex is used as a storytelling device, and for character development. Indie porn was only a hop and a skip away from Shortbus, and my initial draw to it was that there were transgender performers depicted in an authentic and highly flattering way! When I started transitioning, I came to terms with the idea that no one would ever find me attractive ever again, so these images of trans men having hot, amazing sex with hot, amazing partners was really powerful! I wanted to contribute to making those images more available, to queer people and beyond.
Overall, I have no regrets at all about working in the adult industry! I met a lot of really incredible and beautiful (on the inside and out) people. Most of the directors and co-stars I worked with checked their attitudes at the door; everyone was so humble and cute and just wanted to create an authentic experience together. The reasons I left had very little to do with the industry and more to do with me - at a certain point, I just realized that I had yet to unpack a lot of my gender dysphoria, my sexual assault, and my totally normal run-of-the-mill body issues! And yet so much of my life involved considering what *other* people would think of my body - my partners, my co-stars, my directors, my fans, my occasional viewers, and more. I just got tired of my body being public property. And I say that as a reflection of how I was feeling at the time; I’m certainly not here to poo-poo on any slutty behaviour! But launching Big Bro’s was a huge relief, because it gave me an opportunity to use and be recognized for skills that didn’t involve how attractive my body was.
I might return to the adult industry in the future; I’ve only casually/circumstantially retired. I’m excited to really get comfortable in my body and develop a truly authentic sexuality for myself - and only for myself - and then show that off on camera later!
Tell us about Big Bro's. Where did the idea come from?
The initial inspiration for Big Bro’s Barbershop was simply that there didn’t seem to be any concrete place for trans people to go and know, absolutely, that they were safe and welcome. I had hoped to help build a stronger trans presence at Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium while I worked there, but found that it was too difficult to do within a pre-existing business with even a slightly different focus - for instance, when I brought in products designed specifically for transgender people (which are incredibly challenging to find in stores), the “best” place for them was in the middle of the Adult section, making it an awkward situation for trans youth to come in with their parents for chest binders or other products. I wanted to make sure that whatever space I built myself would be family-friendly, and encourage allies and family members to come by and feel safe asking questions about how to support their trans loved ones.
The barbering aspect of the business was relevant to my own interests, addressed an ongoing challenge for trans folks - beauty spaces of all kinds tend to be heavily gendered, and can be awkward or dangerous if you are not read as the “appropriate” gender for the space - and it meant that the bulk of the business’s income came from a trade that couldn’t be sold online! Plus, all kinds of people need haircuts, so I knew it wouldn’t be on the back of the trans community alone to keep my business alive. That would be impossible; trans people are heavily marginalized and often low-income, so I knew that I needed to offer something that appealed to folks of all income levels!
What has been one of your favourite memories of owning the space so far?
One of my clients told me that I had been the first trans man he had ever seen or heard of before, back when I was working Pride Sunday at Little Sister’s. He later went home, did some research, and learned a thing or two about himself. That was pretty cool!
There's been greater awareness about the trans community due to last year's media coverage around Caitlin Jenner. Blessing or a curse?
With increased visibility comes increased violence, unfortunately. I look to the history of the gay and lesbian movements to see how time will pass for our community - yeah, a mainstream celebrity transitioning is probably helpful for overall awareness and possible progress, but it has also taken us from being a relatively invisible group to a targeted one. And when I say “us”, I mostly mean trans women of colour - black trans women are at the intersection of the trans movement and the Black Lives Matter movement, and have been murdered at record-breaking rates in the US these past couple of years. And, not that any trans person has ever been at their most clever in their first year or two of transition, but Caitlyn Jenner is not nearly knowledgable enough to represent Our Community and Our Needs to the general public.
In your opinion, do you think growing up trans would be more or less difficult these days?
Structurally, things are definitely getting easier - there are more procedures in place for medical and legal systems interacting with trans people, for example, as opposed to each individual staff member responding to a trans person’s needs with giant question marks in their eyes. But again, visibility comes with violence; it’s a bit of a toss-up of whether it’s easier to be invisible or to be targeted. In my personal case, it’s certainly easier! I’m now read as a cisgender, white, possibly-even-straight guy. My trans backstory is interpreted as endearing now, if anything, because I appear relatable enough in my current state. But not everyone grows up to be a white guy!
Is there a myth/ misunderstanding/ stereotype that you feel you are constantly debunking?
Not all trans people get surgery.
Trans people don’t need surgery to be valid in their gender.
Trans people do not wish to discuss their genitals with you.
There's been quite a bit of media coverage around the politics of Pride lately. What are your thoughts on all that's been happening?
The first Pride was a riot. I think it’s unfortunate that Pride as we know it is a parade of corporations and straight people who love a good party. I don’t hate it entirely; I think it’s really cool that everyone wants to show their support! But when you start alienating the community that Pride is intended to serve - for instance, when you prioritize the feelings/inclusion of the police department over the fears and the dangerous realities facing queer Black people - then there’s a fundamental issue, and we need to re-examine what it is we’re celebrating. If it’s been decided that we’ve won the battle of LGBT rights because white gay dudes have a great life now, then that’s not a celebration for a whole lot of the rest of us!
A good ally knows to step down from a marginalized community’s safe space. I would consider myself to be an incredibly safe ally to women, but I know better than to push my way into a women’s space just because I’ve decided that everyone should feel fine with me being there. The needs of the marginalized community should always 100% come first in a space dedicated to their well-being, and if those needs include taking space from people who *might* be harmful, then those people have to leave, no questions asked.
How did you spend your Pride weekend?
My Pride was pretty quiet! I finally held my Opening Party for Big Bro’s Barbershop, and rested through most of the rest of it. I’m a Career Queer; I’ve been working through Pride for the past five years! I’m sure I’ll get into partying again at some point, but for me, it isn’t the one time of the year when I finally get to interact with my people. I get to experience Pride every day!
What is one thing you wish you could tell everyone you meet?
It would absolutely depend on the person, but I suppose if I could slip every stranger a note before they start talking to me, it might say to not ask me about my genitals in our introductory conversation.
What do you want to be known for?
I hope to be able to continuously provide the queer and trans communities of Vancouver a safe space to exist, even through the changing language/society/needs of those communities over time!
With all the work you do, how do you stay sane?
I go to therapy, and spend a *lot* of time on self-care. Work-wise, I try not to take my job home with me; with my general mental health, I try to focus on resilience - I can’t control the situations that occur around me, but I can take care of myself physically and emotionally so that I can safely bounce back from any harm done.
And lastly, because we're called The Social Yoga- do you do yoga/ have you done yoga/ any favourite or hilarious yoga moments?
I’m not a big yoga fan! I’ve heard great things, but I have a ton of body issues to work through after being forced to participate in gender-segregated P.E. in high school, so I strongly dislike group physical activities and haven’t gotten into a personal yoga practice yet. I might get there; I’ve been working out at home a lot lately!
How can the yoga community be better allies?
Keep in mind that a lot of trans people are strongly disconnected from their body, and might need a lot of tenderness in order to fully access their own body - and even an instructor’s best efforts may not get them there. Also, keep the wellness of trans people in mind outside of the classes themselves - having gender-neutral bathrooms and change rooms available, as well as making it publicly clear that the instructor/studio is aware of trans identities, can make a public space substantially less intimidating for potential trans attendees!