by Frederick Schjang, GCFP
June is LGBTQ Pride Month.
For the past several years, I have taught Feldenkrais® classes and special programs to LGBTQ elders at a center where most of the other fitness and wellness classes had failed for lack of participation. I think I know one reason why the Feldenkrais classes have become one of the most popular programs on their schedule.
There are many reasons why LGBTQ people have a complex relationship with sports and locker rooms, including bullying and body-shaming. But there’s something more subtle going on.
Some forms of movement and wellness education tend to ask students to aspire to externally defined ideals. Instructors often seem to ask us (tell us?) to “do it this way” or to “push harder.” They seem to want us, as students, to improve as defined by the teacher or a manual. Against a backdrop of a binary, hetero-normative culture, it’s possible that those well-meaning teachers are unintentionally adding yet another demand for LGBTQ people to conform.
Though the situation is clearly improving, most LGBT people go through the struggle of questioning the validity of our romantic feelings, and the quandary of experiencing life in our own bodies. Awareness Through Movement® classes give us a chance to experience the opposite relationship to our feelings and ourselves. They validate “the self” by repeatedly having us access, from within, the ability to do better, to be freer and to gracefully achieve. We harness our dormant internal abilities and find ways to do and be better in a way that is self-defined.
The Feldenkrais Method, perhaps more than any other method I’ve encountered, empowers LGBTQ people. During ATM® lessons we repeatedly encounter obstacles that we then transcend. Our ability to do so is based on tacitly acknowledging the validity of our sensations. I feel that this is incredibly empowering for everyone. But it’s particularly true for those of us who were raised to feel that our feelings were to be subjugated or ignored.
What better paradigm for learning in a month of taking pride in being who we are, living our avowed and unavowed dreams, and loving whom we choose to love?
Frederick Schjang teaches in New York City. He is on the adjunct faculty of the Physical Therapy Doctoral Program at New York University, and the creator of Feldenkrais Festivals. Find out more at FrederickSchjang.com