Workshop: Trans* & Body

Introduction and moderation: Jochem Verdonk

Introduction

Many people are (very) insecure about their body, or find it difficult to accept their body. This also goes for trans people, for any number of reasons.

The Trans & Bare Weekends (TBW) held in the Netherlands focus on people of all genders. During these weekends we work on empowerment with our participants, and on increasing self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-acceptance. We want to celebrate our bodies and build confidence. Why should we settle for a proverbial "ceasefire" if it is also within our power to establish a more healthy and affirming relationship with our bodies?

The weekends and workshops give people an opportunity to gather in a supportive and safe environment in order to explore embodiment and identity, and feel more confident, more proud, and more at home in their body.

The TBW is inspired by the British TransBareAll Retreat (TBA). TBA was set up by Lee Gale and Jay McNeil. This retreat was born out of the 2008 Transtastic Men Calendar project. The aim of the calendar was to raise awareness about trans men, showing the community that we are proud of who we are. An additional goal was to raise some much-needed funds for trans organisations in the UK. While working on the calendar, Lee and Jay realised that many trans people could benefit from this affirming, confidence-boosting experience. For trans people, there are few opportunities to have this experience, and to discuss sexual desires, taboos, and needs within the community.

Each retreat provides several workshops organised around the theme of that particular weekend. These may centre on discussion, body work and/or energy work. We also include the opportunity for people to be naked if they want to, but there is no pressure to be partially or fully naked if people do not feel comfortable with this. We’ve found this to be truly empowering, as well as providing our participants a unique opportunity to see other bodies in a safe and supportive environment.

The impact of the weekends is long-lasting. Lifelong friendships, long-term support, and valuable connections are forged during these getaways.

Ground rules

We begin each TBW by setting out our ground rules to ensure a safer space. Due to time-constraints, I have outlined the following ground rules:

  • Challenge yourself, but not too much. Pay attention to your own boundaries.
  • Respect other people's boundaries.
  • Everything said at these getaways stays between us.
  • You can ask, but you don’t have to provide answers.

Does anybody feel the need to add more ground rules?

Part 1: Trans* and Identity

On the walls, there are signs that read "yes", "no", “I don't know", and "not applicable". I'll ask a question and you can head to the sign(s) that align(s) most closely with your answer.

  • Is being trans* linked to your identity? Most of us said "yes".
  • Do you feel you can make your own decisions about what you need in terms of physical transition options? Most of us said "no".
  • Being trans provides me with a unique experience in life! Most of us said "yes".
  • Has your gender identity changed (over the years)? Here we were more divided between "yes" and "no".

After each question people could comment on the answers they had chosen.

Part 2: Connecting with your body

This part of our workshop is about improving how you connect with your body. If you aren't used to exploring embodiment, or if your body isn't the way you would like it to be (yet), this can be taxing. Please respect your boundaries! Do challenge yourself, but not too much.

  • Short relaxation exercise: focus on your breathing
  • Body awareness: shake your body
  • Personal space: (re)claim your personal space

Conclusion

This workshop is a very short introduction to what we do at the Trans & Bare Weekends. We organise two weekend getaways a year: one for trans men and one for all genders. For more information please read our brochure and visit our website: Transenbloot.nl. Thank you.