I started practicing at Juice Box Yoga in 2006; I was 12-years-old.
I hardly remember my first class; I remember it was something I could do with my mom.
Going to yoga felt like a chore to me; it was like doing homework.
My relationship with yoga has changed as I’ve matured.
I stopped practicing [when] I was 16 or 17.
I stopped practicing because my mom died.
I just couldn’t keep up with it.
I was still in high school.
I was just trying to survive.
I was trying to get through my days and graduate high school and go to college.
I went to college on Long Island at this little college called Adelphi University. I went for theatre; they gave me a scholarship.
It was right on the train to New York City. I would go to New York City every weekend. I had so much fun, but it wasn’t my home.
It had been less than a year since my mom died.
My community was in Reno, my friends were in Reno, everything that I felt really connected to was in Reno.
I finally moved back to Reno [in 2013] because college just wasn’t working out for me.
There was nothing in school that particularly interested me.
I started [taking classes again at UNR] in 2013.
I would take a class and then I would take a semester off and then I would take two classes and then take a semester off. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I liked the subject matters because I liked learning, but I just I didn’t care to do the homework. It all felt very pointless to me.
I was like yeah, knowledge is cool, but jumping through hoops to please these professors just seems so… like… why am I doing this?
I didn’t have an end goal.
I think if you have an end goal, [if] you know what you want to do, it’s easier to jump through those hoops.
I didn’t have that.
I just felt like I’m going to finish college when I’m 60.
It felt impossible.
People who go to school and are taking 15 credits and are there every single semester and are doing all their homework and are getting good grades… that’s amazing.
Those people are super heroes.
My Mom’s Legacy
I had a lot of things I was passionate about that I wanted to do, but school was always just this big thing in the way. A lot of the things I wanted to do were very academic so you had to have a bachelor’s degree.
I’m really passionate about sex ed; I would love to be a sex educator.
I love animals; I would love to do almost any job where I get to work with animals.
Ever since I was a kid, I thought I was going to go off and live in the wilderness and be a wildlife biologist.
If I ever decide to go back to school it’s going to be for biology.
[The Bikram Method Teacher Training] was such a spur of the moment decision for me.
It was a way to keep my mom’s legacy alive.
It was inevitable.
It really changed my entire relationship with yoga.
It no longer was this juvenile thing where I was like, ugh, it’s homework, I’ve just got to suck it up and do it.
It was more like I [wanted] to be there.
I’m really passionate about [yoga]; it changes people’s lives.
It was so interesting to me when I was younger because I wasn’t necessarily enjoying being there every day, but I still believed in it. My friends would have aches and pains and I was like, ‘You should do yoga,’ but I was hardly doing yoga because I didn’t want to do it.
I’ve always had this [mentality that yoga] is something I truly believe in, something I know works.
Suddenly, it just sort of clicked: this is important. What I’m doing is important.
This Teacher Training allowed me to be connected to my mom.
It’s for me, but it’s also for her.
[My mom] was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2008.
I think the yoga gave her hope.
I think the thing that kept her going, the thing that helped her the most, was she had [a] community at Juice Box Yoga.
It was something consistent she did, something she loved.
It kept her going mentally.
It was just me and my mom.
She was a single mom; she raised me.
We were very close.
I would say my mom was more of a friend than a mom.
Have you ever seen Gilmore Girls? My mom and I both love Gilmore Girls; we liked it because we saw ourselves.
She was not close in age to me like Lorelai and Rory are, but we had that kind of friendship.
It didn’t even really feel like she was my mom; she was my best friend more than anything.
My dad does live in Reno, but he and I are not that close.
I don’t feel like it’s a father child relationship; I feel like [he’s] more like someone I have breakfast with once a month.
Ever since I was maybe 5 or 6 we would go see plays at the Pioneer Center.
My mom would get season passes and we would go see all the plays.
I was raised around theatre; my mom had an appreciation for theatre.
I remember the first [play I saw].
It’s such an odd choice, but you know the play Rent?
It’s kind of edgy; it’s not super child appropriate.
It centers around the AIDS epidemic. It’s about all these people who are dying from AIDS, but there’s a line in the play that says they’re living with, not dying from, the disease.
To you, and you, and you, you, and you! To people living with, living with, living with- not dying from disease!
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer that’s the mentality we had.
She’s living with the disease.
She’s still doing yoga.
She’s not dying from it.
She’s living with it.
I think the biggest thing [I dealt with after my mom died] was depression and suicidal thoughts.
Mostly just depression and feeling like I just didn’t have a purpose or that I mattered at all, that my life… that I was doing anything important or that anyone needed me or cared about me.
Just feeling worthless.
Self-esteem is your own sense of self-worth. Am I worthy of this? Do I deserve this?
Self-confidence is how you are outwardly to people. I could be a very confident person and be very sure of myself on the outside, to other people, but inside I don’t really think that I’m worthy of those things.
Looking back, [when I was 12] I had no self-confidence.
I didn’t know how to talk to people; I was so quiet.
I was selectively mute.
My mom did all the talking and I’d hide behind her.
I had no confidence.
People [would] talk to me and if people [asked] me anything beyond the basics [I was] like, oh no, I don’t know how to handle this.
I just don’t have those social tools.
I’d just smile and nod until the interaction [was] over.
I’m a lot happier now.
I was not a very happy kid.
I didn’t understand how human relationships worked; I didn’t really have a lot of friends.
I’m on the autism spectrum; that makes it hard to connect with people.
I had my mom. [She] was the one constant thing.
When I was a kid, my mom was a part of the [Juice Box] community, but I wasn’t; I was just there because she was there.
Now it’s not just my mom’s thing, it’s also my thing.
Everyone is super supportive and super accepting.
When I first started getting back into yoga, especially after my surgery, I was really nervous that people would say things.
A lot of people I’ve been practicing with have known me since I was 12, so it was like, what’s going to happen? What are they going to say?
I clearly look different.
People see me and I’m not necessarily like everyone else, but I don’t feel any discrimination.
Everyone is just so nice; I never leave in a bad mood.
Everyone is happy to be there.
I get to work with people who aren’t doing something against their will; they’re doing something they want to do.
It would have been so easy to just bully me or not be very nice to me.
I found a lot of really good people who believed in me and wanted me to succeed.
Finding the right people, who [were] just there to support me, is what changed everything.
I had my little group of friends. We were all trans and queer.
That was [the] community I was from.
I was a queer person and that was my identity.
If you venture outside that community you get a lot of issues with people not getting your pronouns right, people misgendering you and people just not getting it.
So, I was like, you know what, this is MY community. I’m going to stay here.
When I started my Teacher Training at Juice Box I had this mentality, it was like, okay, I’m going to have to deal with this. I’m going to have to deal with the real world… with people who are not queer… most of them are straight.
I’m going to have to explain things to a lot of people and justify why I am the way I am.
I was not looking forward to it, but I really cared about the yoga, so I made that sacrifice.
I ventured out of my little queer circle, which I didn’t think I would ever do.
I remember, I met up with Tanya the week before [the] Teacher Training started.
I was like, okay, well, I’m going to ask to see if the gender thing is going to be an issue.
I [had] already had my surgery at that point.
It was going to be very obvious.
I asked her, ‘Would it be possible for you to use different pronouns? My pronouns are they/ them, but I will accept he/ him if you absolutely can’t do that.’
Tanya was like, ‘Yeah, totally!’
I was so shocked.
Tanya and Brandon advocated for me in a way that I was not expecting. [That’s] really what has given me the self-confidence to be myself at Juice Box.
I thought people [were] going to just assume that I’m a woman. I’m just going to have to live in this space where I’m not comfortable because I’m not being treated like the gender I feel I am.
That was my mentality back then: I didn’t feel like I belonged because I didn’t belong in spaces that were not queer spaces.
I had a very cynical view of the world.
I didn’t think that people were ready for a trans person.
People who are non-binary usually don’t have this kind of luck.
If I worked somewhere else I don’t think I would have had this kind of luck; I think Juice Box is special.
At a different yoga studio, I don’t think I would have gotten the same respect.
I am so unbelievably grateful.
It makes me so emotional.
I never thought I would find this outside of the queer community.
I was coming [to yoga] before I had my surgery and that was really hard to do because I felt like my body was just wrong.
It’s really hard to stare at yourself in the mirror for 90 minutes when you have gender dysphoria.
I’ve always felt this way; I just didn’t have words for it when I was a kid.
The only choice they give you is boy or girl and I didn’t feel like I could say I was a boy because I was taught that boys have this type of body and I didn’t have that.
I [was] like, I guess I’m a girl… because what else is there.
When I was 19 or 20, I was on the internet and I started reading about gender and reading about trans things and I realized that there are trans people who are not binary, they’re non-binary.
The idea [that] there’s only 2 genders just seems unrealistic to me.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s as many genders as there are people.
I’m not a binary trans person.
Gender binary is the idea that there is man and woman and they’re opposites of each other.
That’s not what I am; I am trans, but I am non-binary.
I don’t identify as either a man or a woman; I’m neither of those things.
I’m a demiboy; I lean to the masculine side.
Demiboy is my label.
Gender queer is a more general label I use.
I have a sense that my mom is the one who orchestrates everything in my life.
That might sound weird to say, but… the house that I bought…
I love my house so much.
I found the most perfect house and it was on her birthday.
I felt like, this is my mom’s gift to me; she’s giving me a house.
It was everything I was looking for.
Then, Tanya offered [the Bikram Method Teacher Training] and I was like, this is the next thing.
My mom is making sure… my mom made sure that I have a place to live and [now] my mom’s making sure that I have a job.
Not just any job, a good job.
A job where people will respect me.
I wish my mom could know who I [am] now.
It’s really disappointing to me that I don’t get to have that relationship with her.
My mom didn’t know I was trans. She also didn’t know I was gay.
She didn’t [know] because I didn’t know those things [when she was alive]. It wasn’t like I was keeping it from her; I don’t think I would have kept it from her.
I’m sure she knows.
I’m sure she accepts me.
I know she does.