C/O Catherine McCormack

The virtual event will feature movement and discussion intended to build community and address service gaps

Working in her capacity as a 2SLGBTQIA+ mental health clinician with Good Shepherd Youth Services, Catherine McCormack noticed that almost all of the trans youth she serviced also had chronic pain or disabilities. As general services for trans folks are already limited, she knew that there weren’t a lot of specialized services for those who exist at this intersection. Seeing an opportunity to build community, McCormack set out to plan an event that would bring together trans and non-binary youth with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

“What I saw was traditional pain services didn’t really speak to the youth I was working with. A lot of them came from more of a critical disability perspective, like it’s society that disables us, questioning our worth coinciding with productivity, all of that kind of stuff. I was like, “wouldn’t it be really neat to connect all these amazing folks that are so isolated and struggling so much – especially during COVID – with each other”,” explained McCormack.

I was like, “wouldn’t it be really neat to connect all these amazing folks that are so isolated and struggling so much – especially during COVID – with each other”,” explained McCormack.

As McCormack doesn’t have these lived experiences, she reached out to movement studio Goodbodyfeel to help her find facilitators. She was connected with a tarot reader, artist and Goodbodyfeel Movement Teacher Clairandean Humphrey and Relationship Coach and Trans Inclusion Educator Mela Swayze. Both are looking forward to leading the free event, which will take on Oct. 13, 2020 over Zoom.

McCormack wanted the event to be a mix of body positive movement and facilitated discussion. The event will likely begin with a framing of why the participants have gathered and a discussion of participants’ expectations. Humphrey will then lead a hybrid of pilates and yoga, using everyday items such as pillows, blankets and rolled up socks as props. After that Swayze will facilitate discussion among the participants. The discussion will give participants a chance to state if they want further programming and what they would want this programming to look like.

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“Folks might just want a place to come and move weekly, folks might just want . . . to just come together the one time and meet each other and then kind of go off on their own and now they know each other and they can connect and self-direct that way. Or it might be the case that people are looking for a more directed, more structured psychoeducation workshop series, for example, that paired education about . . . chronic pain and marginalization and a movement piece. So there’s an option that that might be something people are interested in, but we don’t want to force it on people,” explained Swayze.

For McCormack, Humphrey and Swayze, it was important that the discussion was combined with movement. While movement has helped some people with disabilities and chronic pain manage their pain, many movement spaces are inaccessible to disabled people. Movement spaces then compound their inaccessibility by not being inclusive of and welcoming to racialized and queer individuals.

With Tender Flow, McCormack, Humphrey and Swayze wanted to help queer youth with disabilities reclaim their bodies in a society where their bodies have been made to be unsafe spaces. They hope the movement portion of the event will help participants in their journey of healing from trauma.

“[When] I was looking for therapists, of course I had [a] struggle doing that and I decided to see an expressive arts therapist. So a lot of what we do is talk and move with the body. We use the body in order to process emotion and really difficult things and I found that more liberating than just like sitting and talking . . . [I]t’s just nice to . . . communicate differently, again between the body and other forms of communication, instead of limiting it to just talking where sometimes you just don’t have the words or language to express the complexity of existing in a marginalized body in this system. And that movement can be liberating, slowly, with time,” said Humphrey.

“[I]t’s just nice to . . . communicate differently, again between the body and other forms of communication, instead of limiting it to just talking where sometimes you just don’t have the words or language to express the complexity of existing in a marginalized body in this system. And that movement can be liberating, slowly, with time,” said Humphrey.

The online platform will help make the event more accessible to folks who don’t have transportation money, have too much pain to leave their houses and for those who have anxiety around attending events like these. However, McCormack acknowledges that those without stable internet access will be unable to access the event. She hopes that, if it continues, Tender Flow can be offered in multiple formats. The accessibility needs that participants express will guide how they continue to provide programming.

McCormack, Humphrey and Swayze hope that participants will leave the event feeling a sense of community. By listening to participants’ concerns and ideas, the facilitators will be able to create programming that enables trans and non-binary youth with disabilities and chronic pain to feeling supported and heard.

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