From the personal to the political by Jo Green
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Jo Green, Sports Lead for Trans Pride Brighton and Hove talks about their fitness journey and motivation for bringing sports and fitness to Trans Pride Brighton and Hove.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my body, not just dysphoria but also the constant pressure on being a certain weight and looking a certain way. It was only when I started my medical transition that I decide to call a truce with my body and make peace.
Making peace meant that I started getting involved in trying out sports that I would have never thought of before. It started with kickboxing because I had this notion that if I was going to start looking more visibly trans, I would need to be able to protect myself. The reality of learning kickboxing taught me that it wasn’t so much as being able to fight someone, it was much more about having the confidence to be able to fight. It was also much more about learning key techniques about avoiding fights all together. I will admit, there was a large part of my motivation that is just about kickboxing being cool and affirming to my masculine side (although I support anyone of any gender trying out kickboxing because it’s the best fun and a great workout).
The other thing I learned was a new appreciation for my body as a functional machine that can move in ways that I never thought possible, being able to land that first roundhouse kick was one of the most incredible feelings. I also learned a lot about pain. I have spent most of my life avoiding any kind of pain. Kickboxing taught me that pain isn’t always bad, pain is mostly temporary and that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could. Learning this in my late 30’s felt a bit late, but better late than never.
Not long after starting kickboxing with a personal trainer she convinced me to join one of the Trans Can Sport sessions. I hated the first few sessions, being in surrounded by strangers while I was huffing, puffing and sweating made me feel vulnerable and self-conscious. But I stuck with it, because it was interesting to do pad work with different people. It only took a few sessions before I started recognising the same faces and got to know people. Now, years later, Trans Can Sport still is my place where I go for community. I’ve never been the type of person who works well in support groups but being surrounded by other trans and non-binary people doing sports, making jokes and trying different things has become a cornerstone of my personality.
I now try everything. Through Trans Can Sport I have tried Tennis (hated it), Badminton (I was surprisingly good at that after a lot of being very bad at it), Circus (not a fan), Circuits (loved it but it’s hard work), Pilates (the best torture you’ll ever go through) and Indoor Climbing (I had no idea I had a fear of height until I tried this). I have even ventured out and tried things on my own which I never would have done before, namely Historical European Martial Arts (sword fighting) and Wheelchair Basketball (which is a brilliant upper body workout and is a lot harder than I thought it would be). I also now regularly do Park Runs on a Saturday morning. I’m still not great at running, but I do it anyway because I enjoy it.
It’s this learning and community that I wanted to share with the broader trans community. I brought a load of events in the run up to Trans Pride; Wheelchair Basketball with Sussex Bears, Swimming with the council, Volleyball with Trans Can Sport. There were the activities in the park (Trans Can Yoga, Trans Can Fight, Upper Body workouts, Creating Sustainable Change, Circus and Historical European Martial Arts. I worked with Trans Can Sport and The Brighton and Hove FrontRunners to organise a Couch to 5km training programme. All of this concluded with the very first Trans Pride Brighton and Hove Fun Run. In order to do all of this, I had to face a lot of my fears about meeting different people, asking people for help, even just talking on the phone to strangers. In doing so I gave people in the sports area the chance to get face to face with Sports England, hopefully opening up even more opportunities for trans people in sports.
And I did all of this because I believe so passionately in what groups like Trans Can Sport are doing, creating space in sports where trans people can exist, try different things and most importantly, build community.