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Naked! Courage: The Milans

A queer and trans activist couple talks to Naked in Motion about their marriage, yoga, and the role of self-love in a partnership.

Naked in Motion celebrates others who are making moves in their communities, doing work that we feel speaks to our intersectional feminist and body-positive message. These folks are challenging the status quo, and their courage takes the same kind of vulnerability that getting Naked! requires. Get ready to be inspired.

Meet Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan:

photo credit: Tanja Tiziana 

photo credit: Tanja Tiziana 

They're two creative activists who intentionally bring their relationship into their shared work. The work being, in large part, speaking candidly about their lives as queer people of color and as an activist couple. From their website: "Their love is about creating new ways of existing, of accepting people as they are by dropping preconceived notions of how somebody should be in their body, in their gender and in their skin. Naked in Motion met with Tiq and Kim to discuss their work, the importance of self-care, and of course, Naked! yoga.

When they met, Kim, a queer cis woman, was living in her hometown of Toronto, running the Queer and Brown Girls Yoga Initiative, and Tiq, a trans man, was in New York City, working as a freelance journalist and at GLAAD as a media consultant. After many online conversations, they met in January 2014 and married six months later. Since then, they’ve made numerous appearances together as speakers on college campuses, and most recently, gave a TED talk called “A Queer Vision of Love and Marriage” that’s been watched over a million times.

Tiq and Kim Milan on stage at TED

Tiq and Kim Milan on stage at TED

When asked about what centering their love and partnership in their work has required of them, Tiq and Kim both speak of patience. “We may share many things in common,” Kim says, “but we are profoundly different people.” Tiq adds: “We have had to be intentional about creating space for ourselves as individuals as much as we do as a couple. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.”

The Milans are often radically transparent, which, of course, requires a certain level of vulnerability. Indeed, being vulnerable and open is an integral part of what they set out to do. For Tiq, that means confronting transphobia and critiquing flawed models of masculinity, often in heated roundtable conversations with his peers that can be, as an observer and listener, as frustrating as they are enlightening. For Kim, it’s also about bringing her full self into the room as a facilitator. “As women of color,” Kim says, “we are not given space to be vulnerable. So I have worked hard to create healing retreat spaces for students and front line workers to nurture softness and care.”

As a yoga teacher, Kim was primarily concerned with creating greater access for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities and LGBT folks. She recognizes yoga as a practice that “has its roots in Brown and Black cultures, despite the fact that often the teachers and studios are not reflective of this cultural diversity and remain financially inaccessible.” Kim identifies yoga as a profoundly grounding practice. “It has allowed me to connect to my body as a source of strength,” she says, “helped me move through periods of great sadness and healed me from serious injuries.” Tiq also incorporates yoga into his life to help with his chronic pain. But the same access problem that Kim set out to tackle as a teacher initially kept Tiq away. He says: “I wanted to do more yoga outside of this one home workout but I thought a yoga class wasn’t for me. Often it’s marketed as a white woman’s exercise craze, or something reserved only for the wealthy. Once Kim and I got together, she really taught me about the origins of yoga and the spiritual elements of the practice.”

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It’ll surprise no one to say that trans folks and cis women face particular challenges in maintaining a positive self-image from puberty to adulthood; so often shame and anxiety rooted in past trauma can manifest in physical illness or chronic mental health issues, and are often overlooked by traditional health care providers. Beyond yoga practice, the Milans are ever mindful of their relationship to their bodies. “I have a long history of experiencing sexual and physical abuse,” Kim says. “For a very long time, it was very difficult to find a healthy relationship with my body. Coming out as queer and being honest and authentic about my sexuality was integral for my process of healing.”

When Tiq talks about his transition, he stresses that he didn’t have as agonizing of an experience as some trans folks have before transitioning. “Being an athlete throughout high school and college allowed me to think about my body as an athletic tool of performance more so than its relationship to my gender,” he says. “After being on hormones for a decade and having seen my body change dramatically over the years, I’m more invested in how it’s evolving…. Also, as I’m cruising through my 30s, I’m more aware of...what I put into it.”

Do the Milans plan on bringing their naked courage to a Naked in Motion class? Kim is down. During her yoga teacher training in San Francisco, she had the opportunity to try out a couple naked yoga classes and loved them. Tiq is a little more wary: “I usually go to hot yoga class and that’s as naked as I’m going to get,” he says with a laugh. But the philosophy he gets: “Naked yoga as a body positive activity is awesome! Yoga is the perfect place to find peace with your body and create a judgment-free space.”

Tiq and Kim's work is totally in line with Naked in Motion's philosophy, and we're so grateful for the change they're making in the world. Naked in Motion holds monthly pay-what-you-can women's and trans classes that are bottoms-optional. (From our FAQ: “After centuries of objectification, oppression, and sexual abuse, women and trans folk generally have more to fear when entering a co-ed Naked! space. There is nothing truly equal about the experience of a man and a woman naked in a room together, so this rule is about equity, not equality, and we aim to provide marginalized or disadvantaged groups the tools they need for success. To show those participants that we understand their perspective, we allow [women and trans folk] the option to wear bottoms if it makes them feel safer, affirms their gender, or makes menstrual management more comfortable for the purpose of our classes.”)

In an effort to be inclusive, we also offer a number of cheaper sliding-scale tickets for our regular all-gender classes that help people who are more financially strapped. You can purchase tickets for any of our classes here.

Check out more about Kim Katrin Milan and Tiq Milan here.

Follow Kim and Tiq on Twitter.

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