Today we are speaking with Nola Hanson (NH), a member of the Trans Boxing Collective. A long-time part of our resource list, TBC hosts weekly boxing classes for Trans/GNC folk, as well as other Queer+ Boxing events!
Pop Gym: Hey Nola, thanks for speaking with us today. To start, what’s your sport?
PG: How long have you been training?
NH: 4 years
PG: Where have you trained?
NH: I am still at the same gym I started at, and I won’t ever leave! New Bed Stuy Boxing Center, in Bed Stuy Brooklyn.
PG: Can you talk a little more about the work Trans Boxing does, and how y’all accomplish it?
NH: Trans Boxing is a boxing club exclusively for trans and gender variant folks, and is run by myself, Liv Adler, and Hill Donnell. We hold weekly group classes, monthly workshops, and one-off events at various locations. Right now, we’re working on forming a competition team, which we’re all super excited about. We formed in 2017; and it’s been such a challenging and gratifying project. I think the reason we’ve been able to continue our work, despite many challenges, is because of our love and respect for the sport, for one another, for the participants we work with, and for the larger community.
PG: What would you say to folks who don’t feel comfortable doing Boxing because they feel it’s not their space?
NH: The history of boxing in America is a history of a people taking up space who were told they shouldn’t. The feeling of not belonging is what leads a lot of people to the sport, and receiving messaging that the sport is “not for you” is intrinsic to boxing’s history and the people who have inserted themselves into it. So, if someone feels like it’s not their space, I’d say that can actually be an advantage, so long as there is a space/gym that allows that person to safely co-exist with that feeling long enough to dismantle that (powerful) myth.
PG: Who is Boxing for?
NH: I think boxing is for anyone, of any ability, and is especially suited for people with obsessive/compulsive traits, addictive tendencies, perfectionists, people who have something to prove, people who want to be felt and seen on their own terms, and people who are critical.
Ultimately, if one is going to box, you have to love it, like really love it, or it won’t stick. It’s like a romantic partnership; it can be confusing, tragic, demanding, monotonous, frustrating, deeply transformative, and beautiful. PG: What keeps bringing you back to boxing?
NH: The relationships and connection to community that I’ve gained through boxing (at New Bed Stuy and through Trans Boxing) is central to my continued involvement with the sport. The type of intimacy and vulnerability that boxing requires allows for really special and unique relationships to develop. Boxing is the only thing I’ve ever done that’s allowed me to really get out of my head. I’m in love with boxing; truly in love. I’ve had a lot of injuries, and I’ve had to learn how to train smarter, and to be patient with my body. But I’ve found I can’t stop. The gym is a place where I work through a lot. Not just physically/mentally, but emotionally, as well. Training and fighting allows me to formalize and express many parts of my inner life that, prior to boxing, I had a difficult time figuring out what to do with.
The freedom I’ve attained through the discipline of boxing has become something I value very deeply. I read this quote recently, by artist Gordon Hall from their essay Extremely Precise Objects of Ambiguous Use, and it really articulated my experience: ”Freedom … need not be the opposite of discipline. Freedom may be simply this: the creation of our own systems of belief, methods for transforming ourselves, modes of perception, disciplines for living, and collective rituals.”
Check out Trans Boxing on at transboxing.org or on their Insta (@transboxing)