Tl;dr I am not only doing this because there’s loads to talk about, but also because it is part of a process in which I figure out how I want to engage in activism and document my experiences in entering the “professional” dance world.
This was the context in which I originally started blogging. It still holds.
So I’d like to add a little context to this blog. I’ve already explained why I’m doing this, but that still leaves the question of why now? I’ve been a trans dancer for a long time. I’ve explicitly made transness part of my dancing since I was sixteen. So, what about now makes this the perfect time to start a blog?
Part of the answer is simple – I finally got my shit together to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.
When I started at uni, I actively engaged with lgbt+/queer communities. I even was the ace rep for a year. The thing that constantly happened was that queer events were always at the same time as dance class. I always ended up feeling guilty – either for not being as active as I could in my community or for skipping class. This, alongside trying to keep up my studies (and my uni being a complete mess) resulted in the inevitable breakdown.
The year that followed was my study abroad year. I spent time in Boston and France and Finland, meeting new people and learning more about myself and about how activism and community-building worked. Most importantly, I learned that I was young, and really needed to stop expecting myself to have my shit together.
By the time I came back from uni, I knew, quite clearly that I wasn’t returning to my old queer communities. Instead, I dove headfirst into dance. And yes, that included gender neutral, queer, body positive dance. But it also included highly intensive dance situations in which I chose misgendering over not dancing. I never put myself in a position where I had to choose queerness or dance. Or, if I ended up in that position, I chose dance. And, lo and behold, my shaky mental health stabilized. I was no longer putting unnecessary pressure on myself to be queer.
But it also become apparent that, in order to do this, I had to forego my activism. Activism, what it is, and how to go about it, has always been a question for me. Due to social anxiety and a tendency for sensory overload, I don’t feel safe attending any kind of protest or rally. Even community gatherings can be too much for me. Earlier this year, I tried engaging specifically with ace communities and ace activism online and found the social norms there impossible to follow and anxiety inducing.
While taking a break from activist approved social justice activities was a necessity for getting my mental health back on track, I do feel like it is necessary to find ways in which I can make an impact. I do believe that, as a human being witnessing the oppression of other human beings, it is necessary to do something. I am trying to find ways in which I can challenge structural oppression without sacrificing my mental health.
This blog is, in a way, me returning to “activism” after a well-needed break. No, I’m not trying to change the world, and I can’t solve all injustices, as much as I wish I could. But I’d like to try to make an impact through writing about what I know – dance, transness, aroaceness…everything that is me.
There’s also a simpler answer to the why now question.
Because I’m graduating. Back when eighteen year old me was too scared to apply for dance programs and decided that Finnish would be a great thing to study for my undergraduate (to be fair, I wasn’t wrong, Finnish is amazing), I promised myself that the year after my graduation would be dedicated to dance.
My eventual dream is to become a choreographer and that means that I need to start establishing myself as a “professional”. To be honest, “professional” is a very vague term. In general, it means that someone is paid for the work they do. I have been paid for my dancing and choreography before, so therefore, I am already a professional.
Sadly, the structures and hierarchies of dance communities are not so simple. Gaining access to the opportunities I need in order to pursue my career requires networking, it requires diving head first into the Dance World, something I’ve always avoided, in part because of the cissexism, gender essentialism and transphobia that often makes me wonder if dance is ten years behind the rest of the world.
As I apply to a one year dance program at a big name conservatoire as an “out and proud” trans person, I find myself thinking about transness and dance more. I’m learning about myself and this path that I have set myself on. I discover things I want to write about, both positive (the program of the director of this program asking my preferred name at an open day) and discouraging (the feeling that I don’t always belong in my gender neutral dance class because it’s technically for people NOT on the “professional” track).
And I end up thinking a lot about how these intersect. Because, for me, my dancing is inherently linked to my gender. The moments when I feel my transness the most is when I am dancing surrounded by cis people. If I dance while silencing my transness, I am cutting myself off, I am not dancing.
That makes my journey of diving into the dance world a dangerous adventure. This blog is here so I can document it, but also so I can comment on it and to have a platform to discuss my position within both dance and queer communities.
I also have the hope of using this to build community – find other trans dancers (or potential dancers?), build a virtual space in which we are able to discuss the ways the two parts of ourselves interact. To not feel alone. But, I am also aware of my social media I capabilities and, while this would be nice, it is a slightly less realistic goal than my other reasons (but hey, if you’re a trans dancer, come say hi! And if you know a trans dancer, encourage them to come say hi! Because being the only one feels frankly ridiculous and untrue).