Tl;dr Some things have changed since I started on this blogging adventure. There have been a lot of challenges in being openly trans on my dance course, but I’ve also found a supportive community outside of my course that gave me the courage to do this.
April 2016, I finally got the courage to start a blog, but didn’t have the courage to inform the world about it. You can read about why I started on this blogging thing in the first place here.
February 2017, I decided that I did want an actual audience for my words and thoughts. Am I ready? Probably not. But here’s some of the new context I’m working within and why I’ve made this decision:
I dove headfirst into the Real Dance World, as I’d intended and found that, even as I informed my teachers and classmates of my transness with positive results, the place I studied was not ready to take the necessary steps to support my transness. Instead, they simply wanted me there in the name of diversity and inclusion (not a surprise, really, but still a frustration). As soon as I raised an issue back in November, all doors closed. Due to lack of engagement on the part of one of the most responsible people, the institution’s interest in maintaining its reputation and incapability of owning up to mistakes, and the unnecessary hurdles in place to keep students from making formal complaints, I am still fighting that battle.
I go to a school where I don’t know which of my teachers decided that ignoring a trans person in order to maintain the institution’s reputation was a better choice than apologising.
Yes, I’ve learned a lot. Yes, I’ve had some amazing teachers (major shoutout to my dance science teacher, she was so amazing, I’ve chosen to trust her, because I have to trust someone), and learned a lot. Have I become a better dancer? I’d like to think so. I’m enjoying most of my classes. And my classmates are mostly excellent people I can learn from and feed off of. But that doesn’t diminish exactly how difficult it is to be the only openly trans person in the program (I’m 90% certain there’s another trans person in a different program at the school, but we haven’t really connected…yet).
I went in knowing it would be difficult, but I thought I had prepared myself with this knowledge. The realization that I wasn’t at all prepared was frustrating. I was angry with myself. But the fact is that I don’t think there really is a way to prepare for something like this. When you’re the only one doing a thing, you just have to jump in and hold on for dear life. Some days are easier than others.
The flip side of this is that the threat of a formal complaint seems to have been enough to get some of the teachers I struggled with in line. While I criticize myself for my behavior, calling myself an overly sensitive trans person that should get over themself, the fact is that this is a very good thing. The staff are realizing that this isn’t something they cannot be lazy about. And I am learning that I do, in fact, deserve the same respect as my cis peers.
I am learning to demand respect, express my needs, and self-advocate. I am also learning who my allies are. And I am learning when to be patient and when not to be, when it’s important to allow someone their own time to take on and consider a concept, and when I can expect someone to make an immediate change. When I graduate, I’m going to be a much better person than I was before, simply through having had to work through these things (of course, it would be better if these things didn’t exist, but I’ll take my silver lining for the moment).
And outside of my dance school, I’ve been doing other great things. Which are all going into another post because there are so many thoughts, I can’t confine them here (and because I want to check with necessary people before naming names on the internet and the like). In short, I did something terrifying and asked someone I greatly admired if I could possibly do some choreography with them on a show. The result was some of the most exhausting and positive days of my life. And, after the thing was over, and this person still hadn’t stopped trusting me (the way I was convinced they would), I realized that, mistakes and fuck-ups and exhausted breakdowns and all, I was pretty great. And that I could do things I didn’t know I could.
And I also had gone from the outskirts of a queer community that I deeply valued into its center. That’s huge for me. I tend to skate around the edges of my communities without ever fully committing. But I was able to trust these wonderful people enough to venture further in and stay there. So, even while there are days when I don’t even want to set foot into my school, I know that I also have a group of people behind me. People that I can dance with and who can remind me of why I love dance so much in the first place every time I get sucked into the rigidness of an institution that doesn’t quite know what to do with trans students (yet).
And I’ve learned that I have value in my own right, not just as a trans dancer, or an activist, but as me. And that’s why I was able to decide that my safe, no-audience blog wasn’t enough and that it was time to spread my thoughts to a greater audience. Eeeek.