Being a Queer Female Ballet Student
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Q: “Could you talk about being a queer female ballet student?”
A: Looking back at my years as a ballet student, it was a time of hard work, dedication, and passion. It was also a time of secrets, confusion, and fear.
When I was asked the question, “Could you talk about being a queer female ballet student?” my immediate answer was absolutely, without a doubt. I am now sitting here with my eyes beaded on my laptop thinking I was going to write a simple answer. Though, it is apparent to me that this goes deeper and far beyond the sexuality side of being a female ballet student, but it is how being a female ballet student is a conversation in itself and also being queer, is another.
While allowing myself to dive further into this topic, I’ve realized how there are connecting pieces to the feelings around why there are difficulties in feeling comfortable as a queer female ballet student. When I was in my youth, recognizing my sexuality was difficult and I tended to push such feelings aside. Today, this has made me understand the pivotal factors around why I felt the need to not confront my own curiosity. It also has shown awareness towards the fear that I quietly held throughout many years. And while I can now look back and say that I was a queer female ballet student, there are reasons and causes as to why I didn't allow myself to further think that I could be.
Female ballet dancers, students and professionals, are viewed around an ideal vision of a ballerina: feminine, dainty, thin, elegant, seemingly perfect. And while this can be a vision that many ballet dancers look up to, this leads me to pondering questions. Would I or others have been able to believe that we—female ballet dancers—could be different from the status norm of the ideal ballerina? Was there an open space for us to not look how a ballerina is supposed to look or act how a ballerina is supposed to act?
I understand these might be my certain views of the matter, but this is exactly why I am bringing this emphasis into conversation. It is because of the ideal vision of a ballerina where female ballet students feel the need to fit this specific ideology. When we then begin to notice ourselves different from the painted picture, queer female ballet students in particular might sense moments of internal isolation, confusion, or a feeling that there may not be a welcoming space for them if they are open about their sexuality. And the reason I bring this up as an awareness or rather an informative answer to the question, is because this is what I find most important to highlight. It is the honesty that is needed for these conversations to then make us question and dig deeper into the root issues that will help change the engrained traditions from years ago. The needed discussion is around how queer female ballet students undergo the feeling of divide. Also, it is important to recognize that such divide can be present even without the vocalization from peers or hierarchy.
Being a queer female ballet student does not make an individual any less worthy from a female ballet student who doesn't identify as queer. These are important aspects to remind ourselves because it can be extremely challenging to overcome the emotions or mentality of feeling like an other. I believe if these conversations around self-validation and self-worth were more prevalent when I was a student, I would've embraced my sexuality earlier on. But for today and the present moment, it is important to reiterate that all female ballet students, regardless of gender identity or sexuality, should always have a place within this industry. It needs to be spoken that it is accepted and celebrated to be different from societal views and the status norm of a female ballet dancer. Everyone deserves to embrace their sexuality at any age, in any setting, and in any workplace.
I am proud of every queer female ballet student who is being true to themself.
I am proud of every queer female ballet student who is beginning to dive deeper into their curiosity and embrace their sexuality.
I am proud of every female ballet student who may or may not yet understand the feelings they are experiencing but knowing it is more than okay to feel them.
Today, I continue to remind myself that each and every part of who I am is approached with self-validation; my sexuality, my presence, my gender, and my feelings. Every queer woman dancer, student or professional, is deserving to thrive in who they are without the pressure of fitting a structured mold. I understand that it has been difficult for us to always feel this way, but it is important to remind ourselves of our self-worth. That is what makes being a queer female ballet dancer extraordinary.