Defending Our Surroundings
I wanted to write a personal message to you all today that may bring a feeling of relatability for many.
With my recent post talking about the stereotypes that lay deep within the way female ballet dancers are envisioned to be, I have had the opportunities to speak with other queer women who brought an awareness back into my life that struck a chord very deeply. This has to do with a particular situation around certain feelings and emotions that hindered myself from wanting to come out. Now, looking back onto my journey towards self acceptance, I realize how important this is to talk about. Overall, these feelings I was facing made me uncomfortable around the idea of being out in a ballet company.
I believe within our society, and not only of the ballet world but as a generalized setting, we are conditioned into feeling a way that the celebratory moment in our lives of being out and proud, has to be followed by making sure the people we are surrounded by feel comfortable. What I mean by this, is I have realized even in the greater lengths of finding the confidence within myself, there is a sense of pressure to not fully express who I am to my best capability because of the discomfort I might bring upon others. I have had incidents in my mind where I think, “Ok. If I put my entire self out in the open in front of everyone, I am nervous I will not be seen or understood as just me, Lauren. I am worrisome of the discomfort I will bring upon others.” And, to be honest, even if it has been reiterated to me in the past that that is not the case, I still have those natural thoughts that accumulate inside my mind. I want to figure out why that is. Why do we feel the need to have to continue to hinder our authentic selves in defending other people’s comfort around us, especially within ballet?
With my blog allowing an open and honest space for others and myself to have these conversations, I want to start talking about the mental stressors around dressing rooms in ballet companies. I bring this up because there were reasons as to why I had an immense amount of fear on coming out and this particular reason was constantly running through my mind. The stress around the women's dressing room boiled up inside towards a petrified feeling that other girls would look at me differently. I had thoughts that they would think I am looking at them in a "different" way or that I would be making them feel uncomfortable by changing in front of them. To their defense, I now know that was certainly not the case and fortunately I ended up not thinking about those concerns as much as I did when I came out because I felt the acceptance from them. Though, while speaking with a few other female dancers within the LGBTQ+ community, it is apparent that this is a strong contributing factor for many in feeling worrisome of coming out. This falls under the lack of sensing or feeling relatable to other female dancers and particularly so in ballet.
While thinking to myself and having these conversations with women, I understand that there are major root causes as to why we may feel this way and why we put these scenarios in our minds. During that time of being fearful of coming out in a ballet company, I notice how it was amplified due of the worry I had from assumed judgement. That worry in which ultimately produced a hovering bubble of stress around me. This led to a difficulty towards breaking these thoughts I had about other female dancers. I understand I cannot always assume that this is the case, but I am trying to understand as to why that is. Why did I assume and where does this stem from?
I know that this is a very real topic that doesn’t have enough conversation about but this is a situation that myself, and many others, may tend to keep inside because of the thought of not being understood for feeling this way. I want you all to know that I see how this is an apparent issue and that I think there are ways of us helping each other through it all. The more we can talk about not only this feeling of possible fear that we hold inside but to also dive into other topics, the more opportunity for an awareness that can be brought upon in this industry.
At times, I would find myself thinking this may just be a small issue that is personal to me and not for others, but I know this is simply untrue. This is something that other queer women also struggle with and I want to bring this awareness to everyone because I can relate; I understand this feeling. I don’t want to feel like I need to lessen my true self to help make other people’s discomforts lighter. And even if that isn’t true for everyone, the truth is that this is what lingers within our minds. It is what we, women who are a part of this beautiful queer community, realistically face and live with these ideas and concerns. So, let’s talk about them. Let’s have these uncomfortable conversations to educate, to bring awareness, and to talk about how we feel inside.
The more I find myself relating to each of you, the more I envision a sense of empowerment within each other. There needs to be a light brought upon the ballet world and I am hopeful for that light. We need this community to feel together and to know that we are not alone. I know there are many amazing beautiful queer women dancers all over the world and I want us to feel like we are seen and recognized for who we truly are and can be confident in doing so. I want us all to feel liberation from coming out and from being our true selves; to not feel the need to stay hidden or think that we cannot be both a queer woman and a dancer. It is hard enough to build up the courage to speak our truths and these scenarios that we may have built inside are not helpful for us.
This is how I see it; I know I am perceived as different from the status norm of a female ballet dancer because I am gay. But I would love to not have to feel this way because we are all women in our own and unique way, regardless of one's sexual identity. I believe that we have to continue to be here for one another to help bring the positive change to remove that feeling of us being an other because we are not that. It may not be recognized by all people, but it is how we may feel inside and that strikes more than enough reason to want things to be better. Maybe this can be a beginning to bringing this out to the open. I hope so.
Photo by Randolph Belandria