• Lauren Flower

Stigmas & Stereotypes: Let's Talk About Them

Hi Everyone!

I am wanting to get conversations flowing around an important topic that has yet to have had enough discussion about. I find that throughout the misrepresentation and lack of higher support towards LGBTQ+ women dancers, results in the issues that primarily revolve around stigmas and stereotypes. These are two topics that correlate with one another and are very much engrained within traditions of ballet. From the impact of these powerful words, the results turn into a hindering action for many women. Ultimately, witnessing the ongoing desire to fit a certain "mold" that is brought from the ballet world can cause a rather hurtful effect. Through my awareness of the matter, these two strongly perceived words are merely reoccurring themes and inconveniences that never truly make the surface in seeing how they are root causes that need to be made transparent.

I have heard these phrases and questions more often than not by other women and from myself included:

"I don’t see how I can be a lesbian and a ballet dancer."

"I am scared for other women to know I am queer because there aren’t many other queer women in ballet. Will I be able to really be me without the stress of judgment?"

"Will I be seen as the same person once they know I’m gay?"

"Will this affect my position in my work?"

"The arts are recognized to be a free and open space, welcoming all. Why do I find it so challenging to discover other women like me?"

Following these honest words above, I found that through writing last week’s post about my journey on coming out I was naturally brought back to a time where I remember holding in a lot of fear. A lot of fear of wondering how I may be perceived and/or judged by my sexuality. And while I stand by my words, in full commitment on the importance of focusing on oneself and being proud of who we are, there are still the questions that accumulate in my thoughts due to stigmas and stereotypes in which hold us back from being pure. These issues are widely known to me, from past to present, and I want to make it apparent to everyone that I see how much change is needed for all who identify within the LGBTQ+ community.

When it comes to classical ballet, I find myself naturally thinking of traditions. There are the traditional story ballets, the traditional women attire, and the traditional vision of what a ballerina "should" look like. Thinking about tutus, tiaras, and the portrayals of most female ballet variations in classical repertoire, are more often than not falling under the category of super feminine. Well, a prominent issue with this is an automatic action of putting female ballet dancers into a status of femininity within a structured box. Now, within this box I would not necessarily consider myself to be one of certain structures and I believe that this may be true for other women as well. With my sexual identity, it becomes hard to not question if my authenticity fits into this stereotypical mold of a ballet dancer. While it certainly can be enjoyable to act in a different persona and have those moments on stage, there is still not enough of a focus on making the latter of opportunities more of a possibility for women. This can cause distress for a woman who may feel the need to suppress how they feel inside. To be fair, this is something that I didn’t fully realize within myself until I began focusing on how I felt deeply within. It pairs with witnessing the lack of an acknowledgment towards a newer beauty that LGBTQ+ women have to offer in the traditional ballet form.

I realize that this has not been brought onto the surface enough and to such a platform amongst everyone. These conversations are usually only discussed throughout women who are impacted by these issues. So, in bringing this awareness and conversing with you all more about this topic, I see that this is needed for a broader audience to understand that I, and many of us, have to commonly "accept" these factors that are very personal to us. As I continue to bring these conversations to the forefront, I am looking forward to talking about this particular topic with you all because I think there is more to be known about the stigmas and stereotypes that we face together.

With myself understanding and relating to many, we may be fearful through putting our true selves out there in the dance world. It can be a time in someone’s life that comes with quite a bit of uncertainty. These are the honest and difficult conversations that put us in a state of vulnerability. Though, I find vulnerability to be one of the most beautiful aspects of who we are and how we hold ourselves. The artistry within us comes from allowing ourselves to be seen for our genuine authenticity as a whole. I am here to talk about it and will continue to use my voice in bringing this awareness because I know how much it is needed. It comes from a deepness within my heart in recognizing the desire and change that should take precedence.

Much love to each and every one of you!

Your fellow queer,

Lauren



[briefly highlighting] day to day

Music: Strive, Ollie Morris


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