Wow! Things have just got decidedly real in my little world as a transgender ballet dancer.
I’ve now had four lessons on my IDTA course as I prepare to sit my grade one exam in February. I’ve learned plenty of new moves and absolutely love it.
I’m not part of a conventional class, with other dancers.
There’s just me, my teacher Miss Joanne and the school principal, Miss Sarah.
The three of us dance together for a little over an hour each Wednesday, and my teachers seem to be really pleased with my progress. It’s all good.
Except one thing – the whole “male” thing. At the end of my first session, we came to the reverence. For those not in the know, that involves a curtsy for the girls or a bow for the boys.
I explained that I’d much prefer to do a curtsy, and that was fine – that’s what we did. But there was mention of “we can always learn the bow for the exam”.
The second lesson passed without incident but the third and fourth involved an arms exercise, involving arms in first, second, third, fourth and fifth position.
No problem there – I love those exercises. They feel effortless, graceful and beautifully feminine.
Except second position. I was told to make my arms “stronger” and more angular – because that’s what “gentlemen” do.
I let it go in week three but, last week, I could hold back no longer. I was getting a bit upset, to be honest. I wanted to learn ballet to connect with feminine side – I don’t want to do male arms. I wanna do Swan arms!
So I came out with it, in the middle of the dancefloor, to both teachers.
I don’t remember the exact words but I bumbled about like Hugh Grant and Boris Johnson’s lovechild before saying those two little words that mean so much: “I’m transgender.”
I thought everything would be OK, but I’d only known these ladies three weeks and you can never be sure. Indeed, my transgender ballet inspiration, Sophie Rebecca, was kicked out of her first ballet school just for being trans.
She’s now studying with the RAD and doing splendidly, thank you. She’s also been a complete sweetie in offering me advice via Facebook.
Anyway, despite thinking I’d probably be OK, I couldn’t be 100% certain whether Miss Sarah and Miss Joanne would react like Sophie’s old ballet teacher or like her present one, who embraces her trans side and is happy to allow her to wear leotards, tutus and tights.
“I’m transgender,” I said, and then asked if it would be possible to learn only the girl role in lessons and to perform it in exams. I also pointed out that my T-shirt, leggings and ballet shoes were all girls’.
The initial reaction was one of wide eyes and “Oooooooh!”
I immediately panicked and kept apologising – I’m still not quite sure what I was apologising for – just for being a pain in the arse, probably.
But there was no reason to panic. After the initial surprise, they assured me all was fine, I could do the lessons and exams in the female role and that they loved me for who I am. Hugs all round.
Miss Sarah even joked that I wanted the girl role because it was easier – more flouncy. I assured her this was not the case as I eventually want to go en pointe – something Miss Joanne said she’d happily teach me, though not for a year or three.
Needless to say, I felt VERY happy and a lot more relaxed. I’d been stressing out over the male thing, over dance belts (yuck!) and muscly poses. Not for me, thanks.
We finished the class and then got together for a chat afterwards as we always do – Miss Joanne likes to write notes in my cupcake notebook so that I can practise my steps.
I asked Miss Sarah if I was the first trans student she’d had at her school and was pleasantly surprised to hear that I wasn’t. A youngster who was assigned female at birth takes part in a dance class with boys – and acts and dresses as a boy.
And Miss Joanne said that one of her best friends was transgender – and she was particularly impressed with a sparkly women’s waistcoat he let her wear.
So, all good. Huge weight from shoulders, gone.
In the cloakroom, as I changed out of my ballet slippers into my trainers, I noticed a leather jacket hanging from a peg. A message on the lining, surrounded with lovehearts, read: “You make me happy.” I took a picture on my phone as it summed up my mood perfectly.
When I got home, I told Georgie, who was less impressed than I, sadly. She thinks I’m telling “all and sundry” about my trans side. I’m not, but I am telling a select few people who are close to me – and I know my ballet teachers will treat this in strict confidence.
I’m not ashamed. I’m doing nothing wrong. Why should I have to keep something so beautiful a secret from everyone? It’s society with the problem, not me. It’s bad enough hiding this from 99.9% of people – surely I deserve to share my hopes and dreams with 0.1%?
Anyway, I emailed Sarah and Joanne later to thank them for being so understanding.
Their reply: “Hey Andie, we are just so sorry that you felt you couldn’t say earlier . We want to say to you that we love you for who you are and always will and we’re looking forward seeing you next week.”
It then occurred to me that I might need to wear something feminine for the exam – maybe even lessons. The school has a ballet dress code of a leotard with pink tights and ballet slippers, but I’ve just worn black stirrup leggings and T-shirts before. So I asked the question.
The reply: “We can show you the choices and requirements as such for the examination next week and you can decide what you would be happy to wear.”
So there you have it. Now all I need to do is practise, practise, practise because the lessons are getting harder. And I must confess to Googling IDTA grade one ballet outfits, some of which I’ve included in this post. Decisions, decisions!