On Being a Trans Man and Loving Ballet, Especially Pointe
This is a start to a much longer conversation about trans people in the arts and our unique challenges and gifts.
A little about me for background:
I’m 22, I have been dancing on and off since the age of 5. I’m not by any means the best dancer ever, but I am consistent in my practice, and I’m very committed to it. In addition to being trans, I’m also fat and have some disabilities and injuries that have impacted certain aspects of my dancing, but I keep doing it because it’s something I love very much.
Prior to transitioning, I did take pointe, and I was larger chested, which greatly impacted where I held my center of gravity. I have been retraining in ballet and other forms of dance, and am easing my way back into pointe. It’s super different after top surgery. But here’s the question I get more than anything from other dance people: “why would you ever want to do pointe again if you’re a man?”
Here are a few of my reasons:
1. People of any gender can do pointe. In fact, more men should do pointe. It helps with balance, strength, partnering, and it challenges the gender norms of ballet.
2. Trans men who medically transition should especially dance and do pointe to relearn balance with a new center of gravity.
3. It connects my past to my present and I don’t have to leave everything behind because I’m not a different person all of a sudden.
4. My feet are really small and I’m short, and this is something that applies to a lot of trans men. It’s another thing that our bodies can do really well and I think that if there’s something you’re cut out for, you should have the chance to do it, and it’s another thing that is beautiful and unique and special that we as trans men can claim and do.
5. Again, the height thing, just because pointe is historically “feminine” doesn’t mean it can’t help with dysphoria about being short.
Learning ballet is a long process, and it’s not necessarily a linear process, especially if you’re someone who has been injured or had surgery or been trained with one set of gender norms and has to learn new ones. It can sometimes feel like you’re starting fresh if you take any time off. Trans people have had to deal with gatekeeping in dance, just like they do in many other art forms. Other marginalized people similarly deal with gatekeeping. Even non-disabled, skinny, cis white people deal with strict norms in the dance world and to me, men, especially trans men, doing pointe is a big challenge to those norms.