By Lauren Warnecke
When I told my mother I was a lesbian, she said she would have been less surprised if I told her I was becoming a nun.
That was ten years ago. I was already out of the house and none of the typical signs were there; well, not really anyway. I’m not athletic; I have a flowered shower curtain and an affinity for baking. There WERE pictures of girls on my walls growing up, but they were posters of Gelsey Kirkland and Sylvie Guillem. I know, you might need to Google them.
You see, I’m a ballet dancer.
When I first came out, I cut off my hair, bought men’s jeans and wore polo shirts all the time. I drank lots of beer and ate hot dogs (vegetarian hot dogs, naturally). I traded my Nutcracker videos for reruns of The L Word and abandoned my posters and even my shower curtain. Because that’s what it means to be a lesbian, right?
More importantly, I quit dancing. Lesbians DON’T do ballet.
Here’s the problem with that five-year-ish period of my life: that wasn’t me any more than the straight girl ballerina was. Maybe even less. When you grow up training to be a ballet dancer, you are groomed to have long hair, good posture, and a bedroom drowning in pink ribbon. Pink ribbons aside, the qualities in me that come from 20-some years of dancing don’t go just go away because I’m a lesbian.
Through high school and most of college I was really uncomfortable with myself, but what I didn’t realize until a few years ago was that not everything about me was wrong. After coming out, I changed my entire persona, and something still didn’t sit right. So after some time and serious reflection, I essentially went through another “coming out,” in which I slowly but surely reintroduced some of the qualities that make me, well, me.
Here’s my point: there might not be that many gay ballerinas out there (of the female variety), but it really doesn’t matter. I’m a lesbian. I don’t wear make-up and I like motorcycles. But I also like ballet, red wine, and baking biscuits. And fortunately, the shower curtain wasn’t tossed – just put in storage. I’m not butch, but I’m not really femme, either. I’m just me. And that’s good enough.
Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance artist and writer based in Chicago, IL. She regularly contributes to danceadvantage.net and 4dancers.org, in addition to her own writing pursuits at artintercepts.org and craftylauren.com. She holds degrees in Dance (BA, ’03) and Kinesiology (MS, ’09) and is currently a Visiting Instructor for the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lauren is a certified ballet teacher through the Cecchetti Counsel of America’s Midwest Counsel and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. Also a Certified Master Composter, you can often find Lauren arm deep in worm poo, perusing her neighborhood farmer’s market, and generally speaking up for local and sustainable food culture. She has a fetish for 50′s housewives and likes to hike and bake scones.