Monday, July 13, 2009

Adventures in Transition: Everybody Cut Footloose Edition

Greetings, ducks! Yesterday I decided to drag myself out of the cave also known as my apartment and force myself to have some of that dreaded "social interaction" people are always on about--specifically, I decided to jerk myself around to a syncopated rhythm while obeying patriarchal orders and occasionally crashing into people.

Yes, I went dancing.

Here in the Metropolis, there is a series of Sunday dances down on a pier during the summer. I used to go to these things long ago, long before my transition--hell, long before my brief metrosexual days. I enjoyed going--I had been one of those people who never thought she could dance, until my then-girlfriend convinced me to take some lessons, and I discovered I could do it, after a fashion. And that I liked to do it.

This time, however, would be different.

This time I was going to be there as a woman.

I managed to miss the free lesson they give before the dance, which was a shame, because not only was I rusty, I haven't danced that much swing as the follower, and I had to sort out which leg went where. That was one worry.

The other worry was whether or not anyone would actually want to dance with me.

As I've mentioned before, I tend to get anxious around highly gendered spaces--and you don't get more highly gendered than a partnered dance. (To be fair, I did see some women dancing together, but I have no idea if they were queer or just straight people without partners; I know for a fact I didn't see any men dancing with each other.) So I had my usual uncomfortable thoughts: what if people read me? am I too tall for anyone to want to dance with? am I not pretty enough for people to want to dance with me? will I suck? (that last one wasn't all that gendered, but an anxiety is an anxiety.)

Fortunately for me, plenty of people did end up dancing with me, some good, some bad. It was interesting to see the various styles of leading--having been a leader, I know how hard it can be to do well. One guy I danced with was maybe the best lead I've ever danced with--I always knew exactly what he wanted me to do--but the experience left me a little cold because I felt like I never got to do anything creative; I like to do some of my own moves when in open position, for example.

It was an interesting counterpoint to when I had first started to go out to dances as a man, and had to overcome decades of painful shyness and ask people to dance with me. I'm not sure which is easier, to be honest, to ask or wait to be asked.

I also ran into my ex-wife and her fiance. Which was a little weird; we're on good terms, but it was definitely an odd interaction. Even weirder is that we met at this very same dance all those years ago (we met movie-cute.) I suppose I cold have upped the ante and danced with her, but I think we both felt that would have pushed the awkwardness skyward.

My anxieties then were mostly for naught. More than that: at one point I stood watching the sunset behind the bandstand, listening to the music and feeling the breezes blow on me, and I was just so damn happy--because this is how I wanted it to go, to finally feel at peace with myself and my body and who I wanted to be, to bask in the same beautiful weather I had enjoyed all those years ago when I went to my first dance, except this time it was so much better, so much deeper, so much more right.


  1. I used to enjoy dancing swing, but at some point having to "man up" for the evening became just too upsetting. Every now and again I see if I can work through the steps as a follow. Maybe one day I'll go back as the new me.

    P.S. I don't think I've commented before, but I enjoy reading your blog a lot. I'm a girl who is only just beginning her transition, but it resonates quite strongly with me. Thanks :)

  2. Thanks, Danni!

    It's not that hard to reverse swing, though I ended up standing on the sideline and doing about a minute of basics to try and get it right...and I suspect that when I was dancing in open position I may have done the rock step with the wrong foot...oh well.

    A while back, during the shadow period when I was exploring presenting as female more often but before I started to transition, I took salsa lessons at a school that had LGBT classes--people just declared themselves leaders or followers, and danced accordingly. It was fun, and interesting, and it's amazing how difficult it is to dance without a good leader :)

    Good luck on things--it does get easier, even if you find yourself with an unaccountable urge to blog :-O

  3. "I'm not sure which is easier, to be honest, to ask or wait to be asked."

    oh god, this is the source of eternal bickering in my salsa group. Teh laideez sayz oh noes, I can't dance unless a freaking guy asks meee, and teh gentlemenz sayz oh noes, all da pressure iz on meeee!

    ok I offically need need to stop with lol catz...