I’ve always hated dancing. There is something ironically constricting in that kind of freedom of movement for me, something about the arbitrary motion that does not mesh well with the planned-out, meticulously organized person that I knowingly am. But that was before I learned that what lay between me and authenticity was a conga line.
In elementary school, dance classes were required. Comprising of many tortuous exercises, ranging from ballet to tap dance to jazz, I made it my goal to be as invisible as possible, hiding from the mirror in the dance room and feigning deafness when addressed by the instructor. Class always ended with the dreaded freeze dance, during which we would dance randomly and freely until the music stopped, at which point we would freeze. Anyone left moving was instantly out of the game. I suppose, despite my rigid distaste for it, I was actually quite good at this game because I never moved. I liked the freeze part. The dancing part, not so much. And, as it turned out, that paradigm was reflected in other parts of my life as well.
In elementary school, I began to understand that there was some part of me that was hidden and wanted to come out but felt restrained by my environment. I began to understand that a part of my identity was hiding, never expressing myself, feigning deafness, never hearing the music of life. But at a time when math equations took the form of four times four and science was the fact that the sky was blue, it never really got much further than that. It would be a while before that part of me learned to listen to the music, before I learned to listen to that part of me.
Then came middle school and high school. I suffered through those mandated school dances, hiding in corners with my friends, stuffing ourselves with copious amounts of catered food and hoping our full stomachs would shield us from what lay beyond the buffet stations: the dance floor. By all means, I would have rather gained five pounds than have spent five minutes on that dance floor. But that closer proximity to dance in a social setting occasionally affected me, the melodious tunes faintly being heard and manifesting themselves as infrequent but distinct taps of feet or the casual sway from left to right. Simultaneously, that hidden part of me began to become a better listener, and it began to sway to the music ever so slightly as well.
In middle school and high school, notions of sexuality were finally mentioned, though they were confined to the whispers during lunch period and the occasional side glance of misunderstanding. Nevertheless, these small interactions with sexuality were slowly seeping into our student lives with the uncontrollable urgency of the desire to grow and learn. Sexuality could no longer be told to freeze; its feet were tapping, and finally, I was beginning to listen.
By college, I needed to get out on that dance floor, and yet, at the same time, I never felt so lost for a beat, a tune, a melody — anything to follow. Then came GUPride’s Coming Out Day celebration, a moment in which all that I was afraid of was suddenly confronted with all that I was proud of, and I began to understand that pride and fear were the most powerful forces toward self-discovery.
GUPride, of which I am a proud board member and supporter, has an annual Coming Out Day tradition that includes the placement of an ornately decorated door in the middle of Red Square. The board leads others through the door in a conga line, and, as rainbow leis sashay left and right, pride transforms into joy, guided by a unifying sense of freedom.
I remember the hesitation with which I joined that line, timidly throwing side glances and wondering who was watching me. But then I jumped in, throwing years of hesitation and immobilization to the side with every swing of my hips and kick of my feet, and I loved it. It was the first dance that I have ever loved. Dancing with my fellow board members — dancing with my sexuality — was understanding that my identity had never been truly represented both to myself and to others until those moments of realization. It meant understanding that my comfort lay just outside my comfort zone. In that conga line, in that dance, I found the rhythm that has guided me to authenticity. It’s a rhythm that I’ll never stop dancing to, for my sexuality is, at its core, the dance partner I need to do more than just make it though life.
Grace Smith is a sophomore in the College. If a Tree Falls appears every other Tuesday.
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