It's so hard to remember, but I think that as a young'n, I danced a lot. Uninhibited, really. My strongest memory of this was at a fair with my extended family—probably a county fair somewhere in southern Rhode Island.
Under a big tent with a lunch buffet, picnic tables, a stage, and a dance floor, I did more than my fair share of dancing. Between songs the band's singer called me back onto the floor, to give me some recognition of the "far out" "creative" dance moves I'd been doing all day. (I remember cartwheels, maybe headstands, not much else. Kids are so squishy and flexible, you know?)
That's the last time I remember dancing for most of my life.
I wish I knew what made me stop dancing. I've never been good at taking compliments, much less being the center of attention, so maybe that dance floor callout at age 7 did me in. Maybe it was something deeper. Who can tell. I wish I knew what sort of person I'd be today if I'd never stopped.
Most of my childhood, and most of my adulthood too, I spent going to great lengths to avoid acknowledging that I had emotions. Why? Again, who knows; I don't think any trauma was holding me back. But brains are just parts of our meat sacks. By avoiding part of my mind I was also avoiding figuring out how to operate my body. Childhood was supposed to be my instruction manual for personhood, but I tried my hardest to ignore it.
Here's a fun story, though: fast forward to 2015, and I'll find myself at a music festival with some work friends. My explicit goal was to throw as many distinct bands at me in the hopes of finding a few that would stick, expanding my taste in music for the first time since my youth. This is when Dancing Finally Happened.
I would call the whole 3-day experience a success—many new bands and sounds were added to my taste in music—and, crucially, there were a couple of acts that unexpectedly made me want to move. I had spent a long time convincing myself I was uninterested in what my body was capable of, and I think this was the first time I actually questioned that decision. Not even the friends and family asking, begging, literally dragging me to dance at proms, parties, and weddings managed to do that.
Two sets on two nights—Ratatat and Hot Chip—successively cracked me wide open, and I don't mean like an egg because fuck that metaphor (claiming ownership over someone else's personal growth? eff that, man). I mean like a dam. I mean like a long-severed connection started making contact again, and being alone in a crowd of thousands in front of dance music was probably the best setting to indulge.
Relearning how to dance is wild. It reminds me of all the ways I can intentionally use my body, but chose not to. It forces me to decide how I want to operate my body, what I want it to excel at, how it should behave, what I need to practice at. We're beyond metaphor now, by the way, this is an explicitly trans narrative. And these are all questions a trans person has to ask themselves at some point, at some level, whether they know it or not.
This is also a wild moment in time. After a life spent without giving queerness a passing thought, then getting transed via a reintroduction to dance, pandemic has put me back in a spot where I'm almost always alone, and the urge to dance—or, for that matter, get in touch with my body at all—is slim to none.
It makes me I wonder if maybe my self-awareness and groundedness in my body is still tenuous enough that it can be undone. I wonder what will happen to me if it is. I wonder if I can still try to be the person I would have been if something hadn't held me back.