An update from Kelsey, a junior dance major in Meadows School of the Arts:
What is a dance major doing on a human rights trip to Perth, Australia? On day five of our trip, after a long day of lectures, I realized my connection to human rights was more pertinent than I could ever imagine.
The day began with Dr. Jude Comfort’s lecture on “Using a Human Rights Lens on LGBTI Issues.” I learned a lot about the history, terminology, and stigma surrounding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community; however, what really resonated with me was Dr. Comfort’s story about Larry and his lens on the issue.
Because I’m an artist, people often ask me, “So you know lots of gay people?” and I do, but to me they have never been gay people. They are people — my friends — whom I have seen struggle with the idea of identity just like most of us do. But unlike most college identity crises, their identity has a “dirty,” “diseased,” “sinful” stigma attached to it that, in order for them to succeed, requires an amount of courage that I have never truly comprehended. Larry’s story helped me not only understand the courage involved in coming out but also my role, particularly as a dancer, in this issue.
Larry grew up fighting mental health problems that arose from the social stigma associated with his sexual and gender identity. After several suicide attempts and resulting counseling, Larry gained the courage to come out. His story involved inspiring strength, but as Dr. Comfort retold his journey, one quote in particular stood out. She quoted Larry saying, “Since I’ve been honest with myself, my eyes dance a lot more.” Maybe it’s because I’m a dancer, and any mention of the word “dance” echoes continuously in my mind, but just hearing the word in a human rights setting uncovered a new lens into my relationship with honesty and dance.
The dance studio has always been a place where I can be honest — a place to celebrate my own identity without fear of judgment. Even on my worst days, the movement’s truth is inescapable. This one quote helped me realize that I am so fortunate to be involved in a community where this honesty is celebrated. And although I cannot rid the world of the negative stigma associated with being gay, I can join in celebrating honesty. Because, as I saw through Larry’s dancing eyes, a celebration follows the courage to be honest. And what better way to celebrate than with dance?