Growing up in Puerto Rico, I was expected to fit the macho mold – shaved armpits, bulging muscles, and most importantly don’t look or act too fem. Learning to fear, even hate, your feminine side, there is a lot of shame and self-loathing in that. Living life as a dancer, you move around from place to place and you need to rebuild your life and social environment every time. I became the party boy that relies on his body and his sexuality as a way of making connections, but those connections are illusions, and mostly made me feel empty inside.
Over the years, I’ve turned to substance abuse as a form of escape from that, but it’s a vicious cycle because you can’t escape 100% of the time, and the more you escape the harder it is to come back down to reality. Because in reality, you aren’t worthy of dating anyone with substance or finding self-love. The shame you’ve always felt comes creeping back. Reality is filled with trauma.
Before moving to Belgium, where I currently live, my dance career took me to Israel for 4 years. My dance director there was the first man to tell me that it’s OK, even encouraged, to connect with my feminine side. Life is full of surprises. Of all the people in the world, it was a straight man in the Middle East who taught me how to reconnect with my femininity, which for so many years I kept bottled up, hidden under layers of fake masculinity and aggression.
I am still trying to break free from my bad habits, which I realize are a cry for attention. I am still on the journey towards finding self-love, finding balance, and living a life that is healthy for me and for those around me. I’m grateful for dance, which has given me the opportunity to express what words cannot, and has helped me accept who I am, and overcome self-hate.