Compared to me at my peak, in junior high school, I am not homophobic. I wasn’t even that homophobic then, on the full scale of the trait, but “gay” was definitely a put-down and though I didn’t know that I knew any LGBTQ folks at the time, I had the sense that they were lower on the hierarchy of normalcy than I was.

I’ve come a long way. Last fall, for example, a young woman leaned her upper body out of the passenger window of a passing car to shout “fag!” at me, and I was merely amused. (Tilke told me later it was probably because I was wearing red pants. Heterosexuals are allowed to wear blue, black, khaki, and camouflage pants.) It’s impossible to measure, of course, but if you forced me to say, I’d guess I have about 1% of the homophobia I had then. I don’t mean to make that sound like that’s a big deal—it’s just growing up. One of the main things I think “growing up” means is coming to not feel threatened by things that aren’t threatening.

But getting rid of what co-counselors call ‘oppressor patterns’ like homophobia is kind of like learning to tune a guitar; the further you get, the harder it is to do. Tiny increments that used to be inaudible to me, now sound teeth-grindlingly out of tune. It’s like my mom always says, “Whatever you focus on expands.”

I’m thinking about this because I’ve started taking a ballet class—two, actually, four hours a week—and we started right out with a move that poked me right in the homophobia, a ballet leap called grande jete. It’s a beautiful motion, but I get a little uncomfortable watching men do it. And there’s something about doing it myself that makes me squirm. And being seen doing it e,specially by strangers, set my emotional alarms off. I haven’t been able to deconstruct it much, yet. My body just shouted “wrong!”

I’m looking forward to whatever insights come from this. My first guess is that it’s fear of ridicule. Whatever it is, facing it could really help my dancing. I’m from the punk rock generation. We’re not allowed to be passionately graceful. It has to look accidentally or clumsily graceful. That is holding me back.

Here’s some amazing leaping (though I don’t think any of these are grande jetes):

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