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Meet the First Transgender Ballerina

Ballet Class

“Before transitioning into a woman I looked to other people like a typical bloke—I was into rally racing and shooting,” Sophie Rebecca recently told Metro UK.

But Sophie had always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she saw The Nutcracker when she was a little boy. Of course she was told that tutus were for girls, a typical widespread attitude that was addressed in the award-winning 2000 film, Billy Elliot.

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From North Yorkshire, UK, the former racing driver says her parents were wonderful and supportive but that she simply didn’t have the awareness or vocabulary at such a young age to express that she didn’t feel like a boy at all. And though her folks were loving, she was victimized at school and beaten up by kids who sensed something was different.

The dream to dance never went away, so in her teens Sophie began to dance as a man seeking men’s roles. When her teacher learned about her struggles with gender identity issues, she was dismissed from classes.

Thankfully, Sophie found another teacher later who provided her with a safe space and rigorous training. As she underwent transition, there were many challenges in dancing as estrogen treatment made her muscles weaker but left her with the 6’3″ height that was an obstacle to dancing as a female. She had to work extra hard to fly and appear lightweight and free. Her leotards and costumes must be specially made to fit her frame.

Sophie’s perseverance paid off and this year, as she was the first transgender woman in the UK to pass exams at the prestigious Royal Ballet Academy, thereby becoming the first transgender ballerina.

Sophie’s outlook is realistic, and she isn’t expecting to take the stage one day. It’s not about being trans, she says, but about being in her thirties. It’s enough to dance and be honored with the ultimate validation of her dreams. She hopes to inspire other transgender women to pursue their dreams and passions.

To critics who have suggested that Sophie became trans because of ballet, or loves ballet because she’s transgender, she says she would have been a dancer no matter what.

“If I’d been born a girl, I’d have been a ballerina. If I were happily a boy and not gender dysphoric, I’d be happy dancing male roles,” she told The Stage Magazine. “I don’t dance because I’m transgender, I dance because I’m a dancer.”

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