I was a male ballet dancer
As you’re reading the title of this article, I wonder what pictures, stereotypes and thoughts come to mind? Although not the most helpful or accurate medium for gauging the sum of a person, in my case the word ‘stereotype’ is probably an accurate description of that part of my life. Before wearing tights, throwing girls around and dancing to classical music for a living, I attended a ballet college for three years and, before that, a performing arts high school. It was during the latter when I first realised I wasn’t straight, and the former where I came to faith. But let me start at the beginning.
Dancing was my life
Growing up, Christianity was not a completely alien concept. My family attended a Catholic church every Sunday morning, so I too attended a Catholic church every Sunday morning. However, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the first thing about God, Jesus, the catechism or anything of the sort. The church was as irrelevant to my life as football is to a goldfish. I had no faith and no interest in faith. I was an aspiring dancer, and that was most of my life. Growing up dancing meant I was constantly told, “you’re gay” and other less tasteful descriptors by school friends and occasionally family members. That paired with various degrees of trauma in the early years of my life and the years to come, alongside my chemical, biological and psychological makeup, made for what we could say was an interesting time growing up and learning about the world and myself. If Paul became all things to all people, I became all gay stereotypes for the sake of all people. In my quest to discover myself, and as I matured as a human being, I found my own way of expressing my sexuality through a experimentation and a bunch of relationships with members of both biological sexes, and that continued until ballet college, where my life took a turn that I would never have expected, towards Jesus.
It was in November of my first year of ballet college and I was surrounded by people just like me, as in my close circle of friends were all gay. I was often out with them at the clubs in Soho on all kinds of dating apps, and unbeknown to them or anyone else I suddenly found myself at a church on a Sunday evening, after being invited by some family friends to a youth group which happened after the service. My social anxiety was at a high. I was sitting next to great people, but people I didn’t know all too well, unsure of what would happen. In God’s providence, it turned out that I’d come to the first of a few Sunday evening talks about various cultural issues, and of course, as you could imagine, I sat in this service, living life as an openly bisexual guy, listening to a talk about homosexuality.
Starting to listen to God
After all the years of going to church, I realised two things as I sat there waiting to be smitten or outed and asked to leave the premises. Firstly, I had never been taught what the Bible said about this topic at church. Secondly, I had never heard about the Jesus I was confronted with. However, the evening didn’t just have a talk. It had a Q&A time for the members to ask the elders particular questions relating to the topic. The questions irritated me and I was confused, annoyed and angry. I also fundamentally disagreed with the worldview presented to me, and I didn’t engage honestly at the youth group afterwards. However, I knew just enough about Jesus to understand that people who follow Him are meant to love and care for others, and what I could not deny was that behind the talk and every question were hearts yearning to love people better. The assistant pastor took my number and extended a warm welcome to come back the following week. Everyone seemed pretty friendly, and I ended up coming back the week after, but the topic was on abortion. Being offended by their biblical response to that topic, I didn’t go back to that church for a while.
It was in those months that God started to work in my heart. I’d experienced nothing negative relating to the church personally. However, people close to me and particularly in my friendship group at college had experienced rejection from family and friends because of their sexual orientation, based on religion. When I told them I had gone to church, they warned me. They voiced concerns I hadn’t found a way to express: “God hates gay people. Christians hate gay people. The Bible is against gay people.”
It may just be my stubbornness and inquisitorial nature, but my first experience with Christians hadn’t been all that bad, albeit they did not know who I was. But I’d also heard about Jesus in a way I’d never heard before, a Jesus who wasn’t just a fable with the goal of making me a better person, but Jesus who was God among us (Col 2:9), a Jesus who was perfect and loving and holy (Hebrews 4:14-16), who through the cross offers forgiveness to all, and who calls all to repentance (John 3:16-17).
Now I had no idea what any of that meant, or how that applied to my life, so I started digging deeper. Finally, I had somewhat of a revelation in my attitude to the claims of Christianity. I knew I had my biases, but I wanted to be as objective as possible, so I promised myself not to look at Christianity through the lens of my sexuality. I started watching debates online about the existence of God, consumed a plethora of Christian articles, and ended up coming back to church and youth group months later . I raided my assistant pastor’s bookshelf and started meeting him for a 1-2-1’s, going through the Gospel of Luke. These times included discipleship and friendship, which God has used in my life repeatedly, and for which I am so grateful. My assistant pastor’s loving, committed discipling, a book by John Stott and the love I felt within the church, helped erode my preconceived views of Christians being homophobic and bigoted. Alongside reading the Bible and God’s work in me, I came to faith.
However I realised fairly quickly that being a Christian in the ballet world would not be popular or easy. Now, professing faith and living it out are two different things. I had thought little about how my sexuality was to factor into this new way of life until I found myself in a relationship with a guy a few months later at the same time as reading through the book of Romans in my 1-2-1, thinking “What am I to do?”
God gently changed me
As the assistant pastor and I studied the passage, I became increasingly aware of what it might mean to deny myself and follow Christ in a way which I had buried in the recesses of my brain. However, I wanted to know his opinions because I wanted to know if Christians really believed that the Bible was the final authority on this issue. I wanted to share my particular struggles with this, as I hadn’t before. Mostly, I was expecting the worst, expecting to receive ridicule or condemnation. After all, my friends had warned me that if people at church found out, they’d surely kick me out. But I am happy to say that wasn’t my experience. They helpfully took me through scriptures like Romans 5:8 and 8:1. They guided me toward great resources written by Christians who could understand same-sex attraction being something that they too were fighting in their lives.
Coming to terms with what God had to say on this whole matter did not happen overnight, and I can see how I used my uncertainty or stubbornness regarding this issue to compromise my faith, mostly behind closed doors. If sexuality isn’t something that’s talked about much in churches aside from lazy illustrations or in fighting the culture, it is the same with ballet and Christianity. It is not something people want to discuss, but I truly believe that God will use the few Christians in that sphere for His glory.
Since taking early retirement from the performing arts world, I started working for my church where God has blessed me with wise, godly people to chat to, pray with, and have accountability alongside. It has been a few years, a lot of mistakes and many doubts since I first started to reconcile my sexuality and faith, and becoming a sinner saved by grace. I know that even though I don’t have all the answers now, even though I will continue to mess up, Jesus paid it all, forgiveness is available, and the Spirit is at work with His sanctifying power. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
This article was originally published in the spring 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the spring 2022 edition of Ascend