My Son, The Dancer

“Hi, I’d like to see if there is availability in the Saturday morning ballet/tap combo class,” I said to the girl at the front desk of our local South Orange County youth gym.  It’s a converted warehouse where a child can learn to play soccer, swim, cheerlead, take gymnastics, learn aerial arts on silks, practice parkour, attend preschool, have a birthday party and do just about anything else that will keep business booming for the owners and cater to the OC uber-moms who pilot the blacked-out Escalades parked out front.

“How old is your daughter?” the front-desk girl asked while scanning her computer screen. 

“I don’t have a daughter,” I said and stared at her.  It took her a while to realize that I had a boy who wanted to dance. 

“Oh, I’m so sorry, we don’t have a tap/ballet combo class for boys,” she replied sympathetically, sticking her bottom lip out and tilting her head to the side. 

It’s the story of my life.

“Okay.  Well.  Is there room in your Saturday class?” I asked. 

“Yeah, does he want to be in there with girls?”

“He’d love nothing more,” I said.   

There was, in fact, room for C.J. in the class.  He was going to die.

C.J. has been in gymnastics for about a year and had been wanting to add the ballet/tap class to his schedule for months and months.  But, since swim lessons would save his life, they took priority in the summer.  Soccer season dominated the fall, although C.J. did not dominate soccer.   All the stars aligned when C.J. had a break in his schedule and two special Fairy Gay Fathers (whose initials are, oddly enough, C and J) asked if there was something they could do for C.J. and our family.  Why, yes, there was something they could do; they could pay for a few months of C.J.’s dance class so we could try it out and see if he liked it as much as he thought he would. 

We headed to Payless Shoes to buy some tap shoes.  C.J. could not control himself.  When he saw those shiny, patent leather shoes that made loud noise, with huge black bows on top he was nearly embarrassed by his own excitement.  He held them and rubbed them for a long while before he even thought of putting them on his feet.

“Those are girls’ tap shoes, the boys tap shoes look like this,” the Payless Shoe salesgirl with crunchy mousse hair said bending over, exposing her crack and showing us what boy tap shoes look like.  The boys’ shoes were not shiny.  They were dull black with boring lace ups, no Mary Jane-like cutouts on top.   

“I want the girl ones,” C.J. said to me quickly with a look of concern.

“I know you do,” I said ignoring Payless girl’s reaction.  When it comes to shoes we know what we like.  We had this handled, thank you very much. 

On Saturday, I awoke to a noise I was not familiar with.  It wasn’t the house alarm.  It wasn’t a video game.  It wasn’t an alarm clock.  Not my phone.  I threw on my robe and stumbled down the stairs, trying to pry my dry eyes open and brushing my bed head out of my face.  The noise got louder.  It wasn’t even 7 a.m.

“Mommy!  Good morning!  Guess what today is?!  My dance class starts today!” C.J. said as he danced he tapped his shoes on our kitchen tile, giving Gregory Hines a run for his money.  I made coffee and wondered how I was going to make two hours fly by. 

Finally, it was time to get dressed.  I had been dreading this. 

“Where’s my dance outfit?” C.J. asked, as if I had been working on a sequined, lycra, organdy number in my free time. 

“You can just wear workout shorts and a t-shirt,” I said.

“No I can’t!  I need a tutu!”   

Of course he did.

The final ensemble was: the tights from his Frankie Stein Halloween costume that are green with fake scars and stitches on them, blue Nike athletic shorts, a purple tutu from his dress up drawer, his purple Handsome In Pink t-shirt and black socks with skeletons on them.  He looked in the mirror and thought he looked perfect, like the dancer that lived in his soul. 

Walking through the parking lot, through the gym and up to the second-floor dance studio, it was obvious that not everyone thought C.J. looked as perfect as he thought. 

We met his teacher.

I introduced her to C.J. and let her know that we needed to borrow ballet shoes.  She showed us to the lost and found.

“I get to wear those?!” C.J. said smiling. 


“ALL OF THEM?!” he squealed looking at the tub of about 100 pink lost and found ballet shoes. 

“No, silly, just two, you only have two feet.”

“Ahhhh, maaaaaaaaannnnnnnn.”  If only he were a centipede. 

I returned C.J. to Miss. Milk-N-Honey’s class and walked him just inside the door.  A little girl pointed.

“A boy in ballet shoes!” she laughed and pointed for the other girls to see.  The little ballerinas giggled. 

C.J. self-consciously found a place on the mat and got ready to stretch.  I explained to Miss. Milk-N-Honey that C.J. is gender nonconforming and she smiled like she knew what it meant.  I think the tutu pretty much tipped her off to the fact that C.J. isn’t your average boy.

C.J.’s therapist wants us to work on owning his gender nonconformity and to not be hesitant when there is the need to tell someone new.  She doesn’t think we need to go around telling everybody or flaunting it, but when it feels like an appropriate thing to do, we should do it without pause, like we are just stating the facts, there is room for a discussion if the person wants to be educated, but there isn’t room for negative judgment.  I think we are getting good at it.  It is what it is.  I’m not labeling him for life; I’m giving a name to what he is right now. 

I walked to the area where the parents sit and watch their tiny dancers.  I looked at the sets of eyes staring at me as I found a seat.  They were watching the new mom who just brought her son to an all-girls dance class, which has never seen a boy before.  And, he was wearing a tutu and pink ballet shoes.

To be continued…..

About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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415 Responses to My Son, The Dancer

  1. Samuel says:

    That reminded me of the time when my son Sam was 4 years old. He told me that he wanted to do ballet I said he could signed him up to the local ballet class then when it came to the outfit I let him wear a plain pink girls top, pink tutu and the pinkest pair of girls ballet shoes you have ever seen. I let him wear them because I let him wear girl clothes and I never told what’s for girls or what’s for boys so as long as it’s appropriate I get it for him even dresses

  2. Marianne McLaughlin says:

    I came across this while looking for tap shoes for my son. Has this story been continued yet and why don’t they have shiny boy’s tap shoes????

  3. Shala says:

    I am smiling so wide reading your blog post. I love it! My son taps around the house and I too am looking to put him in tap dance classes. Some say it’s for girls but I say that he is beyond fascinated with the movement and sound. I don’t believe that people should say what’s for boy or girl.

  4. CCSS says:

    What I don’t understand about people is those women who judge your son are probably the same ones who enjoy going to the ballet and I’ve never seen a good ballet with no men in it. They also probably have a list of favorite designers on HGTV many of whom are men a
    My son is broad and strong. He love Cheifs football. He’ll tackle his dad without notice. He is constantly running and jumping. People always comment how he is all boy (whatever that means). He also loves to dance around the living room with his sisters. When his twin sister insisted on starting dance class I didn’t even hesitate, and asked “Mikey would you like to take dance class with your sister?” “Yes! Yes! Yes!” When we went in the studio to inquire I asked if the class was coed “Well sure, I mean there aren’t any boys in the class but I there could be” the lady said. My little girl took over from there, “There have to be boys in ballet because someone has to lift the ballerinas and my twinner wants to dance with me.”

    We also have a 5 year old daughter who frequently chooses to buy boy shoes (though I’ve yet to figure out exactly what about them makes the boy shoes).

    I do believe in gender roles and conservative values but in our house we completely reject the idea that dolls, dance, pink, princess movies, cooking, ect are just for girls or that contact sports, extreme sports, blue sneakers, superheros, monsters, tools, trucks, ect are just for boys.

    And we really live that way I am a stay at home mom but I’m also a Military Vet and most of the tools in the garage are mine and my husband does most of the cooking and irons his own clothes.

    Hey at least we know that since there are so few male ballerinas are sons maybe in hot demand if they ever reach a professional level.

  5. MJ says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article! My son has danced since he was 3 years old, ballet & tap to start. He is now 11 and is part of a competition dance team! It was the only sport he ever showed any interest in, but it took years before my husband and his family would accept his decision to dance or my willingness to support him. We had many classes where the other dancers and moms would make comments and laugh (interestingly, many of the fathers of other dancers supported my sons dancing). I’m very grateful that my son is a dancer- because it has made him independent, artistic, and strong (both physically & emotionally) but also it has taught him how to interact with all types of individuals- even if they do not support your decisions and are unwilling to listen to your perspective!

  6. Jill Merkley says:

    I came across you article when I was looking for where I could buy my son his first ballet slippers and first tap shoes, and very happy I did!
    I am a Competitive Ballet teacher at a wonderful studio. I have yet to have a boy in my class and wish I did.
    My dancers are very open and welcome all new students.
    I taught my classes while I was pregnant with my son, and he is now 28 months and all he wasn’t to do is dance. My dancers say it must be because he was in ballet class since he was conceived 🙂 I almost believe them when I sit back and watch him dance with the older girls. He is built like a male ballet dance and has his mother’s straight legs, amazing turnout, and beautifully pointed toes (non sickled) that make all my senior girls so envious (in a positive way). However, I have all the support from the studio, I just don’t have the support I would like to have from my husband, his family or mine. If my grandmother was still with us she would support the idea 100% 🙂

    I want to applaud you for letting your little boy do what he likes to do…dance! Costume and all! You are an amazing woman and the world should be filled with more people like you!
    “People are always afraid of what they don’t know or understand”
    I am proud and honored to have come across your article and have the chance to correspond with such a strong woman!
    If you son was ever in my class he would be welcomed with open arms, tutu and all!

    Thank you for sharing you courage and your ongoing adventures.


  7. Ren says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! I have a boy just turned 5 and I so want to love and support him through his own choices. I panicked at the shoe store last year when he wanted sparkly pink Dora runners for his first day of school. I am ashamed to say we left the store without said shoes. I’m so afraid he’ll be picked on. He’s so sensitive to the things other kids do/say. Starts dance this fall though! I have to shop for tap shoes and stumbled across your post while googling “boy tap shoes”.

  8. Hi there, I loved reading this and it just highlights the issues that young men and boy dancers experience throughout their training. We are very supportive of make dancers and s much so have just opened the UK’s first Boys Only Ballet School ( Would you be willing to link our website as we would so much appreciate your support. Thank you for reading! James

  9. Pingback: Gender Nonconforming | The Mommy Shoppe

  10. Sharlene says:

    I am so glad I found this. My son took beginner ballet in daycare and will begin tap/jazz this Saturday. He loves dance. He alsois loves videogames and baseball. Do you have a facebook group?

  11. Hodelia says:

    My son is 3 and is starting ballet/tap! I’m having a hard time finding shoes that will fit over his braces though… (He uses a wheelchair/walker with AFOs)

  12. Pingback: My Son, The Dancer – Part II | Raising My Rainbow

  13. Shannon says:

    I am so happy to have found this story. My son Cyler (CJ) started predance himself about 2 weeks ago. WTG!

  14. deb says:

    Reblogged this on walkingphilly and commented:
    One of the most moving accounts, I’ve ever read… and an awesome family (and therapist too!) I can’t wait to read more! CJ clearly has a lot more growing up to do and, like most of us as we do that, will probably find many new interests and means of expression. But, it’s hard to imagine anything but an exceptional, open, loving, compassionate adult emerging. My hope is that those around him embrace and enjoy CJ’s differences and learn from them. We can all learn so much from mom, CJ, the therapist…everyone.

  15. deb says:

    This is so amazing, and CJ is one very strong and outstanding little person…and is very lucky to have such awesome support! So looking forward to reading more….

  16. Brady says:

    This is just all manner of awesome; people like you restore my faith in humanity

  17. baby burp says:

    Wow, I’m really touched…this is amazing. CJ is amazing. Better than Billy Elliott!

  18. Kyla says:

    Love this….can’t wait for the update!

  19. Pingback: So many thoughts! | Sweet the Sound

  20. Rai says:

    Oh my god, I don’t even know your boy and I am proud of him! And you are AMAZING for sticking up for him and encouraging him to be who he is! He sounds like a wonderful kid. I hope he loves the class, I’m sure the class will love him!

  21. sweetmother says:

    um, you are AMAZE-BALLS. please, keep fighting the good fight. the world will thank you for your son, one day. truly great writing as well. thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed.

  22. I think what you’re doing is awesome! So awesome, I reposted your blog in my Cadance blog post Yay For Open Minds. I can’t wait to hear more adventures in raising your rainbow.

  23. I don’t have children, nor do I really intend to–but if I did, I hope I would be a loving supportive mother like you. This makes my heart happy.

  24. Pingback: Rainbows or Race Cars? | i like funny i like honey

  25. rooksgolla says:

    Reblogged this on i like funny i like honey and commented:
    I really applaud these parents for loving their 5 year old for who he really is, whatever that may be…what a lucky little guy and what lucky parents!
    Since I’m a mom now, I think about my son’s future CONSTANTLY. I wonder if Max will be a dancer like mama and dada, I wonder if he’ll be…rich, smart, gay, successful, HAPPY, healthy, etc. Sometimes when we’re at my parents house he’ll point to my old barbie…my mom will say, “I think he wants that truck”….and I’ll say, “No, I think he wants the barbie” and I give it to him. I want Max to be who he IS and for those who help raise him not MOLD him into something he is not. I want to encourage him to GRAB ONTO WHAT MAKES HIM HAPPY. After all, what’s the most important thing you can wish upon your children? HAPPINESS AND HEALTH.

    I pretend to be annoyed, well sometimes it is annoying…hhahah, when my dad and Max play CHEERLEADER. Yes there are these pompom type things at their house and their favorite game is, “give me an M!!! give me an A!!!! give me an X”. I’m glad that my dad isn’t thinking about, “Oh, this is too girly”. Do whatever’s fun for crying out loud. If Max wants to take ballet like C.J here in this blog, so be it. Straight boys cheer (aka NICK…well he didn’t use poms like Max..hahaha), straight boys dance ballet, straight boys can play with barbies…and so do gay boys. Whether Max wants to be a basketball player, dancer, or accountant…WE WILL ENCOURAGE AND LOVE HIM NO MATTER WHAT. Easier said than done I know. Especially when that day comes when he asks, “hey ma, I wanna play football”…which I hope he doesn’t want to, CUZ OUCHHHH…or “Mom, I wanna join the math club”…SAY WHAAAAT….are you sure you don’t want to take Breakin for beginners??!?!?! Hehehe.
    And when we have a girl someday (hopefully…maybe…)…she can wear all the blue or all the pink or all the green she wants. Just as long as it compliments her skin tone. Duh.

  26. N. Congo says:

    I think it’s great that CJ has a mother like you. I remember I had to take my brothers and sisters to their dance classes. I can remember their teacher saying over and over again “Brush, brush, tap…brush, brush, tap. It’s stuck in my head.

  27. As a mom, I love your approach and attitude. And let’s face it, even when your child is “typical”, you still get heat from other parents so who cares? As a mom of a daughter who loves to dance and a boy who loves cars and sports…..(and as much as I would want my daughter to play sports and my son to take a dance class (and have tried)), I can’t change what they like. It is what it is and I’m glad to see that a mom of a child with non-traditional gender interests is in-tuned with that and loves & supports the same.

  28. shalora says:

    This entry happened to be one of the ones on the page when I logged in, and the title caught my eye. By the age of 2, I was convinced that I needed to dance – but I’m a girl, so it was “okay”. All I can say is that I LOVE that you’re letting your son be himself, even though it doesn’t match what our crazy society says is “okay” for his gender, and probably makes you uncomfortable at times (being stared at by the other parents and such).

    If they don’t like having him in their daughters’ dance class, they can go suck an egg. Boys are a massively valuable commodity in dance, and they’ll figure that out as they get older (provided he still loves it).

    He’s a lucky guy, to have such parents.

  29. Reblogged this on Sudden Simplicity and commented:
    I stumbled on this and loved it so much, I wanted to keep track of this wonderful woman and her incredible son.

  30. Who says we have to conform to what others think we should be? I’m glad there is another person being taught to live his life the way he feels it should be lived. Yeah, C.J.!!!

  31. tinkerfly22 says:

    Most parents who have a child who is different, odd, or swims against the stream are mortified. The attempts at therapy are to squash the different out of them, to encourage conformity. Your story has lifted my spirit. To know that there are people like you doing what all parents SHOULD do anyway, is encouraging. All parents should enourage that uniqueness because that is what makes that child an individual. It’s what makes that child special. If my sons wanted to go to dance and have a tutu, by golly, they’d have it. Thank you for your story. I will be checking back the fabulous continuation! 🙂

  32. rayandskye says:

    Wow! I seriously love your son! You’re an awesome mom!

  33. Dragonflyboy says:

    Reblogged this on nealstotts.

  34. DevoxNZ says:

    Great post! Your son is very lucky to have such a great mum.
    Hope to read the rest soon.

  35. still4frame says:

    I absolutely love this. What a wonderful story. I love that you and your husband accept CJ for who he is. Our world is rife with so much prejudice and gender conformity and expectation… it’s so incredibly refreshing to see that not everyone is like that and that we are so much more than the boxes we (and others) place ourselves in.

    I hope CJ loves his class!!

  36. Awwwww maaaaaaaannnnnn! What happened next? How did it go? I’m hanging on the seat of my pants to hear about how he stole the show and melted everyone’s icy hearts!

  37. Been thinking about your raising my rainbow story so much. Of course, I immediately thought of Billy Elliot and all those wonderful old dance movies. One of my favorites as a kid was West Side Story. I went leaping and snapping my fingers all over the house.
    Anyway, as your rainbow story stays in my thoughts, I randomly came across this post re: dancer David Hallbrook,
    He shares his feelings about not fitting into the norm as a child and becoming a world class dancer.
    Of course, who knows, your little rainbow of many colors could grow to be a dancer, a fashion designer, an art director, or whatever color of the rainbow suits his fancy. Enjoy the dance!!!!!

  38. fiercegreen says:

    reading this made me feel so happy and heart-full. we need to celebrate and support our children in all their beauty and fabulousness. this world needs more kids like CJ and moms like you.

  39. rtcrita says:

    This was the greatest post I have read in a while. So wonderfully written.

    What I get out of it is that you are the kind of mother that every child should have and that every adult who wasn’t so lucky, wished that they had when they were growing up. You are doing what ever parent is supposed to do — love your child unconditionally. Is their really any other way to truly “love?”

  40. The best thing about this is that you’ve effectively ended your genetic line. The future thanks you for voluntarily removing your retarded genetics.

  41. I LOVED reading this. As a teacher, I always encourage my students to be as ‘out there’ as they like and just say ‘how fabulous!’ Your son sounds fabulous. And as someone who did ballet for over 20 years and never once had a boy in our class, we would have loved it! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed – so looking forward to the next one. 🙂

  42. adoler says:

    Love love love! You are the parent every child deserves.

  43. Wow, I cannot believe the school did not have a combo class for males! I remember my mother telling me “I knew that when we brought you and your brother to Toys R Us and you went to the Barbie section and he ran to the GI Joe section, that there was nothing wrong with you two”.
    You are a great parent.

  44. LISA says:

    You are a brilliant mom and the world can only be a brighter place with your son in it!

  45. Blic says:

    I love this, great post!

  46. MaiBao says:

    AAAAHHH! I love this! You’re the best parent ever!

    I hate it when parents tell their children they can or can’t do something because of their gender. I have two little girls and I am trying my best to educate them that they don’t need to conform to society’s gender stereotypes or expectations. It’s very hard when I have to “unteach” what others have taught them about gender.

    I can’t wait to hear more!

  47. summitg18 says:

    Reblogged this on Lemonade Smiles.

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