Most of you know by now that I am in the process of transitioning. I am in an interesting point in my life and career where I can basically reinvent myself. It is both frightening and exhilarating. I fear for what this will do for my belly dancing career (do I try to continue to dance while presenting female, which I’d rather not do, or go whole-hog male and risk alienating people? In between, which is where I’d rather be, is probably just too confusing for most of the general public).
But I cannot lie to myself or others just to preserve my career. I’ll build it from the ground up, once more, if I have to. Belly dance and my identity both mean that much to me.
The struggle to be at peace with my body has been a long, hard, and almost disastrous one.
I hated my boobs with a passion that is difficult to describe. They didn’t belong on my body. They were two large, non-cancerous tumors that caused me emotional and physical pain. I hated the way I looked in costumes, I hated how I always had to accommodate them in order find costumes that fit. Whenever I had costume issues, it was always the bra. So imagine my discomfort participating in an art-form that values big breasts.
This is in no way meant to shame people who have big breasts. They’re great. Just not on my body.
When I realized that Tribal Revolution was going to be where I would most likely perform for the first time after my top surgery, I knew I had to tell my story there.
My journey through my belly dance life and my transition are one in the same. One fed the other. And so I have fused those two stories together into one piece.
The piece I will be dancing at Tribal Revolution is not only a journey through all the belly dance forms I have learned and loved, but also the journey to love my own body. There was pain and heartbreak at the beginning. When I first started dancing, I hated my body and covered it up as much as possible. But with some inner work, I made, at best, a guarded peace with it and began to perform.
As much as I love traditional style dancing, it wasn’t the best fit for me (at least then; I’m looking forward to exploring it more now through a male lens). It was girly and flirty, which was fun sometimes, but entirely not who I am. It was difficult to fake. So I moved on to fusion (mostly). At first, I tried to fit into other dancer’s ideas of fusion. I learned all I could about other fusion dancers’ styles. But that wasn’t a fit either, though fusion caused less confusion and pain than the traditional styles.
ATS® has given me another home, with people I love to dance with. They’ve been so welcoming, even though this was when the struggle to be me has hit me hardest. With the highest highs come the lowest lows. Despairing, I kept dancing. It was the only thing I could do.
And now, my body has changed. My dancing has changed. I can finally be who I am meant to be, both male and female and neither, and all styles fused together as one. This has been a huge relief for me, freeing me from the chains that bound me to a body I didn’t want to inhabit.
I hope that you can come and see it live, and I hope you truly do enjoy it. This piece is deeply personal and means a lot to me.
I have debated myself long and hard whether to post anything about this. But I have made my decision, for good or ill.
Some of you may know that today is National Coming Out Day. I have made no secret that I am part of the LGBTQ+ community, but I have been quieter about what, exactly, that means. Due to the nature of belly dance, I have worried about my standing in the community, my reputation as a dancer, and my business. I realize that by doing this, I will alienate a large section of people. There will be some who believe I have no place in belly dance and there will be those who will not want to work with me any more.
But that’s okay, because I don’t need those sorts of people in my life. They do me no good, nor do they do anyone else any good, either. Bigotry has run unchecked for too long.
I am genderqueer. I am a trans person. Specifically, I am transmasculine*.
Many of you have big question marks over your heads, and I totally understand. It took me a LONG TIME to figure this out for myself. It means that I do not view myself as a woman. However, I do not view myself as a man. I am not a trans man. But I do feel that I am masculine. For about six months now, I have been taking testosterone treatments. They have changed my life. I am happier, calmer, and feel more like myself than I have since high school, when I dressed and acted more masculine than I do now.
What does this mean for belly dance? Hopefully, not a whole lot. I will still continue to teach and perform as Kamrah. That will not change. At the moment, I still present as female and will for a while. However, I do have future plans for surgery and that will affect my appearance. When that happens, I will definitely have a shift in how I present myself on stage. I will likely appear much more masculine on stage when that happens, and I will likely be introduced using masculine pronouns. I ask that people respect that decision. However, in day to day life, I prefer gender neutral pronouns, such as “they” and “them.” I realize some people will have apoplexy due to grammar rules, but hey, if it’s good for Shakespeare, it’s good for you. As Kamrah, for now, however, female pronouns are appropriate and fine with me.
This does not change me as a performer or a person. I am still the same person I have always been, except that now you know more about how I feel inside. I have always felt this way, but have had difficulty expressing it. If you want to know more about my journey, I have started a different blog, called Divergent Lifestyles, that talks a little bit about it.
I am willing to answer RESPECTFUL questions. If you need to know what that means, please check here before asking deeply personal questions. Due to the sensitivity of this, I am closing comments. If you want to say something to me, you can do it on Facebook or Twitter where I can see who you are (and report you if necessary…but let’s not get to that, okay?)
Thank you to all who have supported me. Some of you have known about this, and I appreciate your willingness to be there for me.
*Transmasculine: I do not mean the toxic definition of masculine that many people are familiar with. I mean that I feel my body should have more masculine features instead of the feminine features I was born with.
This has been a very emotional couple of days for me. We all know of the current problem that has come up around Tribal Fest®. If you need to catch up, you can read the official statement from the teachers and vendors who have decided to withdraw, and Tribal Fest’s® (Kajira’s) official response as well as Chuck’s apology.
While I was not specifically targeted (as far as I know all the dancers who were have been contacted; I have not been) this entire situation impacts me pretty personally, as well as professionally.
I have been a Tribal Fest® instructor as well as staff, performer, and attendee. I have encouraged my students, colleagues, and friends to go. While I had only been twice, I felt supported and welcomed by the amazing community there. I’ve made friends there, got to reunite with friends there, and got to take workshops with the biggest names in belly dance there. I have many fond memories there, as I felt welcomed and part of a family.
And so this situation has me horrified, disappointed, shocked, and sad. And now angry. My heart goes out to Kajira, who must now pick up the pieces after a horrible betrayal by someone who is supposed to be a woman’s biggest supporter: her spouse.
After the release of the initial statement from the teachers, I gathered some information that led me to decide to no longer support Tribal Fest®. This came about after many agonizing hours. To be clear: the names on this list are some of the biggest names in belly dance. They did not come to this decision lightly. This has been going on for some time, not just the three days that it has been public. You can be certain that lawyers were called and that much deliberation went into this decision. For many of the instructors and vendors, Tribal Fest® was their biggest week. They would not lightly put their entire livelihood and reputation at risk for rumors, for something that wasn’t as serious as this has turned out to be. I have not seen actual screenshots but I have read descriptions of the posts and they are about as disgusting as you can imagine.
This was a betrayal, pure and simple. A person in power used that power to demean, degrade, and dehumanize both men and women in the community. While I have not seen the actual postings, there are claims of not only misogyny, but also homophobia and transphobia.
I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and I cannot stand for that.
I have to say that I am disappointed in the official response to this situation. There are many questions left and, now coming to light, “inaccuracies.” Chuck’s apology leaves much to be desired. In addition, his response to comments on his post has shown that he is not yet ready for forgiveness or amends, however sincere his apology may seem. Right now, he is angry and sorry he got caught. I hope, for his sake and for the community’s sake, that he grows and truly becomes sorry for what he did. We must remember that we cannot force people to change. People must be willing to change for it to happen.
It is unfair that Kajira must now suffer for the actions of her husband. This is a tough lesson. We are all connected, and everything we say and do affects those around us, whether we are aware of it or not. Chuck and Kajira are learning this the hard way, and I do feel sorry for them both.
Yet I have decided that I still cannot support Tribal Fest®. I will not be at TF16. It is too soon. I have not been asked to teach this year (though I had applied), and I do not know what the future holds since so many other teachers have pulled out. But if I am approached to teach, I will have to decline.
We must keep one thing in mind over the next few days and weeks: a thing is not a person. A thing cannot be a victim. An event cannot be a victim. There are real victims, victims of a form of violence, that are suffering right now. The (possible) closure of an event, no matter how beloved, pales in comparison to what the victims are going through. I support the victims of this terrible situation and stand by them.
I have the utmost respect for Kajira and the enormous amount of work she has put into the festival, as well as all the teachers, vendors, and students who have chosen to continue to support her and Tribal Fest®. This should not be an “us vs. them” situation. People make business and conscience decisions every day, and we must respect each person’s decision, even if we disagree with them.
It is my sincere and fervent hope that Tribal Fest® will someday return to its glory days. But that will not – and should not – happen while Chuck is still involved in any way, directly or indirectly. We must take a stand against violent, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic speech. We must send a clear message that this is Not Okay in our community and will not be tolerated at all, even if tears down the party and ruins everyone’s fun. It is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is necessary.
Will I ever return to Tribal Fest®? I hope so. But not until much healing and many amends have been made. Will Tribal Fest® survive? I hope so, though it will never be the same. That might be for the best.
Love to all who have been hurt by this, and I hope that healing begins soon for everyone. I wish Kajira the best.
Edit: Abusive comments will be deleted.
You may have noticed that there was no Weekly Challenge this week. It’s because I’ve lost my mind due to Tribal Fest. I’ve been panicking over music, over practice, and getting all the details down (where I’m staying, how I’m getting there, etc.) I’m almost overwhelmed!
I’m looking forward to it, but I’m so, so busy!
That means, there won’t be a Weekly Challenge this week, and not next week, either. My flight comes back home late Monday, so I likely won’t have the time (or energy) to write a blog post.
In the mean time, please check out the Weekly Challenge tag and see if there are any you want to try out for this week and next! There are PLENTY to chose from, so pick a subject (hey, time to work on shimmies?) and make a search!
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Happy dancing! And see you at Tribal Fest 14!
Big news (big, big news!…sorry inside joke)!
I’m moving to Chicago! Yep, that’s right, I’m leaving the desert to go North, back to the cold. And yes, I am aware it’s cold up there, in case anyone else is likely to inform me. In fact, right now, as I compose this, I am sitting in the airport, waiting to fly up to Chicago in order to look for apartments.
So, things will be weird for a little bit. The weekly challenges aren’t likely to happen this month (considering that I’ve already missed one of them!) but I might surprise you. I’m going to have lots of time in airports this month, so maybe I’ll come up with a few things.
If you are interested in taking classes with me and live in the Chicago area, keep an eye on my website for more news about when those will start. It won’t be right away (especially with the holidays coming up), but I’m aiming for as soon as possible. Got any New Year’s resolutions? Consider fulfilling your dance/exercise/get in shape resolutions with me!
This is a huge change for me! And I have other Secret Projects in the works, too, including a new workshop, so you’ll want to keep up with the news here and on my website.
Okay, so National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has nothing to do with belly dance. But, it means that I’m spending more time than usual writing and sitting in front of a computer. So, that means I’m going to take a bit of a break from blogging for this month. No Weekly Challenges for November! But don’t worry, I’ll still post occasionally this month.
Keep up with your own challenges. And hey…if you have any really cool ideas, you can comment and let me know!
And keep in touch! Comment below, check out my Facebook page, my Twitter, and now my new mailing list. Email subscribers get cool things every other month when the newsletter comes out, so you’ll want to sign up now!
As you may or may not know, soon…VERY SOON…I’ll be heading to Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive. If you haven’t gone, you should! But this one is going to be a milestone for me. Not only is it the 10th year for the Intensive itself, but it will be my fourth year going! AND I’ll be entering the So You Think You Can Bellydance competition. Scared! But I think it will be fun, and it will be educational, and that’s pretty much how I view competitions.
It also means that I won’t be keeping up with my blogging as much (I’ll be driving back on Monday the 10th, so no challenge that week!). BUT, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on my experiences! I will be posting stuff on my Tumblr, my Facebook personal page or my Facebook page, or through Twitter. So choose your favorite social media site and follow or “like” or friend me, and get updates (when I remember…it’s a busy weekend!) straight from the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive!