Q&A with Ashley Yergens, founder @TransBoysDanceToo & personal trainer
Ashley R.T. Yergens AKA @transboysdancetoo; queer trans NYC-based personal trainer (he / him / his)
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CC: How did you get started in dance?
AY: My mom put me in a tap/jazz/ballet combination class when I was 5 [years old] and I hated it. I couldn’t stand the dim, fluorescent lights, or the required leotard that suction-cupped to my body. I was much more interested in being semi-nude launching myself off of ladders or twirling in the dirt to Queen’s greatest hits.
CC: How and when are you dancing now?
AY: I’m currently an artist-in-residence at New York Live Arts. Additionally, I go-go dance in queer nightlife spaces.
CC: What inspires you as a dancer today?
AY: I’m inspired by private moments made public, unexpected choreography transitions, queer anti-urbanism, and remix culture.
CC: In regard to being trans, how has dance been a part of your journey? Did your gender identity affect how you’ve danced, or did dance play a role in developing your sense of self?
AY: To the inexperienced eye, or the eye that’s unwilling to understand trans bodies, my body’s duality can read as a lack of training or unsettled energy.
A lot of critics and dancers don’t understand this phenomenon because they haven’t undergone gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapy at the age of 23 after years of trying to pass as something they’re not.
On this note, I don’t always want or need my trans body to be the center of my work, but I’m often expected to center it in order for my work to be relevant to current conversations on trans identities.
I attribute this expectation to popular media. I think trans visibility in the media creates an expectation for all trans people to not only want and need to be visible, but to be immediately prepared to deal with the navigation of visibility in our work, — even when we’re not ready or forever uninterested in being consumed by just any old passerby.
CC: How did #TransBoysDanceToo come about?
AY: It’s a play on the popular hashtag #BoysDanceToo that caters to cis boys.
I think of my take as a reminder to the dance community that we’re out here dancing our *sses off too, and I think it’s a reminder that trans visibility shouldn’t just center trans people who show up on film or in media campaigns.
CC: What has the reception to it been?
AY: Surprisingly, I’ve received a lot of reactionary responses from both cis and trans people like “But, who said trans people can’t dance?”
No one is mouthing trans men can’t dance, but take a look at who’s dancing in our ballet companies, musicals, and music videos, and who do you see? I still have yet to see me.
CC: What advice would you give trans and gender non-conforming folks who are at the beginning of their transition?
AY: 1. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. 2. Remember you’re not the first person to transition. 3. “The trans community” is a bit of a misnomer. There isn’t just one unified community. So many different types of people identify with “trans” in different ways all around the world. Find your people. It’s okay if your take on trans community is intimate and involves only one or two people, online, or in-person.
CC: What is your no. 1 self-care tip?
AY: I used to confuse self-care with indulgence.
When life dealt me not just lemons but all of the citrus fruits, I would leave the problem untreated, and I would indulge in behaviors and products ($$$) that temporarily felt good.
Consumer-based self-care ultimately harmed my health, and stunted my spiritual growth. It was often used to deflect responsibility and mask discomfort in situations where I should have been feeling uncomfortable.
I’m further realizing self-care doesn’t have to mean a free-for-all. It can mean boundaries. It can mean sticking to a boring meal plan, saying no to alcoholic drinks, not letting myself oversleep, or evaluating my past sh*tty actions for opportunities to grow, and it doesn’t have to mean this for anyone else. 🍒