Even if it makes others uncomfortable....

I will love who I am

I lived each day in fear of my gender role as a male and was haunted by the fact that I couldn't own up to the ideology of a man presented to me and was scared to be around or associate with men. Because of this, all my close friends were female. I always hung out with my sisters' girlfriends and being alone with a man or group of men freaked me out, in fear that I would be singled out as too feminine. In fact, my favorite pastime, bedsides dance of course, was putting on pageants with my sisters' Barbie dolls, dressing them up, doing mock Q & A and pretend talent shows with them. I was safe with girls; I fit in. I was petrified to play sports with the guys because again, I was teased that I ran like a girl. Mind you, I loved physical activity. Remember, I was the kid hopping and moving all over the living room dancing up a sweat. I enjoyed playing sports; running, volleyball, tennis, football, basketball, tether-ball. I wanted to be active but faced with a dilemma. I was comfortable with girls but girls didn't play sports and if they did, they were separated into male and female teams so if I wanted to play I would have to be in a male team but I didn't have the credentials to fit into the tough, chest-bumping, testosterone filled organization that was classified as male. I ended up developing a disdain for sports.

This is a serious issue especially for those who don't fit the classic gender molds. As a community, I feel we should embrace all personalities and diversities of people and allow ones to exercise their right as individuals to do the activities they are interested in without being stigmatized because of their gender.

And now heels...

I love heels! Yes, I have fantasized about them as a kid and teenager and have somewhat idolized the feminine portrayal of the high heel as sexy and strong. From the larger-than-life, sassy, pop-music "girl power" directive of the Spice Girls with their high platformed shoes that made you feel like you could stomp anything in your way, to the seductive cabaret sets of Eartha Kitt, that with such presence of her alluring eyes, voice of enticement and hypnotic body language, you could control anyone, I wanted to walk the streets unabashed. My school's hallways would become the catwalk and I could strut my uniqueness unapologetically with the power and confidence of a Stallion yet with the grace and ease of a Paso Fino, aka Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. This daydream became very real a couple days ago as I walked the streets of NYC with my new black, patent-leather, 5 inch stiletto lace-up ankle boot for the first time (view on next page). But in any case, the movement of a female in heels has always attracted me and not in a sexual manner; more in the matter of aesthetics. I felt, and still do, watching woman move in heels was beautiful and somewhat mystical. It could be a big reason why I became a Ballroom/Latin dancer in the first place. My first formal training in dance was Ballroom dance. I took my first class when I was 15 and was so into it and naturally gifted that the manager of the studio asked me to I trained intensely to become an instructor and within 3 months I did and got certified as a professional 6 months after. I loved watching the women float. I wanted to be them but I knew the closest I could get would be to become the leader, the support, and so since then I've been the frame. Recently, during a private lesson, I was giving a student of mine a technical correction of a dance step that was difficult for her to execute properly and she responded, "well, you should try it dancing in heels." That was the statement that it took for me to realize you know what, she's right! I should know how to dance in heels if I'm teaching my students how to dance in them, 75 percent of whom are female. I have been teaching Ballroom and Latin Dance for 9 years and have never danced in a pair of heels so I feel for my own sake of expertise I plan to learn so I can deepen my understanding of the technique behind movement and dance in high heels. I also want to explore more about the science behind the high heel shoe. What does it anatomically do to the body and the effects it has physically. As well, I want to explore the social issues on top of that. Why don't men wear high heels, especially the ones teaching women how to dance in them. Why has the expression of the high heel become so sexualized towards women? What does it mean to walk, move and dance masculine or feminine and do the shoes we wear truly affect that? I'm eager to find research on these questions and subjects and plan to interview from different points of view and experiences to enrich my learning experience of the high heel. I plan to choreograph a dance piece in conjunction to my discoveries and reaction to them. I think this is an important subject to discuss that can potentially broaden into a worldwide discussion of gender and expression. I guess I'm tired of being defined. I want to express love, I want to express anger, I want to express joy, I want to express sensuality without being told how to do it because of my sexual parts. Just be you. Isn't that what you want? To just be you?

Background Info.

My name is Abdiel Jacobsen. I was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. I am a proud queer person of color. My mom is Ivorian and my dad is white American I’m the youngest of two older sisters and grew up mostly in the U.S.A. I attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA where I graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance. I currently reside Harlem, New York City and have lived in New York for over 10 years. I have been a professional dancer and instructor for over 14 years. Dance is my life.