Jayna Ledford is a trans ballerina working to make ballet more inclusive.
In the ballet world, there are two types of dancers, the male dancers and the female dancers. There’s really not an in-between,” she stated. “It was really hard for me as a younger child to pick which side I wanted to be.”
Ledford started ballet when she was six years old, but didn’t start taking it seriously until she was 10.
“At my first studio in Indiana, I wanted to dance as a female because I was in a class that [was] full of girls and I wanted to be like them and wear what they were wearing, the leotard and tights,” she explained. “It kind of made me very uncomfortable being different and wearing not the tights and leotards, so one day I went into class wearing tights and I leotard and the teacher turned me away.”
Jayna was enrolled as a male dancer for much of her intensive training until she was able to comfortably transition. She made the decision to come out as trans in her senior year at a prestigious ballet academy.
“It was time for me to really be myself,” she said. “I was contemplating September through December on coming out and what my reactions would be and how it would change the way that I dance, and I didn’t really care at that point, I just wanted to be myself and I let the world know.”
Though the school she was enrolled in didn’t let her continue the next semester, she says the response to her coming out was overwhelmingly positive. She then returned to her home studio in Delaware where, with the help of her supportive teacher, she trained en pointe. She is glad to be training as her authentic self but says the classical ballet world is still very gendered.
“We can solve a lot of problems with the LGBTQ community in the ballet world just being more inclusive in classes,” she said.
Jayna heads to college in the fall 2019, where she plans to study communications and dance.