The second in a series discussing art and identity within the LGBTQ+ community
Words: Bipolar Abdul
With Pride fast approaching, I decided it was time to speak to some Doncaster LGBTQ+ artists. Doncaster is home to a huge queer community, many of whom are beautifully creative and conceptual. This is the second in a series where I reach out to three fellow artists. We spoke about art and creative outlets but also discussed sexuality and gender identity, and how that can affect lives.
Alexis Lily Denman is a dancer from Doncaster, now living in Leeds. As well as being a trained dancer, she is an incredibly inspirational trans woman.
Tell me all about your dance, what’s your greatest achievement?
My own personal style of dance, while rooted within the realm of Contemporary, borders more on lyrical, emotional performance as well as taking influence from a number of different styles such as Jazz, Burlesque, Vogue and Latin American. Dance and performance has always made me feel more than myself, allowing me to explore my own feelings and emotions on a deeper, more profound level. Performing has been an escape for me ever since childhood, fighting my way through life and its difficulties, and helping me to make sense of myself through the cathartic experience of letting myself go and being free.
One of my biggest achievements came quite recently towards the end of my first year of university, as I was exploring myself as a trans woman and as a performer, something which up to that point in time I hadn’t really had the opportunity to do. I created a short dance documentary based on my life as a dancer and a trans woman. Although I had always been happy to discuss my life, and difficulties when coming out and traversing through life as trans, when people had asked (I have always been an open book when it came to this) I had never opened up as much through any form of performance or media, or bared my soul as it were. It was a difficult thing for me to achieve in the sense that I had never truly considered how it felt being a pre-transition dancer before that point. Again, with dance, pushing myself into this project gave me a huge feeling of catharsis and allowed me to open myself up to exploring different art forms within the world of queer art performance, as opposed to placing myself in more generic styles of dance and choreography that I had done before. If anyone wants to watch the documentary it can be found on YouTube ‘Alexis Lilly: Woman’.
What are your artistic goals for the future?
I hope to further explore myself as a queer artist by developing live artwork pertaining to my life within the LGBTQ+ community through and after my years at university and helping others along their own paths with my work, and creating a dialogue for those who are struggling to come to terms with their own difficulties, by shedding a little light on the situations I have dealt with and proving that it gets better and it somehow, eventually, gets easier even though there are often times where there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end.
Were there any times you found it difficult being a trans woman in the dance world?
More so when I began university, in terms of being a trans dancer I have found difficulties, not for any reason other than my own personal issues I put on myself. I placed doubts in my mind that are still there and that I fight every day and, more often than not, succeed. I have always had issues in dealing with my own femininity, I have looked in a mirror so often and seen myself as a boy amongst the petite girls in and around my dance life, the ones who can move better than me, the ones who are naturally pretty without the 10 layers of make-up I place on myself, to feel somewhat more female. Although I am becoming stronger in myself and believing more and more each day that I am the girl I know, it is still an uphill climb, the fight doesn’t stop; you just find the strength to fight harder and it gets better in time.
What impact has Pride had on your life as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
Pride has always held a massive place in my heart, even though its only one day, it is such an incredible experience being able to spend it forgetting about your worries about how you look and feel. Being able to spend some time with like minded people, letting loose and celebrating each other, whilst remembering those who had come before us and fought for the rights that we all have today. I have made some incredible and lifelong friends whilst attending Pride every year and have found a greater sense of acceptance within the community, all from just a single day, which I know is exactly what Pride is about.
What is your favourite thing about Doncaster Pride?
Doncaster isn’t exactly one of the most LBGTQ+ friendly places, as we all know, but the support network created by this event is truly admirable. The atmosphere is always one of love and acceptance, even though around the rest of town there may not be as much hospitality; we know that the people who have fought every year to create these events for us are doing so for us to share the love of each other and help us all be a little prouder of ourselves each day, and for that I couldn’t be more thankful. Doncaster Pride has helped me be a little more myself and has always helped me to understand how to love myself, take pride in what I do, and who I am.