Beck Heiberg, "Otherness is a very positive word for me. I've never been attracted to the norm." : Vogue Dancer on Embracing Otherness.
The beauty of Voguing, recounts Beck Heiberg, is that "You can be whatever gender you want to be, it's all about finding your alter ego." Whereas many people find it difficult to embrace Otherenss, Beck finds energy in it. A thoughtfulness that I found rather timely and refreshing. Otherness can be scary, sure, however, Otherness gives us perspective, it reminds us how of our individualities and how beautiful that can be. For Beck, his life has taught him to own his narrative, and to find the beauty and bravery in his Otherness. There is plenty to learn from this.
As I sat across from him on the edge of Autumn, in a small cafe tucked away next to Prospect Park, I found myself inspired by his story. I had plenty to relate to his narrative of freedom and the mindfulness to stay curious, to never settle, but still, to find your opportunities to be grounded in our pursuit of happiness.
I was born in Copenhagen, and I come from a very modern-Danish family. A lot of divorces and new marriages, and a lot of extra siblings. That's been something I've been happy about. I grew up with a very left-wing family. There was always a lot of music, and parties, and social gatherings around in my childhood. We were always encouraged to perform, and try things out. That shaped me a lot.
When I was a teenager I thought I wanted to be a painter, and then I started doing music. I was in the punk scene for a while, screaming. I eventually came into the queer scene, and that was some years where I transitioned from female to male, which went smoothly. But, around that time I got quite depressed and sick. My therapist suggested that I did some kind of school where I could sing and dance. I just felt like I came out of my shell. Dancing just took over.
I did dance education in Copenhagen, and I moved to Paris to do a dance education there. I lived there for three years, doing everything from bar-tending to performing to DJ'ing. I eventually got tired of living in Paris, and my partner got accepted at the New School here (in NYC), we got married and moved here together, it's been a few years now.
Transitioning for me was really an eye opener, trying to understand who I was. We all have different journeys, but it's a lot to process for a lot of people. It was a processing period, and all of sudden it was like 'shit', I don't feel good. That's also a different thing for me, I don't see myself a traditional cis-trans guy. For me, being a man is a man who likes to wear dresses and dress up in makeup and play with gender. I always loved wearing dresses and doing feminine things, and so it's not that I felt out of place in my body, that's not my story, it was more about coming into the queer community through my sexuality changing and then seeing what you can do, being other kinds of gender,
"Oh, there's bearded women, oh there's gender queer people. Interesting, I want to try that." It was more like a research in a way. Then I just realized I felt more comfortable like this.
I come from the Urban Dance scene, and the first style that I took seriously was popping. I always freestyled and I didn't like choreography, but I did everything. I took a workshop with Brian Puspos in Copenhagen, and if you took his workshop you got a Vogue workshop for free at my dance studio, and I thought "I don't even know what this is, but I'll take a free workshop." I went to this Vogue workshop and the first thing that she said was,
'In this class you can be whatever gender you want to be, it's all finding your alter ego.'
And I got so happy, and thought, "My two worlds are finally meeting."
That was that feeling where I got to be my full self. Vogue spoke to me very intensely, it felt like a free space for the first time. All of a sudden I could be effeminate, and it didn't matter. At that time I didn't always get read as male. I always had masculine features, so I could pass, but as soon as I opened my mouth, or something ... so I would always be as masculine as possible. It was limiting, it wasn't who I am. All of a sudden I got to be feminine, and it didn't mean that I wasn't a guy. And I just felt this was so amazing.
Otherness is a very positive word for me. I've never been attracted to the norm, even when I was transitioning into male, I wanted to be the weird guy. I remember having a conversation with a cis-gay friend of mine. I told him, " I was never attracted to the straight guy, or the straight women. I was always attracted to the gay guy or the queer women, and everything in between." And he was like, "I'm always attracted to the straight guy, and it's so hard."
Otherness to me is everything I want to be in my life. Everything that is weird and questioning and different. Everything that is the status quo is boring. It means a lot of exploring and questioning, and it could be hard, but it gives you a lot in return.
When you're not surrounded by community that understands you, it can be stressful to be 'Other'. Because if you're questioning the norm alone, that's scary. But, Otherness has very much helped make me the artist that I am. It's given me a perspective about how to create art that is interesting and groundbreaking, and not just pretty and crowd pleasing - but provocative. It's helped me be critical and aware about the world we live in, and the privileges that I have.
I fear not dealing with my own privileges and being respectful of other people's Otherness. I fear losing closeness, like being far away from my family and friends in Europe. It's definitely occupying my mind in this moment. I fear being stuck, but I also fear not being able to settle. I value real connections, that's the most important, both to yourself, and to other people. Being able to listen to what I actually want or need, and not to what I should want or should need.
Something I really want to talk more about for myself, and is taboo, is being mentally ill. I had Scizotypi disorder. I see and hear things that don't exist, but I know it's not real. I remember I have these conversations with my therapist, that sometimes I can't see my body. I look at my hand and it's gone, and sometimes it's scary, and sometimes it's this out of body experience, and I think I learn a lot about myself. My therapist at the time wanted to put me on a lot of medicine. I said, "... no no no - I don't want to just erase this."
I never took medicine.
I went to Brazil, about a year after I got better, and I met a girl there who was also psychotic, but in North Brazil, she was just an open mind to have spirits enter her. And I don't know what it is and I'm not a religious person, but this had definitely helped me learn about spirituality. If we are open, then there are a lot more to the world than the eye sees.