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How to persuade Dad


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If I may just rejoice for a moment, my son (age 16) has just been offered a place at Central School of Ballet in London. He is very excited about it. The place is funded for most of the fees, but not for living costs.


His father has always been against him dancing, but somehow he's kept going. He was allowed to audition on the basis that it was very competitive (it was!) and therefore there was only a small chance of him being offered a place. Dad's objections, starting with the reasonably sensible and verging towards the paranoid, are:


1. Son is too young to go to London and live in a hostel

2. The qualification is not worth anything (it's an honours degree course!)

3. It costs too much to fund him to live in London

4. What will he do when he can no longer dance?

5. Most male dancers, including teachers, are gay, therefore son is likely to become gay too.


Any helpful suggestions would be welcome.

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I suggest the entusiastic application of a cricket bat, and repeating the magic formula, "silly git, silly git, silly git" as frequently as you like.


1) Sixteen is plenty old enough to live in a hostel.

2) Honours programmes don't grow on trees.

3) Things are tough all over - no time like the present to learn self-sufficiency.

4) He will go to university - by that time, his brains will be even better.

5) Stuff, nonsense and balderdash.

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Thanks Mel - there are plenty of cricket bats in our house (and footballs, golf clubs etc!) Have just heard from his teacher at Scottish Ballet SAs that there is a trust fund which may help with costs, and son's gradfather (aged 93!) has also offered to help with costs - it seems to be the most ludicrous things that it's hard to come up with an answer to.

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That's where the cricket bat comes in handiest. Unreason met with unreason! :wink:


I somehow expected that there were funds available for advanced study, and the presence of the Gude Gaffer makes life even easier, God bless him!


Further on the university score, if it suits him to go; universities in Britain AND the US are hungering for the non-traditional (age 25+) student. They are often the best.

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Guest Clare

I'm not a parent of a boy so feel free to delete this if it is inappropriate. My daughter, now 17, attends ballet school in London and has been living in a hostel there since she was 16. She and all her fellow students, boys and girls, have always been happy and settled and never had any problems (or not any that have been reported to me!). She also has friends at Central and they are having a great time there.


As for the finance - tell me about it! But I also have a son at university in London and that is just as expensive.


Hope it all works out for you and your son



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I would address the different concerns differently.


1. Son is too young to go to London and live in a hostel


This could be true. There was no way I would have survived such an experience at the age of 16. Whether or not YOUR son is too young depends on who HE is. It would be good for the three of you to talk over what living on his own for the first time will mean, ground rules, etc.


2. The qualification is not worth anything (it's an honours degree course!)


I don't know what this means. I suppose the qualifications would help him attain a job as a ballet dancer, no? Some discussion between the three of you about what a ballet career means could be helpful.


3. It costs too much to fund him to live in London


This is a little bit of a non-issue. When you don't want to do something, you say it costs too much. But seriously, you can and should make a realistic budget for the experience. Then you'll know whether you can afford it. In any case, he'll be working a LOT harder at the ballet academy than you and your husband will have to work to pay his living expenses. This is not an easy road he's choosing.


4. What will he do when he can no longer dance?


This is a VERY serious issue, one I think it is worth considering at least a little bit at this time. It is ultimately up to your son. But if your son is motivated and diligent, there will be opportunities for him outside of dance, if he so chooses.


5. Most male dancers, including teachers, are gay, therefore son is likely to become gay too.


This is absolute paranoia, on at least five levels:

1. Most male dancers are straight, although gay male dancers are more of a presence (or more open about it) than in other professions. This leades to a ridiculous sense of hyper-masculinity among most male dancers, trying to prove to everyone they're straight.

2. The idea that having gay teachers (of anything) will make you gay is totally unproven. The fact that most children of gay couples end up straight proves my point. If your son is going to become gay, he will; if not, he won't.

3. If your son is gay, he's probably already aware of that sexual identity by the age of 16 (although he might not be telling anyone).

4. Who cares if he IS gay? He's still the same son you've always known. Would that be a reason, as parents, to subvert his aspirations and goals?

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I couldn't agree more with your last point, citibob - it's trying to convince my husband that's so difficult. Son is a rather young 16. and we live in Scotland - very different lifestyle to central London. But my take on it is - if he wants to do it, he'll cope. Obviously son and I have had rational talks about this - it's getting his father to be rational about it that's so difficult.

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Would I be right in guessing that numbers 1-4 are reasoned attempts to disguise his real concern: #5?


Numbers 1-4 are all more-or-less reasonable parental concerns. Perhaps your 16-year-old is immature and not ready to live on his own. Perhaps your finances are a constraint. Certainly the job market for dancers is not broad, and age does become a limitation on the far end. Your son may be able to counter some of these concerns by developing a well-reasoned and -researched "Plan B".


Number 5, however, is just based on a false premise: that dancing will make your son gay.


I saw a cartoon recently, and I wish I could credit the source properly. It was a man sitting down with his preteen/teen and saying, "Son, it's time you chose whether to be gay or straight." Nobody has that talk with their kids, right? That's because IT ISN'T A CHOICE. At 16 your son probably has an idea already of whether or not he is gay, and the dancing had nothing to do with it.


Perhaps your husband will find it useful to read this research on the prevalence of homosexuality among male dancers. As far as I know, it is the only scientific study on this topic. It is from a book called The Man Who Would Be Queen, by Michael Bailey of Northwestern University. Bailey's research on sexuality and homosexuality is very highly regarded by his peers; this book is published by the National Academy of Sciences Press (aka "THE Academy" in scientific circles -- in other words, very well-established and revered). Here is a relavent passage:

We asked each

participant to give an estimate of the percentage of male dancers who are

gay. On average, they estimated 58 percent; the smallest percentage

anyone gave was 25 percent. Compared with a rate of 2-4 percent in the

general population, this is a huge difference. The average proportion of

gay men in the dancers' own companies-which presumably they could

estimate fairly accurately-was 53 percent.

     We interviewed only one lesbian dancer, because she was the only one

we could find. Consistent with this, all dancers gave low estimates for

the rate of lesbianism among female dancers, for an average of 3 percent.

Professional dance is not generally a homosexual occupation; it is a gay

male occupation.

        We also asked participants how and when they got interested in

dancing. The gay men actually got started a couple of years later than

straight men (age 13 compared to 11). When asked what initially motivated

them, about 60 percent of heterosexual dancers said that their parents

had encouraged them. (Heterosexual men and women gave similar responses.)

In contrast, only 13 percent of gay men said they got into dance this

way. Instead, half the gay men said they got interested in dance by

themselves, compared with only 19 percent of the straight dancers.


This research is not perfect, but one of the things I find so interesting is that it goes beyond estimating the prevalence of gay dancers to investigating how gay dancers are different from straight ones. For your purposes, it certainly emphasizes that dancing is not the CAUSE of homosexuality. Unfortunately, it does nothing to alleviate your husband's underlying aversion to homosexuality, which is probably the main issue.

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Just my two cents


Homophobia runs rampant, not just in dance. You may point out all the studies, but there are many people in the world who will never believe them. You may even point out that homophobia is often a sign of homosexual panic in the person who is homophobic, it will not matter. Their fears are not rational. Rational arguments will not and can not reach them.


As a passing aside. our local Parish Priest just came out. He did so because he felt it was time to help dispel some myths. God bless him, he is my hero. The only way to bring about change is by education and experience.


Our kids are our kids, gay or straight, it should not matter.

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Guest beckster

Knock knock - not a parent, but a Londoner I would have been terrified of moving to London at age 16. Even when I was 21 and going for a job interview in Reading I refused to travel via London! But now I live here, I realise it's really nothing to worry about. It just takes longer to get from one side of the city to the other, thats all!


Firstly, Central School of Ballet is in a very central location in London. It is in Clerkenwell, close to Farringdon Tube and several bus routes. It's quite a safe area, I think - at least I never worry walking round there at night! His hostel will probably not be in so good an area although all areas have their good bits and their bad bits. Yes, London is expensive - I am totally skint and I have a job! You can save money by getting a bus pass rather than a travelcard (although he will qualify for a student pass). He will probably find that many people at college are in the same situation as him, with little spare cash. I suppose that's normal for dancers, even professionals! I would make sure he knows now that he can't dance forever, and encourage him to take his exams (usually an optional extra at college) so that he can get a teaching qualification for RAD or ISTD or whoever. This will at least give him one option when he gets a bit older. The most important thing is that he will only get the chance to do this once. You can't become a professional ballet dancer if you start dancing at age 35, whereas it's very easy to go back and get a degree in science or english or whatever, at this age.

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Stitcher, I agree with Treefrog where she says that possibly the most compelling issue in your husband's mind is his concern about homosexuality. But no matter what his concerns, and no matter how outrageous you may find some of them, they are still his feelings and they are born out of love for his son.


I would urge you, in any conversations with him, to show respect that he has these concerns even if you don't agree with them. If you hit him hard with one rebuttal after another for his thoughts, I think the result will be that he will feel you don't respect his thoughts, and he'll become ever more defensive and set against such a plan. That happens often.


Instead, find ways to validate his feelings: "It sounds like you're really scared about this", "I can see how much you've thought and care about this", etc. Reflect his feelings back to him. We all have feelings of protection and fear when it comes to our kids. Honor those feelings, even if you can't agree with the thoughts and ideas.


I would not get into a discussion of homophobia with him. Such discussions tend to alienate and further entrench one's beliefs, especially when it's coming from a spouse concerning a child. That kind of change in thiinking comes slowly over time. I would listen to him - and REALLY listen hard - try to find any areas of agreement about any part of the general plan. Make sure you've done your research on the areas concerning safety and finances so that the two of you can intelligently discuss them.


Has your son been talking with his dad about ballet? Or is this a hushed topic around him? Make sure it's not. Make sure they both talk about your son's aspirations and how this is the way to fulfill them. Make sure your son can prove that he can't get this kind of training locally. I would hope your son can really express to his dad his deep love for ballet and what it means to him. Parents frequently, between themselves, debate a lot about a child's future, but often a teen's well-reasoned plea is what turns the corner in the parent's mind. If your husband is worried about his son's lack of maturity, a well-thought-out plan and respect for his dad's feelings will go a long way towards giving your husband some peace of mind there. But it has to come from your son, not from you.


Many kids go off to academic boarding schools at a younger age than that and they mature just fine. In fact, they often become more mature from such experiences. Ballet residencies offer much of the same. Until I started working at a private school where most kids go to boarding high schools after 8th grade, I had no understanding of how good they can be for these kids. It was a culture I didn't understand.


Anyhow, I do hope you can find a way to work this out so that your husband's feelings are respected. He will never be a willing partner in this arrangement unless they are.

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I ran/run into the same thing with my husband. I just use the listening and understanding approach. In a gentle quiet voice I try to get him to express his concerns. "If he were gay do you think that if he quit dancing he would be straight?" "How would you feel if he was gay - outside of if he continued to dance or not?" "Would that mean that you could no longer love him as your son?" These are a few of the questions that I have asked my husband a various times when the gay thing comes up. My husband's brother is openly gay and I think my husband really worries about it. Plus, he really wants grandchildren and ds is our only child. Sometimes the fear of something that might happen dissipates when you start asking questions because the answers are so silly and really outside of your control.


I know that my husband loves my son and only wants what's best for him. He's just a worrier.


My ds has dated girls and been involved in one long term 2.5 year relationship but if he turns out to be gay the reality of it is that we can't do anything about it and neither can he.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks to all for your very helpful thoughts and the time you have taken to think about this.


I did indeed take the approach eventually that my husband was taking these views because he cares about our son and tried to talk throught the issues in a quieter way. Eventually, my husband decided to talk to son himself, by himself and has agreed to let him go. He is not really happy about it, but I think some of the concerns are now less and hopefully as ds manages and gets a bit older all will be well.


So, at last, we can celebrate - the acceptance letter has been sent and ds gets 3 years of training at Central School of Ballet - and a friend of his also got in (they were Junior Asssociates of Scottish Ballet together) so he will have someone to room with and a familiar face in class.


This board is wonderful - where else could I have gone for help, advice and support? Thank you all again.

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Guest PAmom

It's wonderful to know that your husband took the time to talk to your son about his concerns. Having a child move from home is not an easy experience for anyone in the family and expressing those feelings before you are separated is important. The more open you can keep the lines of family communication, the easier transition it will be.


This can be a time of extreme personal growth for a young man as a dancer and whole person. Best of luck to your family on starting this exciting adventure. :ermm:



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