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How Taking Ballet Classes as a Kid (Kinda) Saved My Life

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Editor’s Note: This story was written by Movember community member Norman Torres, Student Ambassador for Movember.

Hey there! I’m Norman Torres. I’m 21 years old and I use he/him pronouns. I’m an incoming senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying Exercise Science & Medical Fitness. I’ve been a Mo-Bro for about three years now and I’m currently a Student Ambassador for UT. Hook ‘em!

You’re probably wondering what’s up with the title. Well, my story starts at the age of 3 — the age I began dance classes. After my parents saw how fascinated I was watching my sister practice and perform at my hometown studio, they felt it was only right to sign me up. That’s where I began to challenge the everyday views of masculinity. I’m from a small town in Texas and the idea of a boy joining dance rather than youth sports was unheard of. My dad of course encouraged me to try other sports, but never forced me to do something I didn’t want to do. As a kid, I was able to explore and learn about the person I was. My parents allowed me to walk around the house wearing my sister’s dresses, stumble in my mom’s heels and at times even put on makeup. The environment that my family created was always welcoming and accepting. When I decided to come out at the age of 18, I knew I would have their full support.

Before I came out, I faced an unexpected adversity: testicular cancer. The thought of where I would be right now if I hadn’t taken action as soon as I did scares the crap out of me. I caught my cancer at the earliest stages, but what if I had waited days more? Weeks more? Months more? What would have happened? These are the questions that I had in my mind when I chose to be a Student Ambassador for Movember. At the age of 17, I had no idea about testicular cancer and the signs of it. Nobody had spoken to me about it before, so it definitely put a delay on the identification of it. The only way I would have gotten myself checked out was because of the swift actions my dad took. As a cancer survivor himself, he knew that time is of the essence for any type of health concern, so from one day to the next I was being treated for the tumor I had. I’m happy to say that this month marks my four years in remission, one more year away from being classified as a cancer-free patient.

This is really where everything gets tied together. You see, I’m not sure how my life would be like if I wouldn’t have started dancing. Allowing me to participate, my family created a home for me to feel comfortable being the individual I was and wanted to be. This environment is what allowed me to feel comfortable discussing my symptoms with my parents early on. This environment was what allowed me to feel comfortable coming out as a gay man. Today, this environment is what has allowed me to share struggles with mental health and feel OK with doing so. When I grow my mustache, I use it as a display of my story and the stories across the world for men. Everyone has a story and everyone should be alive to tell it.

If there is anything I would want for people to take from this, it’s the importance of how acceptance and solidarity can truly affect one’s life. My parents willingness to stand right alongside me in everything I have done has allowed me to thrive as the individual I am today. With the mission of Movember in mind, being there for others and loving them unconditionally is what will help change the face of men’s health. The movement towards a healthier, brighter future isn’t that hard to begin, it’s only a conversation away. Take time to learn how to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community, especially the Black LGBTQ+ community. In addition to this, take time to donate to causes like Movember that uplift these voices and spread a message of family.

You can find Norman’s Mo-Bro Page to donate here.

Originally published: June 26, 2020
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