Hello, my name is Clay Murray. I’m 20 years old, and I’m originally from Mississippi. This past year I was a part of Boston Ballet’s second company. Before joining Boston Ballet, I was a PD in the Professional Division with Pacific Northwest Ballet.
When Matt first asked me to submit a story for his Community Stories project, I contemplated on many subjects to talk about and stories I could tell. But I decided to talk about something rather personal.
I think one of the most powerful things a person can do is accept themselves. Acceptance can apply in any spectrum. For me, I had to do it in almost every aspect of my life.
At some point in most people’s lives, they will be judged because of their body type. Body image has nothing to do with gender either.
Popular culture has influenced how we see bodies and what the “ideal body” should be. Because of this "perfect" image in our heads we no longer see the beauty that we already have in ourselves. We just know what we need to fix.
Ballet is a huge culprit for being a stickler for the “ideal body.” Even in this part of my life was I being told that my upper body wasn’t good enough. No matter how hard I tried, I was still being judged by the way I looked.
When I was 17, I felt depressed about my career in ballet. I got to a point where I would look in the mirror and think “I’m never going to get a job if I don’t look masculine.” Well, here I am 2 years later just now completing my first year as a professional dancer with Boston Ballet about to start my second with the Los Angeles Ballet.
When ballet dancers accept their bodies, they SOAR. It’s just an everyday fact. No matter what people are telling you should look like if you want to succeed in this business, loving your body is going to make the difference and will change how people see a ballet.
The most difficult thing I ever had to do was accept myself as a person.
I struggled with little things about myself. Whether it was my personality, quirkiness, how stubborn I was, or even how weird I am, but the main thing that ate me away was my sexuality.
It was the most complicated process to fully love myself enough to come out as a gay male. Growing up in a very religious environment that didn’t accept homosexuality didn’t help either.
I felt if I came out all these bad things were going to happen to me. I was brought up in an environment that didn’t accept homosexuality, so I was viewing the situation as if I was doing something wrong when there is nothing wrong with being gay because LOVE IS LOVE.
The first step I took to accept my truth fully was to first come out to myself. After sitting on that for a little bit, I felt more comfortable at least knowing in myself that I was gay.
The first person I came out to in my family was my sister. I was so scared but after I told her she just hugged me and said: “I love you no matter what.” The response from my parent’s response was the same.
After that, it became so much easier to come out to my family and friends.
Once I accepted myself for who I was, I felt like I blossomed. I never felt happier, and this dark cloud wasn’t around me anymore. I finally was able to be my authentic self.
After accepting myself internally and externally, I now can say that I don’t give a shit what anyone says about me because I know who I am.
To anyone who struggles with acceptance of their self, just know that the path you’re going to take is hard, but the outcome is so beautiful.
Listen to Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” record, trust in the process, and BLOOM.
Clay and I met at the Pacific Northwest Ballet a few years ago and I have been able to work beside him. He is truly a joy to work with and he has always been vulnerable with me. Clay has been a huge support to me in my life. Reading his story of self love is empower to me because I struggle with that very same thing. Clay, thank you for sharing your heart and your life with the world.
I believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell. If you want to share your story, contact me so we can talk about sharing your life.