Dance Moms’ Zackery Torres says she has privilege as a trans celebrity: ‘My journey is one of the easy ones’
Dance Moms star Zackery Torres on her “rollercoaster” journey after coming out as trans, and why she wants to highlight her own privilege.
Torres recently came out on TikTok, sharing that her pronouns are she/her and they/them. She had previously come out as gay and then non-binary, but tells PinkNews that “third time’s the charm!”
The 22-year-old wants to use her platform to make change, so that young queer and trans kids don’t have to face the “line of fire” in the future. She also spoke about how growing up on Dance Moms “paused” her journey, the beautiful – and sometimes scary – DMs she’s received, and why she doesn’t like labels.
What was it like growing up in dance and then later growing up on national TV?
I didn’t feel pressure to dance a certain way until I got to Dance Moms and started doing reality TV. Once that started, I understood firsthand what it meant to be pressured and sometimes bullied into dancing in a very specific way because of the body that I was in – being told to dance like a boy or ‘you need to man up’ or people calling me ‘corny’.
I remember being shocked that this existed, and I didn’t understand how to use my voice and fight against that. I was just scared. When you’re at that age you should be growing and developing, experimenting, figuring out who you are. There are just so many pressures as a kid that are hard to go through in any setting, but knowing that it’s being filmed by four or five cameras to be put on national television was just a lot. I think being on Dance Moms was a big pause button for me because I was afraid to grow, develop and dive into what I want to dive into because I was afraid of the repercussions.
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What has it been like for you after coming out so publicly on TikTok?
It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster. As I grew up, I’ve been trying to figure out how to conceptualise the idea of sexual orientation and gender. I think about sexual orientation and gender identity as just another part of your personal growth and the way that you identify as something that grows and develops as you do. We’re humans. We’re constantly evolving. As we grow up, we understand ourselves a bit better.
I think I came out for the first time when I was 15 as gay, and that was the truest thing I knew at the time. Then when I was 19 or 20, I came out as non-binary and started using they/them pronouns. That was just a natural next step as I knew that my gender was something that needed to be evolving and he/him pronouns were absolutely not working.
Now at 22, I’m coming out again – third time’s the charm! Coming out as transgender seems feels like my truest self, and I think that [growth] is something we should live for. The labels that are created and continue to be created sometimes can box people in and make them afraid of making steps forward. All I have to say is: Your journey is your journey.
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There are a lot of people who might be afraid to share their experiences as a trans person for fear of retribution, so it’s beautiful to see you sharing so many of your milestones.
I’m definitely afraid of repercussions. I get some pretty intense comments and scary messages in my DMs. But I feel like I’m in a place of privilege. I have a strong support system and I feel very loved. I’ve been on TV before and on social media for so long that I have practise ignoring the hate.
As I continue to go through it, I’m like ‘Oh, I understand why people don’t really talk about this publicly’. But I needed that as I kid. The way I live is very much guided by what a younger self or a young person would need to see and feel empowered to continue growing and trusting themselves.
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What have been some of the better moments in this visible aspect of your journey?
Some of the messages that [I’ve received] literally bring me to tears. Parents messaging me saying, ‘You’re saving my kid’s life.’ I got that the other day, and I was just so shocked. I’m still sitting here thinking about it, and I haven’t even really fully digested that message.
Some other parents will send me emails saying, ‘My child is five years old, I have them watch all your videos and my child wants to wear a dress to school.’ It just blows me away, honestly, and those are the messages that make it all worth it and so fulfilling for me because it reminds me exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing.
What is something you wish people would talk about more when it comes to trans identities and trans issues?
I wish more people would talk about the privilege that celebrities coming out have. I have so much privilege that I could come out on TikTok and it was on PinkNews, E! News, Seventeen magazine. The overall response has been positive, and I’m doing interviews and people care about what I’m saying.
But at the same time, sometimes people come out and fear for their lives. They don’t get a loving response or no one wants to hear what they have to say. I think that’s not talked about enough, and I wish that was. I’m happy to be here and speaking but also recognise that my journey is one of the easier ones for trans people in 2021.
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I’ve heard before people saying, ‘This person was able to do it so that means we’ve done all we can, and we’re good’. But there’s still so much to be done. I have the privilege and that’s why I put myself in this line of fire because I feel like I can take it. I want to be open so some younger kid doesn’t have to do it in five or 10 years.