It took hanging upside-down with their left foot pointed to the ceiling for Abby Hylton to come to terms with their identity. Three years later, they are giving that same gift to queer and transgender people across the Triangle.
Hylton started the Queer Youth Circus in August 2015. The aerial arts program is designed to promote social justice and help young queer people feel comfortable in their bodies. Today the program operates out of Triangle Circus Arts in Durham.
“When I started (in circus arts) I was not connected to my body and how it moves, works and feels,” Hylton said in an email. “With circus arts though, someone might tell you while you're upside down to move your left foot up to the ceiling. Where's the ceiling? Where's my foot? Where is left, up?”
The program is volunteer-based, and eventually the counselors would like to try to get more funding to devote more time to the project.
Hylton was conditioned to become comfortable with the way their body moved and felt — a direct translation to their gender and sexual identities. Because they were already teaching aerial arts to children, starting the first Queer Youth Circus camp was a natural connection.