Stifled in Foster Care, He Found His Way Through Dance

Dashawn Wiggan had broken his foster home’s curfew.

With a mixture of fear and awe, he arrived with his boyfriend at the Christopher Street piers. Loud, fast beats with crashing rhythms met them in front of the dark Hudson River, where young dancers had congregated.


For Mr. Wiggan, this night in 2016 was revelatory.

“When you’re on the floor, it’s like all eyes on you,” Mr. Wiggan, 21, said in an interview this month in Brooklyn. “It feels like you’re the baddest person in the room, like, ‘O.K., I feel like a Beyoncé.’”

wigganSeveral times that year, Mr. Wiggan returned to the pier and its ball scene — a subculture largely made up of black and Latino L.G.B.T.Q. individuals who compete in fashion and dance events, a version of which was recently brought to the screen in the Ryan Murphy show “Pose.” He soaked up the vibrant energy. For him, it was a relief from the Queens foster home with tight rules that he had recently been struggling with.

“I had a curfew, like very strict, and I couldn’t be who I was,” Mr. Wiggan said. “No guests, no boys. I had a lot of rules: ‘No piercings, no tattoos, no “gay clothes,” no this and that. You have to speak a certain way.’”

The home situation was particularly difficult for Mr. Wiggan. He knew he was gay. One day during 10th grade, a cute new boy walked in through the classroom door, and Mr. Wiggan couldn’t take his eyes off him. When he casually mentioned to his foster mother that he liked men, she quickly dismissed the thought.

“She was like, ‘I don’t think you’re gay,’” Mr. Wiggan said. “‘I think you need to experience some of both. Like go experience a woman to know you’re straight.’”

Mr. Wiggan entered the foster care system about a decade ago, after he’d been living in a shelter. He eventually was placed with the family in Queens, where he felt stifled much of the years he spent there, more than half of his tenure.

“I swear I feel like I was in jail for a while,” he said.


Read More in The New York Times.


Members & Volunteers