Former racing car driver becomes first openly transgender ballet dancer to pass Royal Academy of Dance exam

Shehab Khan, Helen Hoddinott

A former racing car driver has become the first openly transgender ballet dancer to pass a Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) exam.

Sophie Rebecca, initially began learning ballet as James, but was forced to leave after the teacher found out about her gender struggles.

The 35-year-old was a racing driver for almost a decade before deciding to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a dancer.

She passed her “intermediate foundation” qualification with merit after the RAD abandoned their rule which stated only people born as women could take female dance courses in 2013.

She said she was not sure whether she was the first trans person to pass the exam - but added she was the “first to be open about it”.

“I'm bunkering down from the hate but still believe it's important to put a positive message out there after the media coverage of late,” she told The Independent.

Sophie realised in her mid-20s that she was not comfortable as a man and risked losing friends and family after making the decision to change gender.

“I'm not transgender because I dance and I don't dance because I'm transgender. I dance because I'm a dancer. It just happens to be that I'm transgender. It's a passion, it's the way it makes me feel and it's perfect. It's me,” she told the BBC.

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