Irish dancers stand up for trans competitors amid backlash against teen trans dancer

CHICAGO - MARCH 16, 2023 : Irish dancers participate at the annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago
CHICAGO - MARCH 16, 2023 : Irish dancers participate at the annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago Photo: Shutterstock

A group of Irish dancers is voicing support for trans competitors in response to backlash following a trans teen’s victory in a recent competition held by the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America (IDTANA) Southern Region.

“We, the Irish dancing community, voice our unequivocal support for transgender dancers and for these dancers to continue competing as their true selves in the category that best aligns with their gender identity,” states a petition started by Connecticut-based adult Irish dancer Gabrielle Siegel. “We recognize the right of transgender dancers to succeed in our sport, and celebrate their wins without exception.”

The petition emphasized that success in Irish dance is “a multi-factorial result upon which no assigned birth sex can confer a biological advantage” and that it goes even beyond the current scientific research that concludes trans athletes do not have significant advantages in sports after hormone replacement therapy.

“We recognize that adjudicators in Irish dance are trained thoroughly to judge Irish dance competitions based on a wide range of factors, including rhythm, turnout, crossover, pointed feet, toe height, flexibility, and posture, none of which are affected by assigned birth sex,” the petition explained.

The group condemned bullying, harassment, and abuse of any trans dancers and affirmed that “transgender dancers who win or see other significant success in Irish dancing competitions do so based on their hard work towards the demanding ideals of our art and sport, just as any dancer, and we celebrate their right to succeed.”

Siegel spoke to Irish Central about her decision to start the petition – which was a direct response to another anti-trans petition calling for separate categories for trans dancers.

“When I first saw the transphobic backlash to this dancer’s win, I literally started shaking,” Siegel said. “It was bad enough to see so many people using baseless accusations to try and undermine anybody’s success. But what put me over the edge was seeing people hurl outright cruelty at a child.”

Siegel recalled being a closeted LGBTQ+ person when she was younger. “I genuinely can’t imagine being subjected to that level of harassment or bullying at that age.”

She launched the petition to ensure folks did not only hear from people against trans rights.

“I knew we had to find a way to organize our support and show definitively that the Irish dance community stood proudly behind our trans community members,”she said, adding that her trans friends in the community have told her it “is both life-changing and often life-saving to have their gender consistently affirmed and that Irish dance is an important part of that.”

An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) – the global governing body for Irish dance – has had a trans-inclusive policy for years. Siegel pointed out that “it’s really telling that CLRG’s policy has been in place for years, and nobody has even noticed. It took a dancer succeeding for there to be an uproar in response. It should be enough to say we need to support all of our dancers — and that any arguments about biological advantage are not only not evidence-based, but don’t even apply to the way Irish dance is judged.”

The Regional Director in the area where the competition took place also took to social media to defend the trans teen, emphasizing that trans-inclusivity is “an established precedent” for the sport.

“We teach all the dancers,” wrote P.J. McCafferty. “We advocate for every one of our dancers. We do our very best to be fair to everyone. This situation is not easy for anyone. Not everyone’s point of view or personal interests align. I am asking for your tolerance. You are expected to respect all the dancers.”

Don't forget to share:

Good News is your section for queer joy! Subscribe to our newsletter to get the most positive and fun stories from the site delivered to your inbox every weekend. Send us your suggestions for uplifiting and inspiring stories.

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Riley Gaines can’t believe a cis cyclist is okay with coming in third behind 2 trans women

Previous article

Trans and gender nonconforming best friends murdered in Ohio

Next article