Asexual Readings of History: Behavior, Celibacy, and Feminism

[tl;dr Even while we like to separate asexuality from behavior, behavior in historical research can show us where to find asexual potential]

 

All right folks, I’m back for another look into methods of uncovering asexual history. Previously, I looked at the tension between queer allo and asexual history and unpacked the need to conflate asexuality and aromanticism. This time, I want to talk about behavior, particularly how self-identity is an impossible identification technique when looking at history and how we have to start looking at someone’s behavior.

 

Problems of self-identity

 

I’ve already talked about this a bit, but, just to repeat it again – when we look at history, we are looking at figures and moments that did not have a word for asexual experiences. Or they had different words which didn’t quite mean what we are looking for. No matter how much value we currently place on self-identity, it is impossible to find a self-identifying asexual person because asexuality did not exist in its current form. We have to look at other characteristics and traits in an attempt to find the possibility of asexuality.

 

That’s all we can find without self-identity: the possibility of asexuality. There will never be a firm answer.

 

 

Celibacy or asexuality?

 

It’s a longstanding understanding that asexuality is not celibacy. Asexuality is an identity characterized by a lack of sexual attraction. Celibacy is a choice (though often deeply held and identified with) characterized by a lack of sex. They are two different things.

 

However, there is a clear, logical overlap – it makes sense that those who do not experience sexual attraction may be less enthusiastic about sex (obviously this depends on the person and is currently a grand generalization), less enthusiasm around sex means they are more likely to choose not-sex, and thus asexuality and celibacy are related.

 

An interesting thing I’ve noticed when discussing celibate communities (monks and nuns being popular examples) is that many allosexual people think that going without sex with be reeeaaaallly hard. Now, I know there are varying degrees to enjoyment and that all allozeds can live without sex, but it does make me wonder about the people who made that choice historically. It stands to reason that many  folks who made the choice to be celibate were a little less attached to begin with, opening up space for asexual potential (this does not include situations of forced celibacy which is another pathway I do not have time to go down).

 

When we can’t truly find asexuality to begin with, celibacy is a good place to start looking. It’s not accurate within our contemporary context, but it will show us asexual potential that would otherwise be hidden behind other assumptions around sex and desire.

 

Example: Political celibacy in Feminist movements

 

Political celibacy in feminist movements is one time we can look at celibacy, understand that it is not necessarily asexual, and then recognize how it is, in fact, part of an asexual history.

 

Dana Densmore of Cell 16 challenged the notion that sex was necessary for survival and brought up the same contentions asexual communities have today with how society privileges sex over other forms of pleasure and relating to others (Przybyly & Cooper, 2014, p. 308).  An important part of Cell 16 was encouraging celibacy as a way to get women out of abusive relationships (Densmore, 2016, p. 8). Celibacy wasn’t just a choice, it was a direct political action to challenge patriarchal control.

 

Similarly, Valerie Solanas saw political asexuality not only as a way to curtail men’s sexuality (and the patriarchy), but to eventually stop reproduction completely (Przybyly & Cooper, 2014, p. 308). Before Densmore and Solanas, we have a history of the of celibacy and anti-sex discourse dating back to the nineteenth century through, notably alongside spinsters and social purity activism (Kent, 2018)

 

So celibacy is political, not asexual?

 

Think about it – who would have an interest in anti-sex feminist work? While it is very clear that many of these movements included allozed women and women interested in sex, it is also equally a space for asexual women to exist in a positive way in a world that claims that they should experience sense in relationship to a man (quite naturally also making this a space for lesbian and bisexual women).

 

Especially in our contemporary world in which one of the big claims lashed at acespecs is that we are fighting to “do nothing” or “don’t challenge the heteropatriarchy like a gay person” and this is used to discredit acespec queerness, it is that much important to understand that asexuality is political. Asexuality is radical. And, it is so because of its relationship to celibacy which makes space for asexuality by threatening amatonormativity, heteronormativity, and the patriarchy.

 

Boston Marriages

 

I want to tease out a little more about Boston marriages because I think they’re interesting. Boston marriages were instances of two unmarried women living together and supporting each other in a committed relationship. Unlike the celibacy mentioned above, these were not an immediate political stance. For some, yes, definitely. But, in general, Boston marriages existed due to practicality.

 

As more women got educated, they were then less-desirable as a wife. Yet, in terms of economy, society existed, as it still does today, with the assumption that everyone was in a couple. So, women had to live together in order to support each other. That’s the barebones of it.

 

Some of these were probably (and, by probably, I mean, most definitely) lesbian relationships which had found a a way to exploit society’s incapability of understanding a woman’s sexuality outside of men to just…get on with it. But whenever I read something about a Boston marriage, I’m reminded of queerplatonic relationships.

 

Once again, we’re hitting the wall of this-thing-didn’t-exist-then, but I think it’s worth noting: Boston marriages weren’t characterized by sex, they were characterized by two women living together, quite affectionately and communally, supporting each other, and not marrying.

 

We could say this happened because men were less likely to marry educated women, but what about women, educated or not, who were uninterested in marriage? Suddenly, here is a space and an opportunity to not have to marry while spending time and building community among other women who have reasons for not marrying.

 

Here, it is not so much about celibacy as it is about marriage. Marriage is fuzzy, as a behavior, because we know plenty of people marry for reasons other than sexual attraction. However, the choice not to marry, similar to the choice of celibacy, shows us a potential for asexuality.

 

Concluding the series

 

I want to point out that almost every example I used in this series was a woman (or women). While, it is possible to claim that history just hasn’t dug up the asexual men yet, and that is probably true, I think these instances of asexual behavior is particular to women, and easier to see. It speaks to a long history of patriarchy and control of women’s sexuality.

 

In other words, asexuality becomes visibility when sexual norms are challenged and, as many of those norms are gendered and deeply harm women through dehumanization, control, manipulation, and judgement (and many other things), it is most visible when women step out of the system. Asexuality is political. Asexuality is gendered. Asexuality is  a challenge to the amatonormative status quo.

 

Asexual history doesn’t really exist. But asexual potential is all over the place. We just have to be willing to look at it as it is – potential, something we will never fully know because contemporary understandings of asexuality are new and vastly different. And we have to know how to look – at existing queer figures and moments, at both aromantic and asexual possibility, and at behaviors that speak to asexual experience, even if they are not necessarily asexual.

 

And somehow, through all of that, we may find something.

 

 

References/Works Cited/Further Reading

 

“Boston Marriage,” RationalWiki, 2018 <http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Boston_marriage&gt; [accessed 4 July 2018]

 

Densmore, Dana, “Cell 16: Gender And Agency, With Digressions Into Naming”, 2014, <https://www.bu.edu/wgs/files/2013/10/Densmore-Cell-16-Gender-and-Agency-with-Digressions-into-Naming.pdf> [4 July 2018]

 

Kent, Daria, “Early Asexual Feminists: The Asexual History Of Social Purity Activists And Spinsters”, Making Queer History, 2018 <https://www.makingqueerhistory.com/articles/2018/6/3/early-asexual-feminists-the-asexual-history-of-social-purity-activists-and-spinsters&gt; [4 July 2018]

 

Przybylo, Ela & Cooper, Danielle, “Asexual resonances: Tracing a queerly asexual archive”, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 20.3, (2014), <muse.jhu.edu/armuse.jhu.edu/article/548452ticle/548452  > [23 September 2017].

 

 

 

 

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Ballet isn’t the only technique

tl;dr Ballet’s great, but it’s not the universal technique for all dance. 

 

A long time ago, I wrote about why I love ballet so much. One of the responses I got basically said “well, everyone should do ballet because it has a technical base that works for all forms of dance.”

 

The Irish dancer in me wants to call bullshit. See, there is nothing more frustrating than the moment a ballet teacher tells me to “put my heels on the floor” when I am jumping to reduce injury and give my jumps power. Not even ballet dancers do that! But people have accepted two myths – 1) putting their heels on the floor is the epitome of good jump technique and 2) Ballet technique is the only way to get things done safely and well.

 

That’s just an example, but it illustrates a point: Ballet isn’t the overall technique for everything else.

 

It’s not necessarily a bad or a good technique. It’s one option of technical training.

 

But I think it’s time to start looking at and valuing other techniques.

 

Irish dancers don’t get technical training. It’s mainly steps. I, personally, believe that’s part of why so many Irish dancers face injury (this and this  can add some evidence to the anecdotal claim that Irish dancers get injured a lot). But, the thing is, we do have technique.

 

We have a technique no ballet dancer could do without different training from ballet.

 

Ballet technique isn’t universal.

 

Contemporary dancers have been saying this forever but (in my opinion), they’ve been saying it in an attempt to shift the balance and reposition their style as universal – I can’t even remember how many times my contemporary dance teachers would tell me that their technique would fix all of my dance problems (in various ways). And while, yes, some somatic work is definitely beneficial to Irish and percussive dancers, it’s not going to teach me Irish dance technique, or any other technique for that matter.

 

We need to start recognizing the validity and existence of non-ballet techniques. We need to start understanding that ballet technique is specific, not universal. Maybe there isn’t a universal technique.

 

One of my friends on my program last year was a kathak dancer. An AMAZING kathak dancer. Like, the kind of person who starts moving and your jaw drops because her dancing was so beautiful. She struggled with ballet because the technique she was trained in was the exact opposite.

 

There was literally no way ballet would support her in doing kathak.

 

What it did do, and the reason I take ballet, is increase versatility. If I know Irish technique and ballet technique and release technique, I become a more well-rounded dancer. I can do different things.

 

But ballet itself is not universal. It is one of so many options. It has benefits. It also has risks – I’m pretty sure if I started putting my heels on the floor while I jumped, I would completely lose all of my jump training and start hurting myself (and seriously, no one actually puts their heels on the floor). Ballet is not a form of safe dance. I’m not sure if there is even a form of safe dance. Moving our bodies in new ways has risks that a dancer has to simply understand and take on for themself.

 

We cannot get comfortable believing one technique is the One Single Technique. We cannot get comfortable believing any technique is “safe”.

 

It’s time to value all the possible dance techniques for what they are – incredible, difficult, and specific.

 

some June readings

June was a strange month of having absolutely no time and still reading anyways. We’ve got reading about disability, intersex rights, asexuality and (this one single time!) a video!

 

 

Lost this Year

 

Gigi Pierce, Portland, OR

An “incredibly loving, gifted, beautiful disaster”

Read more

 

 

Video: Square dancing was a white supremacist propaganda campaign. Yes, seriously.

 

 

Reading

 

Resolution 110 Aims to Change the Conversation on Intersex Rights

 

“This may be a disproportionately extreme example, but the fact remains that intersex genital mutilation is an example of state-sanctioned child abuse. Not only is it a human rights issue, it’s also an identity issue. By interfering with the right of a child to develop their own gender identity and make an informed decision on surgical intervention, medical practitioners are essentially erasing a community which has never been given the right to flourish.”

 

Asexuality & Addressing Asexual Stigma through Art

 

“Aces are, in fact, capable of reproducing by removing a limb or two and letting it grow into its own person. We are just waiting for the right time to chop ourselves up and grow our dark legions to overtake you all. So if you don’t want to live in a dystopian wasteland chiseling marble idols of your future Asexual Overlords with sporks you better be nice to us now……………….”

 

Can We Stop Arguing About the “Right Way” to Be a Disability Activist?

 

“But such debates aren’t entirely pointless. Online activism can be fleeting and superficial, and it’s sometimes hard to know for sure how effective it is. Meanwhile, traditional political action can be self-indulgent. It’s high on spectacle and empowerment, but sometimes the drama of live protest overshadows its goal”

 

A Work of the Body: Deconstructing Preconceived Notions of Disability and Dance in Piece by Piece

 

“What’s even more powerful is the way that Bogue and her artistic collaborators changed their perceptions—and the audience’s perceptions—of what a dancer can or ‘should’ look like. Dance, even more than theatre, has strict ‘standards’ of how bodies on stage are ‘supposed to’ appear. Rutherford says that as a concert dancer, she was trained to see dancers one way, but that after this experience, she sees dancers differently. ‘You know,’ she says, ‘there’s not just one shape for a dancer, there’s not one style of movement for a dancer. A dancer can be anything.'”

 

Let’s use names

Tl;dr Talking around an identity word instead of using it, even if for the most well-intentioned reasons, really just others folks with that identity and denies their existence. Names have power, so let’s use them!

 

I recently received in-person feedback from one of my audience members during a post-showcase session – they were mainly adamant that I should never ever say the dreaded “f-word” (oops), but they also made a vague allusion to “my message”. I asked what that was, the answer was “wanting to be respected and treated right”. It took a couple more questions and a very blunt, “I would like you to name this”, before they actually said “trans…gender?”

 

No one wants to say the word “trans”. It’s kind of hilarious.

 

I was also recently asked by a well-meaning person “is saying LGBT offensive????”

 

To be honest, I was so surprised by the question that I didn’t answer as well as I could.

 

Here’s the thing: cis folks, straight folks, and yes, allo folks are so scared of messing up that they don’t try.

 

That’s fair. I definitely do that a lot in my life. I’m a perfectionist dependent on validation and sometimes it is scary to do something knowing full well that I will fuck it up. Lie, it’s not scary, it’s TERRIFYING. I get it.

 

But when someone is too scared to try to use proper terminology around queer/lgbt+ identities that they end up condemning us to nonexistence by talking around the word.

 

Every time a cis person says “your identity” or “gender non-conforming” or “who you are” or basically anything that isn’t “trans”, what they’re doing is taking the words I have taken for myself and replacing them with what they’re comfortable with.

 

When someone doesn’t use the word “trans”, they are othering it, they make it seem weird, strange, untouchable, and it means my transness gets less notice and respect as it becomes jumbled around and confused while the cis person fumbles around trying to say the word without actually saying it.

 

It’s kind of cute to watch someone try really hard  not to say the Wrong Thing and constantly miss the obvious choice. You can learn a lot by seeing what choices a person makes – what kind of trans visibility they’ve been exposed to, existing knowledge of queer communities, where they are in their personal allyship journey.

 

But, at the end of the day, all this circumlocution does is create a giant black hole where trans people don’t exist (but there are lots of people with vague, undefined identities that are theirs!)

 

It goes back to all those old folk tales – names have power. There is even the longstanding belief that naming a thing makes it real.

 

When non-queer people are afraid to use basic (I mean basic, “trans”, “lgbt”, “gay”, “bisexual”, not the slightly more complex words) terminology, they aren’t being polite, they’re denying my existence.

 

Here’s a thing: I have the same problem when it comes to discussing race – I’ll happily talk about black folks, PoC, latinx folks, API folks, until I’m facing a person of color and I panic and I go “oh no! what if this specific term I’m using is WRONG” and start doing verbal gymnastics to avoid saying the damn word. I’m sure it’s just as hilarious for people of color to watch as when I let a cis person fumble.

 

I’m learning to sit with that panic and say it anyways. Like seriously, how the hell can I be an ally to black folks if I can’t say the word “black” when a black person is listening? I’m learning to accept that I WILL make mistakes and to look forward to them as opportunities to be better instead of signs of my own inadequacy. I’m learning to be uncomfortable.

 

I’d love to encourage my fellow white folks to do the same.

 

I’d also like to encourage cis/straight/allo folks to do the same.

 

There’s nothing insulting or dirty or wrong about the word “trans” (and no one needs my permission to say “LGBT”). It’s an incredibly important word. So say it! Normalize it! Let me exist on my terms, with the terminology I chose for myself!

 

Let’s name the things and call them what they are!

CDA for Dance: Movement, Performer, Costume

tl;dr The movement, performer, and costume used in this video of Michael Flatley’s dancer point towards a deep insecurity around Irish dance being a folk or traditional form of dance, as opposed to a concert style of dance. 

So, two months ago, I started on an epic project to explore uses of Critical Discourse Analysis by analyzing this mess of a video with a little help from some choreological practices.

In the first post of this project, I looked at the textual framing of the dancing by analyzing Flatley’s introduction and then analyzed sound in particular. This time, we’re going to keep looking at the different strands of the dance medium individually (we’ll eventually start to relate them!). The three remaining strands are movement, the space (including props) and the performer (including costume). To recap: strands are different elements of a dance performance that work together – dance isn’t just movement, it is also the sounds that accompany it, the person doing the movement, and the space they are doing the movement in.

Movement

I have to admit that I nearly exploded from boredom watching this for movement. Not the footwork, the footwork is impressive and beautiful, but if you sit back and look from a distance, there is pretty much one action besides footwork that the soloist does over and over again – they lift their arms up to a flattened fifth position over their head (just circular enough to be reminiscent of ballet, especially when they’re in a toe stand) and then their arms go down. Over and over and over again.

Now, there’s very practical reasoning for this, Irish dancers aren’t trained in anything but footwork, so, of course  using the whole body has to be somewhat uncomplex to account for that training. I wouldn’t expect anything else from even the most talented Irish dancer, but I do wonder about the choice to have full body movement to begin with. While Flatley does present his dancers as representative of Irish culture, this awkward arm waving speaks differently – it suggests that the choreographer (Flatley) believes dance performance is less when it is only footwork. It speaks to a long standing insecurity in Irish dance which dates back to that myth that Irish dancers don’t move their arms because it technically wasn’t dancing without the arms (and thus, got around the church’s ban on dancing).

By forcing unnatural upper body into the piece, Flatley and anyone else involved in the choreography continues this assumption that only full-bodied movement that includes the arms is real dancing.

Also, consider, Irish dance is a full-bodied dance form. We can still see this in older Irish dance forms. It’s not a balletic or contemporary way to integrate the upper body with the lower body, but it’s connected and natural and Irish.  Instead of using that or embracing the natural upper body movements of Irish dance forms, Flatley (and co-conspirators) add new ones. Not only expressing the insecurity around lack of arm movement, they cut off original Irish dance movement to replace it with something vaguely reminiscent of ballet – a respect for classical dance forms, an insult to traditional dance forms.

Here’s the other element to notice about movement, especially in the second half of the piece: it’s attempting to be sexy. And I kind of think those shoulder rolls were unsuccessful. Now, I am that asexual that has no fucking clue what sexy is, but I do want to make a note of this in terms of the conversation above. Sex sells. That’s a thing little (girl) dancers learn quickly. Sex attracts audience and interest and it’s a quick and easy way to scandalize people (but not too much, just enough so that they’re drawn to watch it). But Irish dance is not designed for hip wiggles, it’s just not that kind of technique. The “sexy” element is added on top of a dance form that doesn’t actually include it. Once again, I see an insecurity about Irish dance – Irish dance is not enough on its own, it needs to be sexy too.

Performer/Costume

If we’re analyzing dance, we are analyzing what we see, not necessarily what we know. This can get sketchy very quickly when talking about gender (lots of things to think about in terms of visibility and audibility YAY!) But, it is important to notice that all the dancers in this piece are perceived as women and that the person introducing them was a man. That creates an immediate power dynamic between Flatley and the dancers, heightened by the fact that we know that this piece is from his show (and that, in his show, this is usually followed by an all-men dance).

The other side to this story is costume. Now, costume is an interesting one. In choreology, it is actually considered part of the performer, as it is an element that affects how we view and interpret the performer. I’m still not completely convinced of this, but I can accept that it needs to go somewhere and we might as well group it as performer in this particular model.

Costume, in this piece, is important because this is a pseudo-burlesque piece. The dancers take off their clothes. The dancers are all perceived as women, directed and introduced by a man, and take off their clothes, but never enough to actually challenge social comfort (Flatley wants to keep his younger audiences, I suspect).

More or less, the piece doesn’t seem to commit to anything – not the upper body movement, as discussed above, not the possibilities of costume, and not the pseudo-burlesque framework it takes on. It’s scared.

Space

Did you notice that the theme of this event was stars? If Flatley hadn’t already made his clever play on words, the starry background would have helped make it clear. Keep in mind that this is a corporate event as well, so it might not be a full-fledged dance stage. That means, this stage fits less people than what Flatley and his dancers are used to (there are lots of videos of space that actually have dancers on an upper level dancing along with the dancers on the stage, there are videos of an impressive SEA of Irish dancers, that’s not this video). This is still, however, a proscenium stage that raises the dancers slightly above the audience, building a distance between the two.

There’s not much to say here, but I do want to point out that, once again, this stage is more a space for concert dance than Irish dance. Originally, Irish dance is done in live music settings – dancing “at the crossroads” (ie. where two roads from different towns/villages meet), in pubs, and, even in competitions, the spaces where we compete can be a floor in a gym or a cafeteria, always vaguely in the round and situated within a community instead of against it. Stages are something that comes with the transition of Irish dance from traditional and competition-based to another concert dance form. Worth noticing.

Conclusion

Pretty much, this piece is saying that Irish dance, on its own, is not enough.

(I’ll rant about that nonsense in the future, most likely).

The conclusion we can draw from looking at movement, performer, and space separately is an insecurity around Irish dance being a traditional dance form and a push to formalize it into a concert dance form. There’s also some interesting power systems at play when it comes to gender and who gets to decide what Irish dance, culture, or tradition is. Up next, we’ll look at how the four strands that were isolated here interact with each other in specific ways to build on this conclusion.

 

A gratitude

Tl;dr In traversing various queer communities, the one constant I have seen is how older queer folks make space for us younger queer folks, and I am forever grateful.

 

There are many people in my life that I appreciate, but I have to say it is the openness and generosity of older queer people in my life that have made the work I do possible and kept me feeling like a human despite everything.

 

I don’t have a trans dancer role model, I really wish I did, but instead I kind of have to slot some puzzle pieces of different options together and hope to find the right kind of models in the mosaic. And that’s why it’s so amazing that I do have a whole boatload of older queer people who make space for me to figure my shit out. I want to honor that. I need to honor that. Because these are the people that are making me.

 

I am a traditional dancer, lineage is important, history is important. Dancing with older keepers of the tradition is important. And the same is true with queer culture. Even people just ten years older than me hold queer history in a way that I don’t. And then they let me become part of that and I am so eternally grateful.

 

I am grateful for the people that respond with an enthusiastic “yes!” whenever I ask them to hash out a theory with me. I am grateful for the people that have taken chances and given me opportunities I technically didn’t qualify for. I am grateful for the people that sit down with me to tell me about their work (and who sometimes then turn the question around and ask me about my work as if I’m an equal).

 

This whole try-to-be-a-professional-dancer lark would not be possible except for these amazing people making space for me.

 

And that is the beauty of our queer community. We take care of each other and support each other in ways that extends beyond family.

 

I usually talk about queer communities and trans communities, a plural to point out how different queer and/or trans communities have been formed around race, class, ability, geography, culture, acespec and arospec identities, language and the like. It is important to recognize that the mainstream queer community is still a hostile environment for many many people – self-proclaimed “queer” spaces discuss sex like a universal experience and don’t include trans people, trans events happen up five flights of stairs and secretly focus on trans sexuality, despite being advertised as a general trans event, and it’s almost incredible (in a disgusting sort of way) how often an “all-queer” group is quite often also “all-white” and somehow the people involved believe the fact that the group is “all-queer” negates the violence perpetuated by the whiteness.

 

That is on top of some of the more innocent differences – I froze in horror the first time I saw the word “homo” in Finland before learning that the term was more or less an abbreviated way to say “homoseksuaali” in Finnish and did not hold the same power the english “homo”. I still struggle with how queer Americans tend to make much more generalized statements and use larger-reaching identity groups than the specificity that I had gotten used to in England (it’s uncomfortable for me, but I’m pretty sure we’re just used to different things).

 

There are so many queer communities in the world, it makes my mind spin. But there is still this constant – older queer people reaching out and making space for young queer folks. In every country, in every language, in every community I have been part of.

 

And there’s really nothing I can say beyond that I am incredibly awestruck by this one, single, simple community constant  and eternally grateful.

 

And all I can do is to continue to reach out and make space for the queer folks who are younger than me.

 

 

Les Ballet Trockadero at the Dancing Queerly Festival

Tl;dr The Dancing Queerly Festival has made a mistake in inviting in Les Ballet Trockadero to teach a workshop, but there is currently open dialogue happening, which will hopefully build a resolution. I am choosing to remain involved in the festival in order to ensure that there is a present trans voice. And I hope, if nothing else, to remind my fellow trans dancers that we are in this together.

All right folks, this is a hard one.

I am currently involved with the incredibly exciting Dancing Queerly Festival (check it out: http://www.thefemmeshow.com/dancing-queerly.html). I consulted for one of the workshops, I’ll be teaching a quick dip into Irish dance at the Dance Curious workshop, and I’ll be performing in the final performances. It’s an exciting, much-needed event in a public, visible space, and I want to be excited by it.

However, as part of this festival, Les Ballet Trockadero were invited to do a workshop, under the belief that the educational branch of the company could be engaged outside of the transmisogyny inherent in the company’s concept and the clear transphobia and harassment in the company. I was not involved in this decision and did not learn of it until publicity for the festival came out. I then spent a lot of time scared to speak up about my discomfort around this. When I did, the organizers were receptive and we are currently discussing the matter.

The organizers have been clear that they intend to go forward with the workshop anyways. I disagree with this, but I can recognize the difficulties and challenges they are facing on all sides – there’s nothing simple about organizing a queer anything. I also recognize that the Trocks fit into a a part of drag culture which balances on the very thin line between queer and transmisogynistic (and can be both). There is queer history here, even if I, personally, don’t like it.

Maybe I’m setting the bar too low, maybe I’m setting the bar too high, but I can truly say that the Dancing Queerly organizers have listened to what I have to say, have plans in place to listen to specific trans feminine folks and trans women, and will be engaging with the Trocks on their policies. Considering the current culture of the dance world (ie. incredibly toxic for trans folks), the pressures placed on queer folks by cis/straight/allo folks, the pressures placed on queer folks by each other, and the actual, very real constraints of time and energy, it has to be enough.

I am well aware that, by staying in this festival, I am, in some ways, endorsing the presence of the Trocks in the festival. I also am aware that, if I leave, I will be removing trans voice from one of the first queer dance festivals. Having been the tiny trans dancer looking for representation, I know how heartbreaking it would be to look at a QUEER dance festival and not see a single trans person (I am still unclear on how many trans people are involved in the festival as there are people involved that I do not know and the organizers did not answer when I asked).

I’m not completely sure if I’m making the right decision but the fact is, Dancing Queerly is still one of the most open and decent productions I have been a part of. Up until now, I’ve mostly been dancing in obnoxiously straight/cis/allo spaces. Even dancing in just a cis/allo space is so much better (and I have no information on exactly how allo the space is either, I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised). That’s why the transphobia (transmisogyny) here is that much more upsetting, but that’s also why it’s so important that productions like Dancing Queerly happens. The dance world is so far away from where it needs to be, even baby steps are huge.

Fellow trans folks – I can’t ask you to participate in this festival. It wasn’t built with us in mind. But I would still love to dance with you at the Dance Curious workshop on June 20th, if just for my own selfishness. I consulted for that workshop, so I can wholeheartedly say that it lines up with my values and any mistakes or harm caused by the workshop is on me. I’m excited to share Irish dance with queer folks because there is always such a divide between my Irish dance world and my queer world. I want to spend my twenty minutes really, truly sharing my love with members of MY community.

And, most importantly, I want you to know that you’re not alone. None of us are the only one. None of us should have to carry the entire weight of cis people’s mistakes on our shoulders. None of us have to do this alone. Dance is fucking hard. But we’re in this together and we’ll figure it out. Promise.

(The organizers of Dancing Queerly are good open listeners if you have any concerns or thoughts or questions around the festival. I am also an open ear and happy to talk more about this specific situation or anything else vaguely related to transness, dance, and all those other things I’m interested in – send me a message here or email me at jotrolldance@gmail.com)