tl;dr Cis dance teachers can start to prioritise trans dancers in dance spaces through networking with and referring to trans people, attending performances that involve trans people, and putting trans people in leadership positions.
This is part of my ongoing series of lists of ideas that cis dance teachers can start to take on to support their trans students. The first part of the list, dealing with the basics, can be found here, and the second part, about challenging your assumptions, is here. This time, I’m going to write about prioritising trans people in dance spaces.
Why should we prioritise trans people? Shouldn’t we be trying to find an egalitarian, level situation in which no one is prioritised?
The fact is that, right now, treating trans dancers like cis dancers ignores the way we are disadvantaged in dance – we have less opportunities available to us due to lack of awareness, lack of safety, lack of support, and the simple fact that dance is currently controlled by cis dancers. I know it can be hard and there are a lot of other factors at play here, but we will not get even close to equalizing dancers unless we actively work to prioritise those that are currently disadvantaged. In this case, I am discussing trans dancers, but this is equally true of other marginalized dancers, such as those with mental illness or dancers of colour, so I would definitely encourage dance teachers to extend these practices beyond gender and transness, because this is one of those things that can really change the perspective and make-up of the dance world.
And, here is your list (short, but sweet):
1. Refer your students to trans specialists and hire them yourselves. If you have a trans dance teaching colleague, recommend them to students! If you know a trans dance physio, refer students to them! If you know a trans musician or just happen to like their music, use it in class and mention their name to your students. Or if you have the amazing ability to teach with a live musician, you can even hire them! If you know a trans director or producer or choreographer or costumer or lighting designer, refer people and hire them if you need one! Attend classes led by trans teachers. Basically, use your power as a cis dance teacher to give trans people related to the dance world visibility and work they might not otherwise have. And, most importantly, as you continue to make use of trans resources, you will gain professional development and learn more about how to support your trans students and make your classroom more trans-friendly
2. Attend and recommend trans performances. If you know there’s a trans dancer in a show or, in a more exciting turn of events, a performance organized specifically with trans dancers in mind, go to it. Give it your money, your presence, and suggest your students go too. If it makes sense in your class structure, you can even make it a class outing or have a discussion about the piece (NOT the validity of the dancers’ genders or transness) afterwards.
3. Put trans people in leadership positions. While this might not work if you’re teaching classes out of your basement, any involvement in an organization is a chance to put this in action. Referring is important here too. It will be uncomfortable, but if you are offered a leadership position at the detriment of a fully qualified trans person, it is your responsibility to make sure that the trans person gets the position. If someone puts you in a leadership position particularly because of your trans allyship (because, if you’ve gotten all the way to this point in the guide, you’re doing pretty good), refer a trans person for that role. You should not be the expert on trans people, no matter how wonderful an ally you are.
If you have the power to choose leaders, choose trans people. Even something as small as saying “trans dancers highly recommended to apply” can promote the prioritisation of trans leadership.
Leadership also includes choreographers, directors, and producers. It doesn’t matter how many trans people are dancing if cis people are still making all the decisions. Give trans dancers decision-making powers.