Considerations for cis dance teachers: Challenging the status quo

tl;dr Cis dance teachers can support their trans students by challenging the status quo through role modelling for other cis dance teachers, challenging and working with the organizations they are affiliated with, and creating more opportunities for trans dancers. 

This is the end of my 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, and the third one, about how to prioritise trans people is here . This time, we end on ways you can use your privilege to challenge the status quo and make more spaces available for trans people.

 

It’s hard, but you do have to challenge the institutional transphobia, cissexism, and essentialism that surrounds you. You cannot get comfortable with how things are. If there’s inequality present, there is nothing comfortable with how things are, even if it’s comfortable for you:

 

  1. Be a role model. Tell other cis dance teachers about what you’re doing to support trans dancers in your classes. Offer them resources. Explain all the above things to them. Encourage them to make their own changes. Cis people listen to better when it’s a cis person talking. Only the best cis dance teachers are going to read this rant by a frustrated trans person, but you have the power to get the average cis dance teacher to listen.

 

  1. Notice the dance organizations you are affiliated with. Are they actively transphobic or do they rely too heavily on biological essentialism? Can they do better? If so, you have two options, depending on the situation – either you can draw problems to the attention of the powers that be in that organization and demand they start looking towards steps to alter this or you can disengage from the organization as quickly as possible, while make it Very Clear why you are doing so (if you just sneak away in the dead of night without explanation, that’s not going to give the organization the feedback they need in order to enact change. It can be exhausting to directly challenge discrimination, so there’s no reason for you to stay and challenge everything all the time, but leaving with an explanation such as “As someone that teaches trans students and wants to create a welcoming space for trans dancers in my classes, I cannot remain affiliated with an organization that promotes gender essentialism in this way” can actually make a huge difference).

 

  1. Check with examination regulations before entering students. This is more of a 2.5, but I just want to add this specific action in because it’s something concrete that I know a little about. For people in places where exams are popular, if you have the power to enter people into exams, call up and ask about policies concerning gender before a student flags it. You want to make sure that, not only will you be able to enter binary gendered trans people into exams as their gender, but also that nonbinary dancers will be granted enough options that they do not face the discomfort of having to misgender themselves in order to take an exam. This could either look like an exam that is exactly the same, regardless of gender, or where the options are defined by dancer’s preference instead of gender, or providing a third, “neutral” option. Of course the first option is the best one, but this is something dance organizations are still working on. Just like this guide is in steps, take on organizations in steps. Find what change they’re willing to make, allow them time to get comfortable with it, and then suggest the next change.

 

  1. Create opportunities for trans dancers and others involved in dance. Think about it – if dance organizations (and the exams coming with it) are still seeped in their transphobic, essentialist ways, young trans dancers do not have access to the same amount of programming, support, and mentorship that their cis counterparts do. You know all those programs to “bring youth into the arts” or “young choreographers” nights? Those are harder for young trans dance artists to take part in and, if we do get to take part, we are often caught struggling with being the only trans person present, and even sometimes having to compromise our transness in order to get the experience we need to be professional dancers. If it is within your power, make opportunities for us – choreograph a piece specifically for trans dancers, organize a young choreographers’ night for trans (or queer) voices. Training or mentorship programs can say “trans dancers/choreographers/directors encouraged to apply” and then prioritise the trans applicants. Create chances for trans dance artists to receive the same amount of exposure and experience that cis dance artists do without having to compromise their identity in order to do so.

 

 

I’m going to leave the lists at this for a moment. I’d love to open this up to other trans dancers to talk about the useful things their teachers have done or things they would like their teachers to do. And, if you are a cis dance teacher, I really encourage you to start thinking about this. You don’t have to be perfect overnight, change takes time. But the sooner you start thinking and processing, the sooner dance is going to be a more welcoming place for trans dancers.

 

And, finally, I want to bring us back to a point I made well at the beginning of this series: challenging transphobia, cissexism, and gender essentialism in the dance studio doesn’t only benefit trans students, it benefits cis dance students too.

 

Considerations for cis dance teachers: Prioritising trans people

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.

Some thoughts about fitness

tl;dr As my course has become more and more about turning me into the kind of dancer I’m not, I have found refuge in working out and focusing on my own fitness, something that has been a source of shame in the past. 

 

For anyone that’s wondering, my course isn’t going too well. There’s been transphobia and lack of basic respect at every turn. It’s hard. I’m not actually enjoying dance at the moment. This is only an acceptable situation because I know it’s going to end very soon.

 

But there is one thing that is going really well for me right: working out.

 

I was weak and very unfit when I started dancing and I knew it, and so I was embarassed to do anything that showed it in front of anyone else. I wouldn’t do any strengthening exercises to warm up for class, I wouldn’t stretch after class, I wouldn’t do anything that would draw attention to how unfit I was. I knew I had to be strong to be a dancer, and I knew I wasn’t, and so my insecurities took control and, instead of pushing myself to get stronger, I ran away from The Big Scary Thing in fear of being judged and told I couldn’t do the thing I loved.

 

This is not my fault. This is the fault of a system that had so many set expectations for me that I knew I couldn’t meet. It became easier for me to quit before I started.

 

And I’ve tried to commit to different exercise regiments over the course of my life. Some worked. Some didn’t. None ever lasted long enough to actually have any significant impact. I stopped doing most of them because I would fall into shame of not being good enough and despair of ever seeing real progress.

 

But, this year, I really committed to working out because my school has a tiny little “gym” that’s free for students.

 

I first tried one of the classes there and felt the same judgement and insecurity I had gotten before, so instead, I started going to free practice sessions. I still feel judged, but it is manageable, as everyone is focused on doing different things, as opposed to doing the same thing as me (except so much “better”).  Sometimes I’m even lucky enough to be the only person in there.

 

I know I’m not as strong as most of the other people there, and I know I’m probably not doing the exercises “right”, but I also know that I’m getting stronger. And it’s actually really satisfying to look at my notes and see the numbers slowly increase over time.

 

While I’m on a course where I constantly have to be whatever my teacher wants me to be, working out has become the place where I can become what I want to be. I have complete control. I’m not as strong as I’d like, but I know I’m going to get there, because it’s what I want, and I’m watching myself plugging steadily onwards.

 

It’s a strange life reversal: working out, not dance, has become the place where I don’t have to be ashamed.

 

I think, at the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that not every system works for everybody. And that our emotions will impact how we are able to exercise. For me, instead of pushing myself through my shame and insecurity, I had to find a way to work out that impacted it in the least way possible. It was hard at first. But every time I do it, I gain a little more self-confidence. And maybe, by the time I lose access to my school’s equipment, I’ll have enough confidence to find another gym to keep working out at. I hope so, because I’m really enjoying this.

Considerations for cis dance teachers: Assumptions

tl;dr Cis dance teachers can challenge the way transphobia shapes their assumptions by assuming there is always a trans person in their class, gaining awareness of biological essentialism, using gender neutral language, and removing cissexism, biological essentialism and transphobia from their teaching materials. 

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. This time, I’m going to jump right into some thoughts about assumptions.

 

1. The one assumption to make: Always assume there is at least one closeted or stealth trans person in your class. Just because you don’t know of any explicitly trans people in your class doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Especially if you’re new to this, it’s sometimes hard to judge what’s ok and what’s not, especially on the fly, as most teaching ends up being. You will not always be able to go and do research and consult with a handy trans friend/encyclopedia every time you’re faced with a question of how to not let your socialized transphobia impact your class. Let this assumption guide your decision making.

Basically, if you wouldn’t do it in front of a trans person, you shouldn’t do it. Transphobia and cissexism are still transphobia and cissexism when there is no trans person present.

Everything else I’m writing in these lists are things you can (and should!) take on whether or not you know if you teach trans students. Because the moment the trans person shows up is too late to be working on this stuff, you should already be learning and practicing, so that moment can be one of a calm “yes, I’m working on this” instead of a panicked “Ah! I suddenly need to do all these things!”

 

2. Know what biological essentialism is and start noticing when it influences your teaching. There are loads of resources on it, so I’m not going to belabour the point, but biological essentialism is more or less the belief that biological differences between men and women are essential, unchangeable, traits.

First of all, people aren’t a bunch of body parts thrown together!!! There’s so much biological variation in people that shoving us all into two boxes is all kinds of sloppy and imprecise.

What does this biological essentialism look like in a dance setting? It’s any moment,you find yourself thinking “oh, men are less flexible than woman” or “women aren’t as good as jumping” or “men tend to be stronger than woman” or “women are more graceful”. No matter how hard you try to make these facts true, there are always going to be flexible men, women that jump, weak men, and clumsy women, regardless of biology.

Trans people are particularly hurt by this, because this kind of language is used to challenge the existence and validity of our genders, but this is actually something that limits and harms every single dancer of every single gender. A teacher’s assumptions about a dancer will affect how and what they teach that dancer. So, take a step back and notice what your assumptions are and how that impacts how and what you teach your students.

 

3. Use gender neutral language in general situations. In basics, we were discussing how you refer to your specific students. But here, start thinking about how you refer to everyone. Instead of “men” or “ladies”, you can almost always use “dancers” or “people” to refer to your class. In partner dancing, “leader” and “follower” are almost always more useful terms than “man” and “woman”. If you’re discussing abstract dancers you’ve made up, you don’t need to gender them. Instead, use the pronoun “they” and describe them as a dancer.

If you’re describing a dancer you don’t know from a video or performance or any other situation, the same rules apply. If someone hasn’t told you their gender, you don’t get to make that decision for them, even if they aren’t in the room. Practicing this in your teaching challenges the assumptions you are making about dancers and models for your students how it is most effective to discuss other dancers. It has the added benefit that any example you give is more universally applied to all of your students.

 

4. Start removing casual cissexism, biological essentialism, and transphobia from your teaching materials. Song with a transphobic line? Not a good music choice for class. Anatomy textbook that’s really obsessed with the different bone structures of men and women? Photocopy the images if they’re useful, but that’s not really something you want to bring into class or refer your students to. Same with videos you may want to show or refer students to.

(WARNING: BE VERY CAREFUL WITH FEMINIST DANCE! Feminist contemporary dance has a looooong history of biological essentialism. Do your research and a lot of thinking before bringing that into your classroom. If you’re unsure and it’s possible, consult google and/or see what trans people are saying about a particular piece/song before making a decision. There is always a time and place to discuss feminist dance, even the painful essentialist stuff. But you have to be aware, smart, and prepared to discuss biological essentialism and its harm before bringing something like that into class.)

 

And that’s assumptions for the moment. Next time I get to this, I’ll talk a little bit about how you can prioritise trans dancers in your classes.

Considerations for cis dance teachers: The Basics

tl;dr Some basic things cis dance teacher can do to support their trans students include listening, using correct name and pronouns, doing better after apologizing for a mistake, and not grouping students by gender.

 

I once got a really lovely message from a wonderful dance teacher, asking if there were ways she could do better for her trans students.

 

I spent a good amount of thought on the question because, the fact is, even though she is cis, the fact that she treats me with basic levels of respect makes her so much better than all of my other teachers and I hadn’t even stopped to think “yeah, there are things she can do better”. Of course there are, there are always things that cis people can do better, it just hadn’t occurred to me. And I think that is a huge, blinking warning sign pointing at the shit I deal with on a regular basis from my other teachers. More importantly, it’s terrifying that I’ve been conditioned to more or less accept that shit as unavoidable.

 

But! The good news is! It’s not unavoidable! There are loads of things cis dance teachers can do to support their trans students! And, more importantly, there are things cis dance teachers can do to challenge the power cis people hold in modern/contemporary dance worlds and make space for trans people to create their own dance. So, I’m writing out a series of lists of considerations for cis dance teachers. This first list will be absolute basics, and there will be a list or two more to come.

Obviously, I am one single trans person doing my best. I could be wrong. Or what works for me may not work for other trans people. The most important thing is to listen to trans people because, given the space, we will tell you what we need.

 

Fair warning: these might not always be things you want to hear. Facing your privilege and your power and your mistakes can be really hard and know that I fully respect you just for reading this far in a post. Allyship is a process, as is breaking down oppressive structures in society. It takes time and I understand that. No one expects you to become the #1 trans ally of perfection after reading a blog post or two. But what I hope is that you’re trying and that this can be a guide for you on your journey of doing better.

 

Use this to figure out where you’re at in your personal journey of allyship and what step you can take, not as a way to grade yourself. There is always more allyship to do. Maybe if you ever do get through all of this, we’ll be at a point where dance teachers have gotten trans-friendly enough that there can be a whole new list of considerations…

 

Before we begin, one basic rule: Do not ever expect your students to teach you. You are the teacher. They are the student. Do not force them to become a teacher and perform emotional labour so you can give them a safe and respectful class. This is on you. If you know a student well, you might be able to approach them and say you would welcome suggestions (as was the case with the teacher that inspired this post), but your basic education is your responsibility.

 

The basics:

 

1. Use everyone’s name correctly and do whatever the hell it takes to do that. First of all, YAWN. If you haven’t figured this one out, we have a problem. Using people’s names, whether or not they’re trans, is crucial to respecting them as people. And basically every guide on how to be an ally to trans people mentions this. And yet, I still have teachers, more than halfway through an entire year of studying with them, that still “accidentally” call me, and other people in the class, the wrong name. A slip up or a mix up is fine, but consistently failing to get a student’s name is unacceptable. So here’s the deal: I literally do not care what you have to do in order to get your students’ names correct, but you have to do it. Sooner rather than later.

 

2. Pronouns! This is another bit of a yawn because it also shows up in all the ally guides ever, but I do think there’s never enough explanation of how to handle pronouns and I realize it is scary for people who have never thought about pronouns to start using gender neutral pronouns for another person in front of a whole bunch of other people who have never thought about pronouns before. So, here are some thoughts for how this can work in a dance class.

Level 1: If a student offers their preferred pronoun, use it (fun fact, I told ALL my teachers at my school to use “they/their/them”, and none have yet to actually use it. They all failed level 1. Can you do better than a teacher at a major dance conservatoire? I think so.)

Level 2: Offer your own pronouns when you introduce yourself to the class. You could say something like, “Hi, my name is XYZ and my pronouns are ZYX. I know it might seem obvious, but I’m aware it’s impossible to tell someone’s pronoun by looking at them and we don’t know each other very well yet, so I just wanted to make it clear”. That tells trans students that you do care about using the right pronoun and they are more likely to offer you their preferred pronouns, so you can continue to practice Level 1. It also normalizes the practice of specifying pronouns for everyone in the class.

Level 3: Ask for pronouns to be included in personal introductions. Here, level 2 is still important – you have to start. A trans person is not going to feel safe sharing their pronouns simply because their teacher asked them. The teacher has to ask everyone, including themselves and set the example. This also includes establishing a model of behavior in which joking about pronouns is completely unacceptable (my rule is that if you provide a joke pronoun, that’s your pronoun until you can take the exercise seriously and share your actual pronoun). This also means doing whatever the hell it takes to remember pronouns and use them regularly and consistently and asking your students to do the same, while not using it to draw attention to individuals (if someone regularly misgenders/mispronouns someone in your class, it’s acceptable to privately remind them of the person’s preferred pronoun, with that person’s permission. However, in a class setting, try not to draw too much negative attention to a person because of their pronoun, and instead model proper pronoun use to make it clear how completely expected that is in your class).

3. Do better after you apologize! This sounds incredibly simple, but, fun fact, I do have a teacher right now who apologises profusely after misgendering me and then continues to misgender me. An apology stops meaning something if you then continue to do the same thing you were doing before, and constantly having to forgive someone when they apologise is work for me that I shouldn’t have to do. So please do apologise, yes, but don’t do it expecting forgiveness from the trans person you’ve misgendered or called the wrong name. An important part of an apology is doing better.

 

4. Avoid singling out or grouping people by gender. You know that thing where you like to see “the men” in your class dance together because they dance similarly? Or you change the movement slightly for women or men? Or you point out how a dancer has very good jumps “for a woman”? Or you only have men learn one part and women the other? Yeah. Don’t do any of that. For one, this quite often completely ignores the existence of nonbinary identities (hi!). For two, it classes dancers in a sloppy way  and makes categorization difficult for any trans person that may not be fully out in a class and could draw unwanted attention onto that person if they felt more comfortable in a group the other students didn’t expect them to dance in. For three, it means your students are missing out on chances to learn broader movement vocabularies and dance with a variety of people. When I did partner dancing, I had a teacher that refused to teach me how to lead. Not only was I misgendered and forced to be a woman (the one time I got to lead, she made it Explicitly Clear that I was still going to wear the “women’s” costume), I got to dance with less people when I was learning. And now, when I want to do social partner dancing, my options are a lot narrower than they would be if she had just let me learn the other part (and it also was enough to keep me from wanting to do partner dancing for a very long time and I’ve really only just started again in spaces where I am allowed to attempt leading).

 

And this is the end of this list. Short and sweet. Next time, I’ll give some more ideas on how to challenge your assumptions and prioritise trans voices in dance spaces. Yay!

I am not a dancer who “happens to be” trans

tl;dr By saying someone “happens to be” trans, it suggests that transness is a convenient accident and diminishes the importance of transness in a person’s identity.

January 2017

There is nothing I hate more (ok, there probably is) than when a news article or a person mentions someone who does something else and “happens to be trans”.

As if transness is some kind of happy accident that has very little bearing on someone’s identity.

And, I mean, maybe that’s true for some trans people, but something about how obsessed cis people are with this specific turn of phrase worries me.

It also goes on with these statements of “XYZ may be trans, but they’re also so many other things….”

Which, I mean, great, people are complicated, multifaceted beings, and I understand how quickly society likes to simplify people, but the danger of these statements is that it says “look at all the parts of XYZ that aren’t trans! Ignore the trans bit! That’s not important!”

Transness is an integral part of me. It’s not a happy accident, or a funny “happens to be” coincidence that I dance and am trans. It is impossible to understand the rest of me and the layers of my personality without recognizing and prioritising my transness because (shocker) that has a huge effect on how I perceive and interact with the world.

It’s time to stop talking about people who “happen to be” trans. Instead, let’s discuss people who have major success because they are trans. Let’s discuss the way a trans identity will fuel and influence someone’s career, whether they choose it or not.

And, especially if we’re talking dance, a world particularly hostile to trans identities, we have to recognize that I’m a trans dancer despite transphobia and cissexism. I am not a dancer who happens to be trans or a trans person who happens to be a dancer, those two parts of me are inseparable. And every moment we spend separating the different bits of me apart, as if I can be turned into a catalogued list of attributes, is an excuse to not look at what it really means to be a trans dancer. And it’s a great way to get brownie points for polite, respectable diversity without actually taking responsibility for how dance, and society, disadvantages trans people.

No, there is absolutely no accident in my being a trans dancer. It is a very specific, conscious decision and challenge to the transphobia and cissexism in the spaces I enter because of who I am. No one gets to forget about or minimize the importance of my transness.

 

Growing generations

tl;dr Even though I’m still pretty young, I’m realizing that i am no longer the youngest. And, if nothing else, I would like that the work I do ensures the generation below me doesn’t have to do the same thing I’m doing. 

January 2017

One of the things I’ve been really thinking about recently is the fact that I’m getting older. Not in the bad oh-god-my-life-is-over way. And, to be honest, getting older doesn’t mean I’m old. I’m actually very very young.

That’s another thing I’m thinking about.

But, in terms of my place in queer communities, there is now a generation under me that is distinguishable from my generation. Part of that is just experience – I now have an undergraduate degree and the experience of involvement in queer circles while an undergrad student is pretty particular and has shaped me in specific ways, I also got to intern with a queer theatre organization, and lived with a ridiculously inspiring anti-racist feminist activist (and a bunch of other things) for a month and a half, whose entire approach to activism is something I am trying to adopt into my entire life and has left strong imprints on me over a year later.

Basically, a lot can happen in four years. And, in interacting with those who have not yet experienced those particular four years of their life, or even are just in the midst of experiencing it, I’m realizing that I am no longer the baby. It doesn’t mean I’m the wise elder either. Far from it, I’m still a confused, inexperienced youngster. But I’ve had some moments and I’m older.

For me, one of the hardest parts of the disastrous US presidential elections this year was watching the younger trans people I know respond. This is the second presidential election I’ve been able to vote in, this was their first. Not a huge difference, but enough for us to have different perspectives. I was watching panic. I was watching heartbreak and fear and hopelessness. And these were all things I was feeling too, but seeing it come from someone younger was a lot more painful than experiencing it personally.

For me, the most meaningful part of my community’s response to the disastrous US presidential elections came in the form of two facebook messages. Two older trans people I know here, outside of the US, from completely different settings, both British, simply had the thought to send me a message, let me know they/their respective communities were there for me, and ask how I was doing.

And, because I’m in this weird old/young middle place, I was able to experience both sides and gain the perspective of just how important my role is becoming in my community. And it will become more and more important as I get older.

In a way, that responsibility is daunting. But it’s a good reminder of who I am.

I’m currently dealing with institutionalized transphobia at my school. It was an easily-solved situation that the institution chose to extend and extend and extend. I am exhausted. I have had to justify and explain myself, my identity, other trans identities, and argue that transphobia has no place in academic discussions with my peers and teachers. And then the words I used were twisted around and thrown back at my face in an attempt to deny everything I was saying.

And staring at that, I nearly gave up. I don’t have the energy to deal with this. I am at this school to learn how to dance, not to argue with people that think transphobia is good for my education. I cannot emotionally balance a demanding course and workload while making myself the necessary amount of vulnerable to fight this.

But here’s the thing: There’s someone on a different course than me with a trans symbol on their backpack. We haven’t talked a lot. I’m not even sure if they’re younger than me (I think they are, but I’m also terrible at estimating people’s ages).

Here’s the other thing: One of the hardest things about being a professional-track trans dancer is that no one else is. In the US, we have Sean Dorsey. But I cried the day I saw him dance, because what I saw was a dancer that played with and fit into binary gender as much as any cis choreographer. His work is brilliant and his work in queer and trans-specific activism is excellent, but he cannot model the path I’m taking in dance. There’s something about not having a single person paving the way for you that creates this extreme loneliness and helplessness.

I’m at this school for less than a year. I could give up, keep my head down, get my education and leave. But what about that other dancer? They could have two more years at this place. And, maybe I’m wrong (I hope I am), but I have to assume they are, in some part, experiencing the same loneliness and helplessness I am.

It takes a lot of hubris to say “oh yes, I will be that person’s role model” and I don’t intend for a minute to try that. Someday maybe I’ll deserve that, but not today.

What I can do is take on the battle in front of me. No, it’s not my job to teach my teachers how to treat me with basic human respect, but no one else is doing it and it has to be done, if only so someone else further down the line doesn’t have to do it. I might not be able to find a resolution to this problem, but if I give up and don’t continue to challenge it, that’s just passing it on to the next person. There is definitely a part of me that just wants to go “yeah, fuck this, I’m dropping out”, but if I drop out, then the transphobia continues and the next person ends up in the same situation and mainstream dance will not have become any more trans-inclusive than when I started. In fact, they’ll have learned how to conveniently speak over trans people and avoid being called out for transphobia.

So basically, screw my education, screw my chance at a degree, screw letting my teachers and peers get away with casual transphobia. I’ve been shown quite clearly that the institution I am currently involved with is unapologetically transphobic and that is my priority.

Because I might be young, but I am definitely old enough to know how my actions effect those that are younger than me. And, if nothing else, I want the next generation’s battles to be different than the ones I fight. And, to be honest, this one is quite boring and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.