Choreographer accused of ‘transphobia’ after ‘asking trans dancers to confirm genitalia’

Headshot of Rosie Kay against a grey background

A top British choreographer has been accused of “transphobia” after allegedly asking trans and non-binary dancers to “confirm their genitalia”.

Rosie Kay, 45, resigned from her own dance company Tuesday (7 December) after two investigations were launched by trustees over the past four months.

During an August dinner party at her own home, she said to British newspaper The Times, she told dancers that she did not believe people could change their sex, among other allegedly disparaging comments.

Kay, known for her show 5 Soldiers as well as choreographing the Commonwealth Games 2018, told the BBC that she is “not transphobic”.

Choreographer ‘created hostile environment’ with trans rights remarks

Speaking about a planned ballet production based on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Biography, she said at the party: “Woolf knows anyone can change sex in their imagination but that you can’t change sex in your actual body.”

Rosie Kay also allegedly said that “identifying as non-binary is a cop-out” and that “allowing trans people to take hormone blockers is creating eunuchs”, according to an open letter written by six dancers.

Following the dinner, some of the dancers filed a complaint to the board of the Rosie Kay Dance Company, first founded in 2004.

Kay, after an initial grievance process, apologised for “how much [her comments] affected” the dancers.

“I am devastated by how the night went and how much it has affected you,” she said in the apology, according to the BBC. “It was never my intention to upset you, but I see now that I did so profoundly. I am truly sorry for this.”

Some dancers appealed, and Orlando was shut down.

In the letter, the dancers present at the party said they wish to “set the record straight and to ensure that any dancers under the supervision of Rosie Kay do not undergo the same marginalisation that we have suffered”.

They wrote that they “respect Rosie’s right to hold the belief that biological sex is immutable. However, no one, no matter how big their platform, has the right to create a hostile work environment.

“She abused her power as our boss. Furthermore, she is now using her power as someone that has a louder voice than we can hope for.”

One dancer, who is non-binary, said that Kay asked them “repeated questions” that “stepped into micro-aggression territory, then into something more potent”.

“She was asking us to justify our existence,” they told the public broadcaster, “asking people to confirm their genitalia”. Kay also reportedly “refused to use dancers’ correct pronouns”.

“Rosie is denying that a trans, non-binary person can exist,” the letter said, “this is transphobia.”

“Rosie spoke about ‘the cake of rights’ and stated women have fought for their slice of rights and now men pretending to be women want a portion of that slice,” the letter continued.

“This is a deeply offensive analogy and due to the fact that two trans non-binary people had a seat at the table, it felt very pointed.”

Having gone public, the dancers argued, Kay has caused “potential detriment to our careers”.

Rosie Kay: ‘I am not transphobic – sex is biological’

Kay, however, rebutted the claims, saying that the months-long investigation has eroded her mental health – but she does not “blame” the dancers. She stressed that she was careful not to identify the dancers in her interview with The Times.

“I said, and it is correct to say, that women are losing rights to males who identify as women,” she said in a statement to the BBC on her choice of words at the dinner.

“These include rights to single-sex spaces. This is not an analogy, it is a statement of fact, and I do not apologise for it.

“I make no apology for standing up against this treatment, using the ‘power’ that I have earned through a 20-year career.

“Other women who do not have this power cannot stand up like I have done. This is not aimed at the dancers, but at the toxic nature of a culture that will see women lose their livelihoods for believing that sex is real.

“I’m still in shock that hospitality could end with such an accusation.”
“I’m not transphobic,” she added. “I believe adults can behave and live any way they want, but I believe in the protection of women’s rights.

“What the dancers mean by ‘blatant transphobia’ is nothing more than a recognition that sex is biological, immutable and binary.”

The Rosie Kay Dance Company told the BBC: “We are surprised by this account and strongly resist this interpretation of events.

“However, we will continue to respect the confidentiality of the investigation process and are therefore unable to comment further.”

PinkNews contacted Rosie Kay and the Rosie Kay Dance Company for comment.