Irish dancers stand ‘proudly’ with trans competitors after bigoted backlash

Stock image of Irish dancers

A group of Irish dancers have shared their “unequivocal support” for trans competitors after the bigoted backlash to a trans teen who won a competition early in December. 

A teenage Irish dancer was reportedly subjected to a wave of transphobic bullying after winning a world-qualifying competition at the Southern Region Oireachtas, culminating in a petition calling for trans girls to be excluded from girls’ competitions.

The petition, which demands “separate categories for transgender individuals and female participants” due to “biological differences” was shared by former college swimmer Riley Gaines, as well as far-right outlet Breitbart News. 

In response, a group of Irish dancers have shared their support for trans competitors, explaining that Irish dancing commission An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) has long held the policy that trans dancers can compete on the team they identify with, and that Irish dancing is not a sport in which any gender has an advantage.

A petition calling to support trans Irish dancers, led by Connecticut-based dancer Gabrielle Siegel, now has over 3,500 signatures, and praises CLRG for its inclusive policies. 

“We, the Irish dancing community, voice our unequivocal support for the transgender dancers and for these dancers to continue competing as their true selves in the category that best aligns with their gender identity in all competitions hosted by CLRG and its subsidiary or affiliated organisations,” the petition reads.

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It adds that Irish dance is a “multi-factorial” sport in which “no assigned birth sex can confer a biological advantage”, with competitions judged “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”. 

“We recognise 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,” the group stated, adding that they “condemn” harassment and bullying against trans competitors.

It added: “Irish dance is a sport that developed and thrived in the face of discrimination … We look forward to a future where dancers not only continue to compete in the category that aligns with their gender identity but are celebrated universally by all members of their community.”

‘It took a dancer succeeding for there to be an uproar’

    The petition’s creator told Irish Central that she was motivated to speak out after she saw people criticising trans dancers, and was concerned the CLRG would only hear this viewpoint.

    “I knew we had to find a way to organise our support and show definitively that the Irish dance community stood proudly behind our trans community members,” Siegel told the newspaper.

    “I think 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.”

    PinkNews has contacted CLRG for comment.

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