Forum: Advice / GLBT PG-13

GLBT PG-13
Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By SlipjigSuperhero Comments: 32, member since Sun Dec 02, 2012
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 03:07 AM

I'm a female former ballerina who's been doing Irish dance for about seven months. It really strikes me how heteronormative the community is. There's just so much pressure to be straight, especially on girls. There was a poll among dance blogs on Tumblr as to the hottest Irish dancer and the first rule was that only girls could answer and that their choice had to be male. I'm not kidding!


My local community is better than the online one but it's still very traditional and I don't feel comfortable coming out to anyone in my class or my teachers.


Has anyone had a similar situation? Are there any queer Irish dancers on here?

18 Replies to Being A Queer Irish Dancer

re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By LlamaLlamaDuckmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 7765, member since Sun Nov 21, 2004
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 01:53 PM
As far as males go I can tell you there are a ton. Females I know are out there.

I've seen dinner dances where there were tables full of gay couples.

I can assure you you are not alone.

There are even a few transgendered.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By AlwaysOnStagePremium member Comments: 7417, member since Sun Apr 18, 2004
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 04:24 PM
I don't know what you've experienced, but your example of a poll on tumblr isn't really indicative of a community. Tumblrs are personal, and the person who posted the poll was probably a younger kid that has a hetero-centric world. I don't think any tumblr is a good representation of a community, because "community" by definition is many individuals.

Perhaps you're picking up on individual thoughts, not a community that could be accepting. Keep in mind, I've never done Irish, so I wouldn't know.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By boleyngrrl Comments: 2550, member since Sat Apr 15, 2006
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 04:55 PM
I am not, but one of my friends from a different school came out as bi a few years ago. It affected the way some of her teammates treated her (she came from a very religious area and honestly, some of them were total jerks to her after it), but the grand majority of her competition and school didn't treat her any differently. She was a wonderful dancer and an OC for awhile before she retired.

I disagree with your statement that there's a lot of pressure to be straight. If tumblr's your backup... Tumblr is not the most credible source. I have never noticed any pressure either way in the Irish dance world, and I've been here for eighteen years and at three different schools. If you don't want to come out to your friends and teachers that's okay--you don't have to if you don't want to, however, I don't think they would be as judging as you think. However, I don't know them, so I can't be 100% sure.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By Nyssasisticmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3643, member since Sat Sep 20, 2003
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 07:04 PM
In general, you're not really going to find a lot of talk about sexual preferences at all in Irish dance. At least not in the traditional, clrg feis circuit. I can see it playing a bigger role in shows like LOTD, but that's about it. Irish dance is, in general, focused on children and young teens, and as such doesn't really lend itself to the environment where ANY talk of sexual preference is facilitated.

I have a few classmates that I would assume lean more toward a gay/bi sexual preference, but it's never come up in class and I don't know that it's even my business.
My sister is a lesbian and she Irish danced for a while. As far as I could tell, her sexual orientation didn't affect her dancing or socializing ability. ;)

I guess it would make sense to add in that Irish dancing relies heavily on tradition, and so many of the figure and set dances aren't going to have homosexual references simply because it wasn't the norm to be in an openly gay relationship back then.

I hope that adds some insight. I hope you're enjoying your dance classes regardless :)
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By sjerosemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1263, member since Thu May 11, 2006
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 03:26 PM
Edited by sjerose (158555) on 2013-04-04 15:28:17 caveat added
I'm straight, but my TC is gay and he and his SO are married in everything but law (as far as I'm aware; they both wear wedding rings but we live in a state where it's not yet legal, but in the end it's really none of my business). Just like Nyssa said, it never really comes into conversation in or outside of class (except just asking how his husband's doing, renovations on their house, etc., normal domestic talk). I do know that we've had teenagers who grew up in conservative homes thoughtlessly drop 'gay' as a synonym for 'dumb', and everyone immediately called them out on it. But that's about as far as the experience has come in my classes. I guess, since our TC doesn't make it a big deal, neither does anyone else. *shrug* It's just never been an issue, it just IS. Feel free to PM me if you have more questions on my perspective.

I'm sorry you're feeling that 'pressure'. I'm on Tumblr too, and have never seen those polls floating around. You might want to migrate away from some of those particular users for a while, if they have such specific viewpoints.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By KeepOnSinginPremium member Comments: 12372, member since Sun Dec 19, 2004
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:44 PM
First of all, I don't think calling yourself (or anyone else) queer is doing you any favors. To me, queer is a very demeaning label. I have a ton of gay guy friends (more than I do straight or even bisexual guy friends), a number of female bisexual friends, and a few lesbian friends, and we all feel the same way about that. Not only that, but there's nothing strange or odd about being gay. Sure it's not the social norm, but it's natural just like me being black.

But to move onto your question:

One of my bisexual friends used to be a competitive Irish dancer, and her sexuality never impacted her dancing negatively. She was a dancer, and her sexuality didn't (and shouldn't have) had anything to do with it. She didn't come out until sophomore year of college either, and she had been dancing since she was very young.

Like some other posters have said, tumblr is not exactly a place that you're going to get a lot of variety in posters, and you could easily find a poll saying that exact same thing asking about swimmers or runners or hockey players because that's the social norm.

Is there a reason you would come out? I mean, is it something that you want to do? Or is it just that you don't feel comfortable doing it?
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer (karma: 3)
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 34891, member since Wed May 22, 2002
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:30 AM
^Queer is a perfectly acceptable term in the homosexual community, whether your Lesbian friend personally likes to use it or not.

lgbtetcetera.blogspot.com . . .
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By KeepOnSinginPremium member Comments: 12372, member since Sun Dec 19, 2004
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:43 AM
I don't know anyone that thinks it's an acceptable term whether they're gay, lesbian, bi or straight. Maybe it's a regional thing, but people here take offense when people say it.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer (karma: 2)
By Claritinmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2100, member since Tue Aug 30, 2005
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:43 AM
KeepOnSingin wrote:

First of all, I don't think calling yourself (or anyone else) queer is doing you any favors.


Honestly, I think it's kind of presumptuous for you, as a straight person, to tell SlipjigSuperhero how she should label her sexuality. I know you said "your gay friends agree" (paraphrasing, obviously,) but come on. It's really not your place to criticize the terms she chooses to use. There are plenty of circles where "queer" is not seen as a negative term.


Even Miriam Webster has a sidenote about its usage:
Over the past two decades, an important change has occurred in the use of queer in sense 2d. The older, strongly pejorative use has certainly not vanished, but a use by some gay people and some academics as a neutral or even positive term has established itself. This development is most noticeable in the adjective but is reflected in the corresponding noun as well. The newer use is sometimes taken to be offensive, especially by older gay men who fostered the acceptance of gay in these uses and still have a strong preference for it.


Slpjig- I don't know much about Irish dance, but I'm sorry you're having a rough time. I hope things improve and you are able to feel more comfortable in the community, whether or not you choose to come out to these people.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By KeepOnSinginPremium member Comments: 12372, member since Sun Dec 19, 2004
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 06:47 PM
Edited by KeepOnSingin (116683) on 2013-04-04 18:53:50
Claritin wrote:

KeepOnSingin wrote:

First of all, I don't think calling yourself (or anyone else) queer is doing you any favors.


Honestly, I think it's kind of presumptuous for you, as a straight person, to tell SlipjigSuperhero how she should label her sexuality. I know you said "your gay friends agree" (paraphrasing, obviously,) but come on. It's really not your place to criticize the terms she chooses to use. There are plenty of circles where "queer" is not seen as a negative term.


Even Miriam Webster has a sidenote about its usage:
Over the past two decades, an important change has occurred in the use of queer in sense 2d. The older, strongly pejorative use has certainly not vanished, but a use by some gay people and some academics as a neutral or even positive term has established itself. This development is most noticeable in the adjective but is reflected in the corresponding noun as well. The newer use is sometimes taken to be offensive, especially by older gay men who fostered the acceptance of gay in these uses and still have a strong preference for it.


Slpjig- I don't know much about Irish dance, but I'm sorry you're having a rough time. I hope things improve and you are able to feel more comfortable in the community, whether or not you choose to come out to these people.


Oh, and it's your place to talk about and make assumptions about my sexuality without really knowing anything? Cause that's so much better, right?
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By Claritinmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2100, member since Tue Aug 30, 2005
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 06:53 PM
Edited by Claritin (139973) on 2013-04-04 18:55:39
Sorry, I apologize, I should not have assumed. I figured you would have mentioned if you didn't identify as straight along with your laundry-list of LGBT friends. Regardless, I do think it is inappropriate to criticize how someone chooses to label their sexuality and to imply they are harming themselves with that term. Someone's sexuality (including the label the identify with) is a personal thing and does not need to be subject to the approval of others.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By KeepOnSinginPremium member Comments: 12372, member since Sun Dec 19, 2004
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:55 AM
I wasn't criticizing. I was just saying my personal opinion. Or is that not allowed?

And for the record, I don't label my sexuality. It is what it is, and I can't say that I tell anyone one thing or another because it's my personal thing (like you said) and not anyone elses.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By Claritinmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2100, member since Tue Aug 30, 2005
On Thu Apr 04, 2013 07:10 PM
Edited by Claritin (139973) on 2013-04-04 19:13:22 Cannot not edit
I think there is a difference between stating your opinion "I don't like the term 'queer'/I feel it is negative" (although, really, is a support post really an appropriate place to discuss this opinion anyway?) and criticizing--implying that she is essentially harming herself and others LGBT folk by using it. That's what I take issue with.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By KeepOnSinginPremium member Comments: 12372, member since Sun Dec 19, 2004
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 01:12 AM
You're really just reading into it too much. I didn't mean it like that at all. I didn't mean to start anything or to bother anyone. I'm now sorry I even said it.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By djcharamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 967, member since Mon Jan 11, 2010
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 02:24 AM
Back to the original topic...

I'll echo what the others have said (I Irish dance too) and say that in my experience at least, it's just not really a big deal. Yes the parts in the ceili dances are called "ladies" and "gents," and yes the girls are expected to wear dresses and the guys pants, but that's more tradition-based, and actual sexual preference doesn't really come up.

I think regarding the Tumblr thing, from my experience, the definite majority of tumblr Irish dancers are teenage girls, and crushing on various "Irish dance boys" is definitely a thing. The poll you mentioned isn't the only example of that. So I wouldn't take that as a representation of Irish dancing in general if that makes sense.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer (karma: 1)
By Damhnaitmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 691, member since Sun Apr 22, 2007
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 04:37 AM
Also, with the girl to boy ratio, remember that in many mixed ceili dances girls end up in guy parts regardless if they're gay or straight, and that's about as far as sexuality in Irish dance goes.

Also, while it's not a huge thing going on, I remember seeing pictures a while back of a champion female dancer who wore a dress shirt and slacks for a major competition if you happen to feel more comfortable in pants than a dress. Like I said, it's not a huge trend, but it was put out there so it's a lot less scary if that's something you'd want to go for.

*hugs* the Irish dance community does have a large percentage of very religious families due to the traditions of Irish culture in general, but you don't need to be afraid of your sexuality in dance class. As others have said, you don't need to come out to your teacher and classmates if you don't want to even. But if you do, yes some may treat you differently because the world can be a cruel place, but the world is also changing and more and more people are supportive of the LGBTQ (oh look, that's right, there's a Q on that for people who identify themselves as "queer") community.

While I'm retired from dancing, if you were in my class I can promise you that I and my closest friends in class wouldn't treat you any differently if you came out to us. Your sexuality doesn't change your talent or skill, and it doesn't change you as a person or a friend.
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer
By sjerosemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1263, member since Thu May 11, 2006
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 07:31 AM
Edited by sjerose (158555) on 2013-04-05 07:33:13 whoops
*minor hijack* ^ I thought the 'Q' stood for "Questioning", as in those who are questioning their sexuality or sexual fluidity. I'm only asking because I don't want to be ignorant, and I thought that's what our LGBTQA group on campus said it was, but I could be wrong. I suppose it could be either.

/end hijack

EDIT: Just realized it means both. Never mind. I really should learn to Google things first. *blushes*
re: Being A Queer Irish Dancer (karma: 1)
By SparrowCatPremium member Comments: 289, member since Sun Jun 03, 2012
On Fri Apr 05, 2013 03:01 PM
Edited by SparrowCat (250314) on 2013-04-05 15:09:19
I'm gay (female), and I have been irish dancing for about 15 years now.

15 years ago, I was still a teenager. Just starting irish and not really part of my school yet apart from taking classes, it really had no effect on me. When I got closer to people, I started to worry if they ;found out' about me - but I also wasn't comfortable with my sexuality either, and this played a really big role in it.

When I was around 18/19, others found out/I told them. Most were pretty supportive, and noone was ever outwardly discriminatory or nasty to me.

Now at 28, I actually do find it has an impact. I have a long term partner, who comes along with me to our dance school functions/feisanna/dance outs. Everyone know's her, and while I do not walk around announcing 'I"M GAY!!" (because really, nooone walks around announcing "I'M STRAIGHT!!!) either :P ) - I do hold her hand in public or give her a quick peck for a goodbye/goodluck. The only time I've ever felt a bit 'out of the norm' is at a feis: in my dance school, everyone seems pretty okay and accepting of everyone else. At a feis however, I have had a few odd looks. Do I care? No. I am who I am and I'm proud of it.

I'm in OC, 28, still dancing, I have a wonderful dance school and an awesomely talented TC, and a super team of Senior Ladies. I find that sexuality only comes into it if I mentally let other people's opinions (real or assumed) bother me.

Would I go making out with my partner in front of a dance class/feis? No. But I wouldn't want to see heterosexual people doing that either :P

And, for the record, I don't take any offence to the word queer either :D

Edit: Thought - thinking about being known at a feis for 'that gay irish dancer' - you know, some people sew globes to their dresses. Some create small farms with a lamb and sky (lol - see this years worlds for reference). Some create beauty spots where there was none before. Some are just their gay selves, and get known as 'that gay irish dancer'. Hey, maybe it will even work in my favour, and I could start pinning small rainbows to my dress to identify 'that gay irish dancer' and see how I place :P (joking, btw ;) )

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