Why the Equality Act is not enough for the world of dance...


Why the Equality Act isn’t enough to challenge Gender Roles in Dance

As a transgender dancer, I know I can fall back on the Equality Act Protected Characteristic of Gender Reassignment, should someone claim I shouldn’t be doing something that I wish to do and are doing it entirely legally.  Also  the vast majority of paperwork now states I am female … 

A director or choreographer saying I can’t  dance a female role or presuming  that I am auditioning to dance a male role i.e consciously misgendering me because I’m trans would be breaching the law, admittedly if they have any sense they’d find another reason why not, same as so many acts of  discrimination are hidden by weasel words. 

People often state that Genderfluid or none-binary people aren’t protected under Section 7 of the Equality act… However they forget that the Act  prohibits discrimination by perception or association… So in many cases they may have a case as direct discrimination, even more so if they have had  any  medical intervention what so ever, even if that was just to be seen by a relevant psychologist …

So where does that leave someone who ordinarily presents as a cisgender person, but really likes  and is actually quite good at dancing ‘other gender’ choreography, that’s a good question - they don’t have the Protected Characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ … 

I have a friend her name is Liz, some of you reading this will probably know her especially if you dance and move in the same circles as I do …

Liz is in terms of the adult recreational ballet world fairly unremarkable much as any other unique human being can be unremarkable, she has a job to pay for her dancing, she has a long suffering other half, a daughter  who is nearly as fascinated by all the Ballerinas Mummy knows as she is by dinosaurs  In terms of her sexuality and gender identity Liz describes herself as heterosexual and cisgender.

Liz is actually quite a good dancer in any role - and I do mean any role, but she really really loves big jumps and other traditionally ‘male’ choreography… give her the choice of  two pieces of rep to learn and 999  times of out of 1000 it’d be the 'male' rep she chooses …  

In terms of the Equality Act, Liz and her dancing men’s choreography…  There’s no protection, you’d really push discrimination by perception of gender reassignment protected characteristics given her name, pronouns (she/ her) and usual style of attire in class (which I would say is fairly femme, especially compared to the ‘futch’ styling of some of the cis female dancers I know)… 

This is why the Equality Act is not enough...

We’ve recently  seen this topic  come to the fore in two ways  a general way  as seen with  this New York times article and then with reference to Chase Johnsey who identifies as Genderfluid and his fixed term contract with Tamara Rojo’s ENB earlier in 2018, as we see in the press images Chase’s presentation is androgynous and many of the shots in the studio show conscious femme coding of attire, in the way the binary transgender dancers among us code our presentation.

So what is the take away message of this post?

Do we risk alienating keen and willing dancers  with biological essentialism or  do we embrace the fact that  gender expression can be fluid and flexible even if your gender identity is stable ?



 

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