Happy Pride Month! This is a particularly special pride month for me because it is my first being out as a NB trans person. Honestly, I don’t think I could have discovered this part of myself without pole and aerial. To be able to dance and perform exactly the way I want gave me a pathway to understand what it is that I want and who I want to be.
However, this is not the say that I have not seen any challenges for my fellow trans polers within the aerial world. While queer representation has been great within the pole community, we must acknowledge that pole a cis women dominated sport. Therefore, cis identity has shaped the pole identity, defining its overall culture in studios, competitions, shows, workshops, and social media. My five inclusion tips are not the be all, end all of trans representation. These come out of my personal experience. To really be fully inclusive, simply ask trans polers what they need; Ask their opinion and offer them space to share their own experiences.
**As I write this the fight for racial justice is ongoing. As a white person, I stand in solidarity with the BIPOC in our pole community. I hope that my advice on trans inclusion and solidarity can also apply to our understanding of racial injustice.
Teachers make a studio. They not only lead the classes but build its culture; and the culture of the pole/fitness world at large. I never had a trans instructor until this year; and I’ve been poling for over 6 years. As a non-binary person, this was extreamly validating. Since I’m in the studio five days a week, I knew they would understand how I feel seven days a week. When I first started teaching, I wasn’t out. So when students came to me I could only teach them from the perspective of a thin, straight, cis, non-sex worker. I learned the hard way that I have to adapt my teaching style and my language to fit them. What I knew wasn’t always relevant or appropriate for their pole experience.
Pronouns are a complicated issue. Some people like to be asked their pronouns, some don’t, and some don’t care. But I think the safest bet is to not assume. You don’t have to ask every student what their pronouns are every class, but let them know that if they use alternative pronouns to come and tell you. When a new student comes in and fills out a waiver or other forms, having a line for pronouns allows them not to be put on the spot. It is important to respect privacy as best you can, yet make sure you are as informed as you need to be.
STOP GENDERING CLASSES
This may be hard to accept, but “Women’s Only” classes are not as liberating as you think. This includes workshops. Women are not the only gender who face sexism and misogyny. Non-Binary/Agender Femmes often experience it, in addition trans-antagonism. “Women’s Only” spaces may make non female femmes feel as though they have to misgender themselves to attend, not attend at all, or at worst attend and face cis-sexism. And, non-femmes who may have been assigned male at birth (AMAB) may feel excluded. Uplifting women isn’t enough in a multi gendered community.
SPREAD THE LOVE
Make sure every student is getting an equitable amount of praise and attention. You tell a student more by what you don’t say; if you ignore them while applauding only cis people in class, what message are you sending? Same with social media. Feature your queer students. Equality is not equity. Just because you treat marginalized students the same as privilege students that doesn’t mean they are getting the same benefit. Cis students are treated positively all the time. This is your chance to give others much needed praise when they don’t get it anywhere else.
CALL OUT TRANSANTAGONISM
This may be a simple tip because I highly doubt any pole studio or teacher wouldn’t call out bullying when they see it, but I’ll include it because transantagonism can come in subtle forms. If a student is constantly misgendering another student, claims to feel uncomfortable simply because they are in class with a trans student, or at worst, is openly anti-trans, you can quietly bring that student aside and tell them why you don’t allow anti trans rhetoric in your class. It may be uncomfortable, but as a leader in the studio it is your responsibility. If a trans student is a victim of harassment, also pull them aside quietly and make sure that they are ok and that you support them.
PoleCon supports the Queer LGBTQIA+ Community. The first Queer Pole Showcase debuted in 2018 and has been a staple showcase every year since then. The first Queer panel discussion was held in 2019 and will be repeated every year.