Gender Conversations—Sharing Stories and Listening Better

Article in CDSS News – December 2022

TL;DR — Please help our dance communities navigate challenging times. Tell your story about gender and dance! Read heartfelt stories from others. Our communities are more diverse than you might guess, and we all benefit from hearing a wide range of thoughts and feelings. Visit

Nearly everyone has a story about gender and dancing—often one that is tender, vulnerable, and only shared with close friends. Although such privacy is vital, it also creates barriers to understanding. We don’t know the past hurts and deep feelings that affect each other’s perspectives and concerns.

As many dance groups struggle with arguments about gendered language and roles, this lack of understanding looms large. Although this discussion is decades-old in some areas, when it first arrives in a community, there is often confusion and dismay. Gender in dancing stirs strong feelings. Conflict creates pressure to reach a quick resolution, which seldom truly resolves the problem. Perhaps the concerns of marginalized people are pushed aside. Perhaps uncomfortable changes are forced on resentful dancers and leaders. We can do better.

It takes patience—and is more productive—to really listen to each other’s concerns, feelings, and points of view. Sometimes, these are too personal and vulnerable to share openly. So, we have created an online space for each of us to post our personal stories (anonymously) about gender and dancing, and read the stories that others post. In this way, we can relate to different views with no need to defend ourselves or challenge one another.

Who is “we?” Scott Higgs initiated this project, but the voice of this article is “we,” because the text and opinions reflect input from many dancers and organizers. We all want to help groups handle controversy in a thoughtful, caring way that strengthens relationships and nurtures our communities.

By encouraging anonymous stories, we want to make it safe to share. By posting stories online, we hope everyone will find it easier to “listen” with compassion to people with different experiences. Finally, by creating a space apart from the mainstream (no Facebook “likes” and comments), we can all relax our defenses, finding permission to grow and change together.

By default, every submission is 100% private (posting with no registration or identifying information). Volunteer moderators will review each story before it becomes public, to ensure our conversation is civil and respectful.

When we hear from a broad spectrum of voices, it’s easier to empathize with each other’s feelings. Instead of viewing the other as an adversary, we can “sit on the same side of the table,” address shared concerns with compassion, and work together to find solutions.

Every story is important, whether passionate or ambiguous, elaborate or simple. Organizers, especially, need to hear from a broad spectrum of people, not just from those with complaints. (Please take a moment to thank an organizer. Offer a hug, and tell them you appreciate their efforts, even if you don’t always agree with their decisions.)

Our greater goal is to keep our remarkable communities intact—we have navigated difficult controversies before, and emerged stronger for it.

Thanks for joining this project. Please share your story (and read contributions from others) at