I have been contra dancing for 35 years. Today, I am an organizer of a dance community in the Midwest. Over the years I’ve very much enjoyed the diverse, open, accepting culture of the contra dance community. In my experience, it has never been a problem for anyone to dance whichever role they are comfortable dancing. And I wholeheartedly support that. I would frequently boast to my friends about what a joyful, accepting and socially satisfying community that is the contra dancing community, hoping to attract them to come and try it out.
I consider myself to be left of center politically. However, I find the current push to change the role names of dancers off-putting. I have always danced the gent’s role. I enjoy flirting and touching. I am a gentleman, but not a lark. I prefer to dance with ladies but have no problem dancing with men who want to dance the lady’s role as they come down the line. I would not ask another man to dance and would decline if asked by another man to dance or, by a lady, to dance the lady’s role. No apologies.
The current move to change the role names has not become so uncomfortable as to make me want to leave contra dancing. It grates, but it is not unbearable. But it saddens me that an activity that has so much to offer to our wider culture, at a time that we need it desperately, is being hijacked by those with a leftist political agenda. At a time when the number of dancers at contra dances across the country are down due to the pandemic, this seems like an “own goal”, a self-inflicted injury to contra dancing communities that depend on attendance at dances to sustain themselves, are inflicting upon themselves. From my perspective, so sad to watch.