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For Shame— Irish Dance Governing Board Officially Embraces Gender Ideology

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Since December, Irish dance has been the latest sport embroiled in the transgender controversy. After a 13-year-old boy won the U14 Girls category at the Southern Region Oireachtas, parents and teachers have been calling on the governing body of Irish Dance, the CLRG, to state that dancers can only compete against others of their same biological sex. Unfortunately, CLRG has finally made its decision – to be politically correct at the expense of its dancers (especially women) and a sport rooted in tradition.

December’s controversial result prompted concerns about the upcoming 2024 World Championships. If a girl could be robbed of her qualifying spot at a regional competition, why couldn’t a boy be crowned a World Champion in one of the female categories?

To prevent that from happening, a group of dance teachers and concerned parents worked with policy advisors to draft a proposal specifically addressing the rules for this year’s World’s. Their suggestion was to create three competition categories: one for biological females, another for biological males, and the third would be open to all, regardless of biological sex. The compromise position would have protected the desire of those who want to compete against only others of their sex, while providing another option for those who self-identify as something other than their biological sex.

CLRG was slated to vote on this proposal in January but punted for another month. In the intervening time, CLRG members took part in a half-day “transgender educational forum.” Teachers were told in a letter from CLRG that this forum featured a “presentation of the current research on transgender athletic performance,” analysis of results in competitions where boys and girls were pitted against each other, and an assessment of reputational risk to the organization if they continue to allow biological boys to compete against girls.

One of the featured scientists in this forum was Dr. Joanna Harper, a biological male who began taking hormone-altering drugs in 2004 and now identifies as a woman. As a lifelong runner, Harper’s career has been spent researching whether men truly do have physical advantages over women in sports. The bias is, of course, obvious, and in 2015, Harper published the first study examining transgender athletes’ performances, finding that men who began a regime to lower their testosterone levels did not perform better in races than their female competitors. The study has since been touted by those who support men competing in women’s sports.

Despite its acclaim, the study is significantly flawed. Harper admits that in the paper. The study only compared the race times of eight men self-identifying as women runners. Those runners submitted their race times to Harper. Two of those runners would only participate in the study anonymously, making it impossible to verify their times. Of the other six, Harper was only able to verify half of their race times. This was also not a study conducted on elite athletes, and yet it is being used to justify the idea that biological men who have been training rigorously for years should be allowed to compete against women. This is the junk science used to justify such a grave injury to women, who are always disproportionately impacted by these policies.

Another featured study was compiled specifically for this meeting by Jim Mueller, an Irish dance teacher and former world champion from Oregon. His comparative analysis looked at whether the concerns over male physical advantages in other sports cross over into the competitive artform that is Irish dance. While the sexes compete separately at major competitions, such as Worlds and the Oireachtas, they frequently compete against each other at smaller, local competitions (also known as feisanna). Mueller conducted his analysis by comparing the results of these competitions.

Mueller’s analysis found that the percentage of males and females who won their competitions was reflective of the percentage of each sex who competed, suggesting that men do not have a competitive advantage.

Like Harper’s study, Mueller’s analysis does not present an accurate picture. First, there are three major tabulation companies used by feisanna in North America, but this study only pulled results from one of those. Second, it only uses data from 2021-2023, which was the height of the COVID era. Since many feisanna took some of those years off or operated under special regulations, this data does not reflect the number of competitors in a normal season. And last, because these feisanna are used by dancers to move up in levels and qualify for larger events, many of the most elite dancers do not attend them. Therefore, these results cannot represent what would happen at a major competition where the top dancers from both sexes would be pitted against each other.

These are the studies that CLRG used to justify their decision. How can they disregard the concerns of women so flippantly?

What was not included in this “transgender educational forum” were any of the number of rigorously conducted studies that show that men do in fact have a physical advantage in any athletic contest. The most significant of these was published in 2020 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which found that even after hormone therapy, men maintain their athletic advantage. Duke University Law School published a study comparing elite male and female athletes, with similar results.

But regardless of which scientist conducts the best research, no study will change the fundamental reality that men and women are not interchangeable. No study can quantify that little girls do not feel comfortable or safe sharing private spaces with boys. No study can express that Irish dance is, at its core, a highly gendered dance form that celebrates the differences between the sexes. Embracing radical gender ideology irreparably damages what makes Irish dance the beautiful art form that it is.

In their letter announcing the decision, CLRG stated that they are “committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for every dancer in our community.” If that were true, they would have adopted the three-category proposal. They would have included studies and voices presenting a different opinion at their educational forum. Instead, they chose to be cowards by making radical gender ideology part of the official rules of Irish dance.

As many of you know, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) is fighting back against this injustice. We have endorsed a bill in Congress that would ban biological men from competing in women’s sports at public institutions, and another that would ensure that the U.S. Olympic teams adopt a similar rule for this year’s competition in Paris. But Congress can’t weigh in on private associations like Irish dance. For CLRG to change its stance, parents and dancers must speak out against the harms and injustice of gender ideology.

If you are a female dancer who would like to take stand against males competing in women’s events, use the form below to let us know your story: