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Behind the overabundance of glitter, mile high wigs, and piles of rhinestones, the world of Irish dance is rooted in tradition. It’s a celebration through movement of how men and women are made unique and complimentary to one another. And yet, even this highly gendered sport is not immune to the craze of gender ideology now that a 13-year-old boy has been crowned the Girls Under-14 Southern Region champion.

Unlike most sports, where men and women do the same basic activities but at different skill levels, male and female Irish dancing is completely different. The sexes wear different shoes (women the more graceful ghillies, men the reel shoe), different outfits, and learn different styles of dance that emphasize their own natural abilities. They compete in separate categories – Men’s and Ladies’, Girls’ and Boys’. The sexes are not interchangeable in a dance style centered on who each dancer is biologically. But some factions within the Irish dance community want to throw out everything that makes Irish dance what it is by embracing radical gender ideology.

Last weekend in Dallas, Texas, was the Southern Regional Oireachtas. A major competition in the sport, the top dancers in each category qualify for a highly coveted spot at the World Championships. It’s the most high-stakes competition most Irish dancers ever attend. So when a 13-year-old boy identifying as a girl (complete with a blond wig and gemstone-covered solo dress) won 1st place in the Girls Under-14 category, the Irish dance community was roiled. His victory meant that an otherwise deserving girl had been robbed of her chance to compete at Worlds.

Just like in every other competitive sport, dancers spend hours in the studio and the gym from a very young age. Those who rise to the top have a chance at performing in shows like “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance,” or opening their own dance studios. But their success is contingent on winning competitions. Just like in any other sport, male dancers are naturally stronger and faster, and no amount of practice can prepare a girl to compete and win against the boys.

Prior to the Oireachtas, knowing this 13-year-old would be dancing in the girls’ category, the Director for the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America (IDTANA) Southern Region, P.J. McCafferty, released a statement acknowledging that “I am aware that there is a great deal of upset in the Southern Region about … policies that transgender Irish Dancers enter competitions that align with the gender identity of their everyday public life …” And yet because there have been “transgender” dancers before, it would be allowed because “we do our best to be fair to everyone.”

To whom, exactly, is this being fair? Is it fair to ask young girls to pour their heart into a sport, and then rob them of the prize for which they have worked so hard? Is it fair to dress a young boy in a dress and wig and teach him to dance like a girl because he’s confused? It is not fair to undermine one of the core truths that make Irish dance what it is, that men and women are different and that’s not only ok, but a good thing!

Unfortunately, Director McCafferty is right, this has happened before – earlier this year, at a major competition in Ireland, a dancer identifying as non-binary won the Adult Women’s competition. That particular dancer vocally advocates for the removal of all gendered rules within Irish dance, which would ultimately destroy the sport as we know it. Though, pretending that boys can fairly compete against girls will have the same effect.

Criticism of the policy has been limited so far to the anonymous message boards – parents, understandably, do not want to risk retaliation against their own kids by speaking publicly. But the anger is there – the IDTANA Southern Region has turned off commenting on any social media posts regarding the U14 competition and routinely deletes threads on that message board on the topic.

While many states have passed laws banning men from competing in women’s sports connected to public schools, and there’s a Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee-endorsed bill in Congress that would do the same nationwide, there is no such protection for private sports associations. The only current recourse is for parents and competitors to speak out against the injustice of gender ideology, especially for girls, something the IDTANA is working overtime to prevent.

Clearly, the powers that be within Irish dance are more interested in being politically correct than preserving both the dignity of Irish dance and its dancers.