Moving the Dance World Forward

Hayden Moon, a dancer at the Callanan Academy of Dance in Sydney, Australia, was instrumental in making changes in ensuring that every person involved in Irish Dance is treated with respect and dignity and protected from discrimination, harassment and abuse. This is his story.

From the very first dance class, Irish Dancers are taught to turn out, stay up on toes, and keep arms firmly at their sides. However, the style of dance between the male and female sections in competitive Irish Dance are vastly different.  

Most transgender dancers strive to compete with the gender they identify as and re-learning technique can be challenging. Dancer Hayden Moon originally competed in the women’s competition bracket but later moved to the male section. During this  process, Hayden felt discriminated against by some in the dance community. Today, he feels fully supported by the Callanan Academy but it was quite a complex process getting to this point in his dance career.  

Hayden started Irish Dancing when he was 13 years old, before taking a break a year later and starting again at 18. But it wasn’t until he was 23 that he came out as his true self. “I would cry before competitions because I had to dress as a woman," he says. "I was competing in the senior ladies competition and knowing the whole time that I was a guy."

When Hayden made the decision to dance in the men’s section, he could still keep his feet turned out and his arms by his side, but he had to change many other things about his dancing. Not only was he in a new section, but he had to say goodbye to the ladies’ Irish Dance shoes, also known as pomps or ghillies. The ladies’ shoe is made of soft leather, yet the men’s shoe has a heel, used extensively throughout dancing. "I'd spent years learning to be high on my toes and not make any noise and never let my heel touch the ground, doing all of these very pretty kicks and leaps and jumps. And then all of a sudden I was getting told by my dance teacher that I wasn't loud enough,” he explains.

Slowly, Hayden adapted to the men’s competition style. “I was having to stamp and do clicks and double clicks in my reels. It was all very strange,” he adds. Dancing ceili steps was also a challenge for Hayden, as he found himself accidentally standing in the lady’s spot rather than the gent’s with his hand in the wrong position.  

Coming out as transgender in the dance world wasn’t easy for Hayden, and not everyone was understanding and supportive, but he doesn’t regret it one bit. “I feel masculine when I'm doing the men's steps,” he explains. “Dancing as myself is euphoric, and freeing and liberating as a trans person.”

Together with supporters, including a member of AIDA (Australian Irish Dancing Association), Hayden successfully lobbied AIDA to adapt an official policy regarding transgender dancers. The new rule, outlined in article 6.6 of the AIDA’s National Member Protection Policy is well thought out and extensive, providing a comfortable space for those who identify as transgender in the Irish Dancing world. 

Hayden continues to support other dancers on his Instagram and Facebook pages @intersectionalirishdancers. He is proud to share his dance journey and to be part of a dance school who supports transgender people and to further his mission to create more inclusivity within the dance community. 

Do you know an inspiring dancer? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Irish Dancing Magazine’s guest writer, Hollie Geraghty is a London based journalist and publicist specialising in entertainment and the arts. She dances for the Aaron Crosbie & Co School in the Southern England Region.

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