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Trans athlete wins girls' U14 dance competition, sparking both fury, praise; Riley Gaines weighs in

A firestorm has erupted online after a biological boy won a girls' under-14 Irish dance tournament in Texas recently, with Riley Gaines advocating for one of two competing petitions.

A transgender girl recently won a popular Irish dancing competition in Dallas and the result has ignited a firestorm online, with petitions being launched to advocate for both sides on the controversial topic.

The transgender girl, who was born a male, won the under-14 girls' category at the Southern Region Oireachtas competition earlier this month, beating out a dozen biological girls to take the honors. The competition is a regional event in which the top finishing dancers, including the winner, qualify for the more elite North American Irish Dancing Championships and the World Irish Dancing Championships, according to Irish Central.

Photos posted online show the trans girl standing atop a podium and hoisting the winning trophy after securing first place.

The win sparked fury online as some parents and opponents of the competitor taking to social media to express their outrage. At the same time, many people applauded the trans girl for competing in and winning the tournament.


Riley Gaines, a former 12-time All-American swimmer at the University of Kentucky and an advocate of keeping biological males out of female sports, shared an online petition that was started by a group that claimed to be the parents of the dancers who lost out to the trans girl.

The petition, called "Protect Female Irish Dancers in Gender-Specific World Qualifying Championships Worldwide," opposes trans dancers competing against female-born dancers, citing biological differences and the need to protect opportunities for girls. It has generated nearly 5,500 signatures.

"This week a boy stole a qualifying spot for the upcoming World Championships in Irish dancing," Gaines wrote while advocating for people to put pressure on the Irish dancing organization. "I've talked to many of the girls and parents and they're distraught." 

One mother whose daughter reportedly competed against the trans dancer in the competition told the Daily Signal that she was shocked by what happened.

"It’s going to make me cry," the mother told the publication. "I never thought I was going to have to deal with this and my heart breaks for my daughter and the other girls that are having to deal with this. They are too young to have to deal with topics that are going on in society, that are adult topics, that they don’t quite comprehend yet."


It is understood that some competitors only became aware of the winning dancer’s sex after the competition had ended, according to reports.

"They just look at it as unfair," the mother said. "And it’s really hard to explain to them what’s going on and why they have to accept it."

However, about 10 days before the competition, the organizers of the event, the Irish Dance Teachers Association - Southern Region, issued a statement online to outline the competition’s policy on transgender athletes. According to the statement, the competition follows the policy of An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), which is understood to be the oldest and largest competitive Irish dance organization in the world, which previously approved the policy.

"Entering and competing in the CLRG World Championship competition that corresponds to the gender identity of the dancer is an established CLRG precedent, it has been done before," reads the statement by the competition’s regional director, P.J. McCafferty. The comments section was turned off.

"This situation is not easy for anyone. Not everyone’s point of view or personal interests align. I am asking for your tolerance. You are expected to respect all the dancers."

The day after the first petition was launched, Gabrielle Siegel, an adult Irish dancer who says she has been competing in Irish dancing for 10 years, launched a counterpetition titled "Support Transgender Irish Dancers."

The petition consists of an open letter to CLRG, praising the organization for its position of admitting trans dancers. The petition has around 3,600 signatures.

"We recognize that the decision to enact this policy was an informed one, made with the endorsement of the teaching community, in alignment with up-to-date scientific research," the petition reads, in part.

"We thank the Southern Region and CLRG for standing strong in the face of ill-informed transphobic backlash against this well-established precedent."

"We look forward to a future where dancers not only continue to compete in the category that aligns with their gender identity but are celebrated universally by all members of their community. Trans dancers have the right to compete. Trans dancers have the right to succeed."

One signee, Dylan Wenz, wrote in support of the petition.

"I am a trans dancer and I deserve to have a place in my sport that does not misrepresent my identity," Wenz wrote. "Trans dancers have been in this sport for years, but it only becomes controversial when one of us wins? Not fair."

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