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22 February 2022

Last week, performer and transgender diversity and inclusion consultant Jessica Allen joined us for our first Membership Matters event of the year. 

Membership Matters asset

An active member of our LGBQTIA+ and Gender Think Tank and a contributor to Issue #491 of Dance Magazine (p.9), Jessica shared her living experience of being a woman who is transgender and a professional performer. She discussed the treatment of trans and non-binary individuals in our society and how that climate naturally influences the world of dance and theatre. 

She shared stories of her vulnerability being met with punishment and covered the countless institutional barriers and prejudice that she has faced in the wider theatre industry, covering a vast range of topics, from transgender representation in the dance world, to how problematic gender stereotypes in the field are. "The conversation topic of trans people in dance and theatre spaces is not one that people are used to having, and it is not a concept that people encounter very often", she said.

Jessica poignantly noted how damaging apathy can be when it comes to being inclusive as an industry, and how we must be proactive in our work to make dance accessible for all.

“If every one of you goes away with the energy that I have or at least half the energy that I have, you can talk to others with that energy, and you’ve removed apathy from the equation. You are no longer an apathetic person, you’ve become an ally. When you remove bureaucracy, you become an ally.”

If you’d like to re-watch this Membership Matters talk in full, you can re-watch it in our Member Area. Log in here, scroll down and click 'Member Meetings and Webinars'.

We would like to thank Jessica for talking with us, and for her invaluable contributions to the organisation. The ISTD, its members, examiners and staff have a responsibility as ambassadors for the dance and wider theatre industries. We recognise that we have further work to do and areas of our practice to develop.

It is up to us all to discuss how to be inclusive to transgender and non-binary dancers, broaden horizons and perspectives, to ensure dance is accessible for all.

Watch Jessica performing in iNk'd, a CTC Dance Company production


Find some terms you may find useful below.

  • Ally

    A term that is often used in the LGBTQIA+ community, an ally is someone who stands up for, supports and encourages the people around them. 

  • Cisgender (CIS)

    Somebody who is CIS, or cisgender, is a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

  • Content warning (CW) 

    A stated warning that the content of the immediately following text, video, etc. may upset or offend some people.

  • Dead name 

    The name that a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses upon transitioning.

  • Microaggression

    Microaggressions are ‘everyday’ verbal or nonverbal ‘slights’, ‘snubs’, or ‘insults’. Subtle, sometimes intentional, and oftentimes unintentional, these interactions or behaviours communicate some sort of bias towards marginalised groups. 

  • Transphobia

    Dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

  • Trigger warning (TW)

    Similar to a content warning, a TW is a stated warning that the content of the immediately following text, video, etc. may upset or offend some people.

Delegates and readers are also encouraged to attend the follow up ‘Trans Awareness: The Basics' course, on Monday 9 May 2022. Led by Gendered Intelligence, in this session, we will look at the key information about trans awareness. Keep an eye out for our future Membership Matters events.


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