The new language in Pole Sport Organization’s rules for competition confirms what I already know about the pole world – that we are, and should continue to be, a community that values inclusion and understands the importance of affirming and including identities that are often marginalized in society. I hope that all polers, regardless of gender identity, will feel welcomed and valued as an important part of the pole world.
It is also important to think about what inclusion looks like at our home studios and local pole communities. How do we create spaces where all genders feel welcome and safe? There a lot of ways we can make our spaces open and inclusive to all who want to try pole – one great firststep can be to think about the language we use!
Inclusive Language Ideas for Instructors, Studio Owners, and Pole Students
How do you refer to groups? “Ladies” really gets at me. I know not everyone in my pole classes identifies as female or male (I also don’t), and it sounds so darn patronizing!
Here are some of the words and phrases we use at my home studio to refer to groups of people – choose ones that are appropriate for your group and speaking style!
Hello lovely humans!
Alright, dancers, please move to your starting poles
What’s up, peeps?
What a great group of polers!
Nice work, friends!
How are y’all feeling about the routine today?
Of course, if you know for 100% that everyone in your group identifies as female, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with saying “ladies”. It’s just about being as inclusive as you can be, helping any student feel welcome.
Sometimes pole classes can be listed as “Women Only” spaces. This is a great way to create a safe space for women. Does your studio affirmatively include transgender women in these women-only spaces? How do you/could you communicate this? How do you make it a safe space?
Pronouns of choice
Try to use student’s first names! Sometimes we may not know if someone uses “he”, “she” “they”, or other pronouns. Using first names is a great way to avoid mis-gendering someone, and also lets your students know that you’ve taken the time to learn their name.
While these things may seem small, they can be very meaningful to people who enter your pole world, unsure if their gender identity will be welcomed. We have a lot of power to make these spaces safe!
You can check out PSO’s language below that they added in December 2016:
In order to continue our mission of inclusion, it’s become necessary to clarify our policy on transgender competitors. We have consulted with several individuals as well as reviewing NCAA rules and Olympic rules in order to come up with a policy that respects all participants.
For professional level competitors who identify as transgender: One year living as the gender you identify as, including average gender testosterone levels. Documentation may be required to confirm current status on a case-by-case basis. If documentation is requested, all information can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for confidential review. Any inquiries, questions or comments by competitors will also be kept confidential. Medical documentation of average target gender testosterone levels for our purposes are approximately 270-1,070 ng/dL for men and approximately 15-70 ng/dL for women.
For amateur level (levels 1-4 pole, levels 1-2 lyra, all levels flow tools) competitors: Competitors may enter as the gender they most identify with and are currently living as. Any inquiries, questions or comments by competitors will also be kept confidential.
About the author
Kate E. Gaga is a Boise, Idaho based transgender genderqueer person who works in higher education social justice programming by day, and is a pole dancer, pole instructor, and burlesque artist by night. Kate uses they/them/their pronouns.