Dancing in the Dark

Perhaps the most common question I am asked is whether I’m a girl or a boy. I’m so accustomed to the question that my response has become automatic. Before coming to Andover, my sole reason for identifying as a girl was my female genitalia, so when I learned that there is more to gender than sexual organs, I realized that my gender is far more fluid than society wants me to believe.

I still mostly identify as a woman (albeit a masculine-presenting one), but sometimes I feel more like a feminine man. Other times, I don’t desire any label at all. My newfound knowledge of gender has completely changed the way I see gender dynamics at Andover, and what I once perceived as normal – that is, the gender binary – I now understand to be toxic or, at the very least, perplexing.

In a recent conversation with some of my dormmates, I mentioned how strange it is that Andover has one dance that operates on the premise of girls asking boys. I questioned why girls only have one chance in the entire year to do the asking — why the notion of assertive femininity is still perceived as something of an anomaly. Several of my dormmates stated that if a girl were to ask a boy to Blue and Silver or Prom, no one would have a problem with it.

What my dormmates said is true, and I understand that the Andover community would not be too aggrieved by a girl asking a boy to Prom. Even so, I take issue with the general expectation on campus that a boy will ask a girl. Rather than simply “being okay with” the concept of a girl asking a boy to Prom, we should encourage it in the same way we do boys asking girls.

Furthermore, traditions like Sadie Hawkins leave non-heterosexual and non-cisgender couples in an awkward position. By excluding them, these dances effectively make them invisible. When I began thinking more deeply about gender, I also began to wonder why we don’t have a dance dedicated to non-gender binary people asking other non-binary people out.

To most heterosexual cisgender students, the idea may seem preposterous, but to me, the sense of absurdity that my heterosexual, cisgender peers would experience if such a dance were proposed is analogous to how I feel regarding dances like Sadie Hawkins and Prom.

Of course, I am not in favor of eliminating dances completely: I simply implore you to consider altering traditions that exclude certain groups. Queer couples are not banned from Sadie Hawkins, but they are excluded completely from the dance’s unofficial slogan of “girls ask guys.”

As someone who has been confused as to whether I am supposed to be asked or do the asking during Sadie Hawkins and whose gender is generally not mentioned as something that exists, formal dances make me feel inherently inferior to my cisgender heterosexual classmates. That is not to say I don’t enjoy the dances themselves: I just envy my peers whose sexual preferences and genders are better included in society’s expectations.

Revolutionizing social norms won’t happen overnight, but that is not an excuse to disregard what we can do as a school to make Andover a better place for students who do not perfectly fit the binaries we have constructed, which is to say everyone. We are an incredibly progressive and accepting place. I am infinitely grateful, but as one of our last All -School Meeting speakers, Rosetta Lee, said, acceptance is only the first step to cultural competence. Let’s work together to make Andover a place that does more than tolerate our differences: let’s celebrate our diversity.