‘The Secret History of Love’: An Interview With Choreographer Sean Dorsey

SeanDorseyJumpingByLydiaDanillerSean Dorsey is an award-winning choreographer, dancer and writer. Recognized as the United States’ first out transgender modern dance choreographer, Dorsey has won audiences and accolades from San Francisco to New York with his powerful dance-theater. Dorsey is the founder and Artistic Director of Fresh Meat Productions, the first U.S. non-profit dedicated to the year-round creation, presentation, and touring of transgender arts.

Dorsey’s current show, The Secret History of Love, will be in San Francisco from March 28-31 as part of a 20-city national tour. Dorsey was able to talk to me via e-mail about the show, the LGBT history project upon which the show is based, and being out and trans in the dance world.

Matt Kailey: How did you get interested in dance and choreography?

Sean Dorsey: I have always loved dance and movement. I spent a lot of time twirling around my living room in my leotard, dancing to records as a kid. I didn’t grow up at the ballet barre, though – I came to dance “late,” and didn’t start my professional dance training until I was 25. When I did start, though, I hit the ground running!

MK: Did you become a professional dancer and choreographer prior to your transition? If so, how did your transition affect your career? If not, did you enter the profession as an out trans person?

SD: I started my dance training prior to my physical transition, but I was trans and queer identified. Changing rooms and gendered movement in dance were very challenging, painful. I would do everything I could to avoid using bathrooms or changing rooms, even once I started dancing professionally.

It was hard. I didn’t know a single trans dancer in the world, had never heard of a single one. I became very driven to create space in dance for transgender and queer people – both through my choreographic work, and by founding Fresh Meat Productions (the nation’s first nonprofit to create, present and tour year-round transgender arts programs, including our resident dance company Sean Dorsey Dance).

MK: Do you think that being an out trans person has hurt or helped your career overall and in what ways? How are you and your shows perceived/accepted by non-trans, mainstream audiences?

SD: There have been plenty of painful parts about coming into the dance world as a transgender person – but I feel very, very blessed to be transgender. It really is an enormous blessing to be a trans person.

In terms of my shows, I have had totally a positive response from both LGBT and straight audiences, from trans and non-trans people alike. I have trans and queer people come up to me after shows, saying they were in tears during the show, that they were so moved, or that they’d NEVER seen themselves onstage, in dance before. That’s huge.

I’m blessed that my shows tend to draw sold-out audiences – and my audiences are this AMAZING mix of people that you’d NEVER see in one room together normally: transgender people, mainstream dance-goers, lesbians, gay men, seniors, youth, activists, theater-lovers. I’m proud of my work, and I’m proud of my audiences! There’s activism in bringing those people together into a room, into conversation.

MK: You have also worked on this LGBT Elders Oral History Project, upon which your current show is 
based, for two years. Did you start the project with the idea of turning it into a show, or were these two very different things (your choreography and the history project) that just converged?

SD: The inspiration for the show came first. I am passionate about uncovering and sharing transgender and LGBT history. Our lives get left out of mainstream history books and family albums. It’s critical that we celebrate, document and share our history, or our lives and struggles and accomplishments will be lost.
TheSecretHistoryOfLove1__ByLydiaDanillerI knew I wanted to make a show about how on earth LGBT people managed to survive and find love and community and relationships in decades past, long before Stonewall. I wanted to go to the source, to talk to elders and ask them how they did it. And so my LGBT Elders Oral History Project was born.

I spent two years talking to transgender, lesbian and gay elders across the U.S. – asking them about their first crushes, their first loves, coming out and living as LGBT in the earlier decades of this century. And you hear these elders’ own voices and real-life stories in the show. It’s very powerful.

I also did a ton of reading and archival research – getting my hands on real-life love letters, handbills for speakeasies from the 1920s, a cocktail napkin with a love note and phone number written on it from the 1950s. I read hundreds of love letters going back decades, centuries even.

MK: What would you like to say about your show, The Secret History Of Love?

SD: The Secret History Of Love reveals the underground ways that LGBT people managed to survive and love each other in decades past. I created the show through the two-year National LGBT Elders Oral History Project.

The Secret History Of Love features the voices and life stories I recorded in these oral history interviews – along with powerful, moving and hilarious episodes from the LGBT community’s remarkable history of finding love and community against enormous odds.SeanDorsey_ByLydiaDaniller-1 Everything from 1920s speakeasies to wartime love affairs to police raids to steamy underground cabarets and more, performed by my company with special musical guest Shawna Virago (a brilliant trans woman singer-songwriter).

Over the next two years, we’re taking the show on a 20-city national tour: Philadelphia, San Antonio, Tampa, Claremont, Chico, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and more.

The Secret History Of Love is a very powerful show – it features full-throttle dancing, riveting storytelling, luscious partnering and first-hand tales of tremendous risk, passionate love, impossible courage, heartbreaking loss, and bold resistance – revealing the great resiliency and strength of the human heart, even in the face of great danger and devastating violence.

People can see where we’re touring next at www.seandorseydance.com/calendar.

MK: What other projects are you working on now?

SD: I’m starting work on my next project,The Missing Generation and The Source Of Joy. The work will explore the contemporary impact of the loss of part of an entire generation of LGBT people to AIDS during the 1980s. I will create the work in five cities across the U.S., through a LGBT Inter-Generational Oral History Project and extensive archival research.

It’s big and intense and emotional, and we’re just jumping in now – along with our partner theaters in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Lewiston and Tampa. We’ll premiere Part One of the show in March 2014 in San Francisco, and the full world premiere in 2015. I’ll keep you posted!

People can join my email list at www.seandorseydance.com to get updates about my work and where we’re touring next!



[alert type=”info”]Cross-posted from Tranifesto[/alert]

Militant March Protesting Death Of Transsexual Kayla Moore While In Police Custody

A large group of LGBT activists strode down the middle of Berkeley streets, enraged that one month has passed and still no statement from police detailing exactly who or what killed trans person Kayla Moore while she was in police custody

Anonymous Queers in action angry that the police have only offered a vague statement believe they are responsible for Moore’s death, repeatedly taunted the police. The Berkeley police have announced the will Review the facts Wensday night.

[alert type=”info”]Cross-posted from PlanetTransgender[/alert]

Gender Orientation: Intersex Conditions Within The Transsexual Brain

This is part of a lecture given on May 5, 2010 by Prof. Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University. Prof. Sapolsky reviews studies he feels make a compelling case for those who assert that transsexualism is actually a type of intersex condition.


More on gender orientation

Those interested in gender roles and the brain should read Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender. Fine does an excellent job at debunking pernicious myths while chronicling the history of the way neurology has been used to support gender roles. Having said that, trans readers may note that Fine someones conflates gender identity with gender role. Outside of this one critique, I strongly recommend the book to anyone who wants to look at the neurologic science behind gender role formation.

Why I outed “ex-gay” Matt Moore

After my last post about a profile on Grindr using ex-gay writer Matt Moore’s photo and personal details, I contacted Moore, who responded as follows:

The grindr profile was really mine. I’ve been on it on and off for the last couple of weeks.

Like I told the guy who sent you the picture, I am wrong in having been on grindr. I haven’t changed my views on homosexuality, the bible, etc.

Creating a grindr profile and talking to guys on it was major disobedience on my part….disobedience to Christ. Disobedience to a loving and gracious God. Thankfully, I believe that He forgives me for this disobedience. I believe the blood of Christ covers this disobedience. And I won’t be on grindr again….ever.

The pastor of my church and the church body I am a part of were informed about me being on grindr (I told them) before all of this came out, publicly.

While I’m glad that Moore chose to own up to this rather than continuing to make excuses as others have done in the same situation, it’s disappointing that he ever put himself in such a deceptive and hypocritical situation in the first place. So-called “ex-gays” publicly promote the notion that LGBT people are sinning against a god who will torture them eternally if they fail to suppress and deny their true nature. But privately, they often seem to have trouble practicing what they preach.

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The BackStory…

Matt Moore is yet another one of those ex-gay folks who thinks that he can change his sexual orientation by pretending to be heterosexual.  He spreads his fallacious logic to others who are suffering from homophobia-driven fear, shame and guilt on the Christian Post. Moore, like so many, many other ex-gay guilt-ridden faux heterosexuals figured out that he couldn’t, in fact, change his orientation and went looking for a man on Grindr… and just like so many before him, he was caught and his hypocrisy was exposed.


The ‘Trans Cabal’ Replies

This video has been compiled by TransBareAll as a response to recent transphobic articles in the press. We don’t aim to debate the merits of freedom of speech, or the rights and wrongs of different sides of an argument. Instead we want to show the real impact of the way language is used, how it can affect the people it targets.

In the media (and society in general) there are some words which we never use, such as the ‘N’ word. We don’t choose to avoid them because we are oppressed, but because we understand that due to their historical and social context they aren’t merely offensive, they are directly harmful. We understand that for some terms it is up to the group they have been used against to re-appropriate them. Some of the terms published lately are examples of these — terms so deeply rooted in discrimination, exclusion, hatred and violence, that it is just not ok to say them. Ever. Because of the damage that they do.

This short film includes trans masculine people and allies talking about the impact of this language. Although recent publications seem to refer specifically to trans women, the language used does not separate us — it includes all trans people, and everyone who loves and respects us. It refers to us. It refers to many of the people in this film. Using this language harms all trans people and our wider communities of families, friends, partners and lovers. This is not about offense, it is about hurt. It goes so much deeper.

The voices you hear in this film are not the most vulnerable amongst us, because they won’t have felt safe enough to take part. As these are the feelings of people who are confident enough to share these emotions, we can only imagine what the others are going through.

Over coming days and weeks we will add the complete videos that clips in this film were taken from to our youtube channel, along with new videos which have been submitted. If you want to take part then please email us a short film — guidelines are available on our website.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all those brave enough to speak out in this project, to Rob of www.softley.co.uk for helping with the final edit, and to all involved in TransBareAll for the feedback and support which made this happen. Our support and friendship goes to all those affected by the recent transphobia they’ve been forced to endure.

[alert type=”info”]For more information about this video project: TransBareAll[/alert]

RadFem Speak Out Against TERFs!

So, who’s heard of Julie Burchill and her “censored” article?

Coming to the defense of her maligned feminist friend, columnist and author Julie Burchill wrote an article about trans women. Apparently, her friend Suzanne Moore’s latest article contained a faux pas. In Burchill’s words:

She wrote that, amongst other things, women were angry about “not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual”.

At best, this is simply a poorly constructed byproduct of the aged-out argument that idealized beauties are expected to be voluptuous in ways white women can’t achieve (Brazilian!) and skinny in a way that cis women can’t achieve (transsexual!) simultaneously. It juxtaposes the hyperfeminized (big boobs!) and masculinized (skinny hips!) to demonstrate the absurdity and impossibility of beauty ideals.

[pullquote]But when you’re calling yourself a voice for equality and social justice, there are some basic rules that people will generally expect you to follow, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that, while you may mess up, and may not always practice what you preach, you at least have some kind of idea of what you’re preaching.[/pullquote]It’s aged out because modern feminists can generally agree that however rare these body types are, shaming the women who possess them as plastic and/or masculinized is just repackaging the same old worms. Moore’s statement was poorly thought out. It was also a microaggression. It was clearly not intended to upset or dismiss transsexual people, but to make a cheap and thoughtless argument. The problem was that she completely disregarded trans people in doing so. She decided that their opinions or their audience was not worth acknowledging and that their identities were therefore free and available to use as a brazen and absurd example of what not to be.

Not surprisingly, some trans people didn’t like this. Moore was apparently harassed quite a bit on Twitter and felt forced to delete her account. Julie Burchill to the “rescue!” I won’t bother going into the specifics of the article, because it’s all ugly. There’s some stuff about bed-wetting and bad wigs and a hilariously sophomoric display of Burchill’s feeble grasp of How Words Work. For example:

having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as ‘Cis’ – sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff

Why but Burchill rhymes with Churchill, so if I call her Burchill, am I calling her a wrinkly old white guy who hates Lady Astor? What an idiot.

It was originally published in The Observer, but the editor didn’t take long to realize their mistake and took it down. Of course, any editor worth their salt wouldn’t have published it to begin with, but don’t tell that to Toby Young! Why he was so offended at this “censorship” that he chose to republish this snot on The Telegraph, proving that British and American conservatives have at least one thing in common: they really have no grasp of the concept of censorship at all.

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Definition: Acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. That group of feminists that claims that trans women aren’t really women, as biological determinism is only a fallacy when used against them, not when they use it against others.

Usage: Isn’t it mindboggling that the Royal College of Psychiatrists would invite a TERF like Julie Bindel to come talk at a study day on transgenderism and transsexuality? That’s like inviting Fred Phelps to come deliver the keynote at a gay pride.

Queer Dictionary




It Gets Better – Eve

When I find the “It Gets Better’ videos from African-American celebrities and trans people, they will get posted on...