How Trans Irish Dancer Hayden Moon Found a New Home in Pole Dancing

June 27, 2024

These days, Hayden Moon experiences gender euphoria when performing and competing in Irish dance, the genre the Australian transmasculine dancer is best known for.

But it wasn’t always that way—and he had to work for it. “I’m so proud of the work I’ve done in Irish dance,” he says. “Fighting to be able to compete as myself, to be seen as a man, just to be able to dance onstage. But it was an extremely traumatic journey to go through.”

Thankfully, when Moon decided to try pole dancing in 2021, no such journey was necessary. “It’s really nice to come into this community that was already inclusive,” he says. “I didn’t have to fight to perform as a trans person, and I wasn’t the first and I’m not the only. I didn’t have to be a pioneer. I didn’t have to change a policy. I’m just included.”

Moon has since fallen in love with pole dancing, and with his new community at Duality Pole Dancing Studio in Sydney, which last year mobilized to raise funds for Moon’s recent top surgery.

“I love everything about pole,” Moon says. “But what I love most is the community. It’s so accepting and beautiful.”

How did you discover that you loved pole dancing?

I don’t even remember how I found out about pole. I think I had some friends who did it. Having a background in Irish dance, there’s not a lot of opportunities to connect with your body. I’m someone who’s been through a lot with my body in terms of being a trans person, so I was like, This seems like something that will be really good for reconnecting with my body in a positive way. I also wanted to work on my upper body strength—Irish dancing is all in the legs.

Why is it that Irish dancing doesn’t allow you that connection to your body and pole dancing does?

Irish dancing does bring me so much joy. But you’re covered from head to toe, you don’t show any skin. The more you advance in pole, the less clothes you have to wear, because you need your body to grip the pole. I struggled with that at first. I would always wear a crop top, and that made me really dysphoric because it reminded me that I had breasts and that they shouldn’t be there. At my first showcase at the studio, I did it just with trans tape and pole undies. I was so nervous. I was like, All these people in the audience know that I’ve got boobs. Then I performed and it was just so joyful. I just felt like I was like every other guy.

I got gender-affirming surgery in September, and did my first performance topless without any tape early this year. It was truly one of the happiest moments of my life. I was like, I am dancing with my dream chest on display, in front of all these people. That’s not something I could do in Irish dancing, to have my scars on show and to be who I am and have everyone there cheering me on as a trans-masc person.

How has your pole dancing community welcomed and helped you?

I was a bit nervous when I first went because I’m quite often the only trans person in the room. I remember having a chat with one of the owners and saying that in the past I hadn’t always felt included in spaces. She was like, “If anyone says anything negative to you, tell me, because we will not allow that.” That made me feel so incredibly supported and safe.

In terms of accessing surgery, I needed it physically and mentally. Physically, the damage to my body from binding had hit a level where I needed surgery. I had been binding for six years and it was not good. And mentally, my chest dysphoria has always been really debilitating, and it was really affecting me. It was halting my progression in pole and my performance in Irish—I wouldn’t practice because I couldn’t deal with seeing my chest.

I saw a surgeon and got a date, and it was a lot sooner than I was expecting and I just didn’t have the money. I was panicking and I brought it up at the studio to some of my friends, and one of the owners overheard. She called me over and was like, “When do you need the money? Why don’t we have our next showcase be a fundraiser for your top surgery?” I had so many emotions. I had to take time to think about it because I was so shocked.

The showcases that we do are called “Category Is,” and the category gets decided a week or two out from the show. They named it “Category Is: Trans Pride,” and you had to dress in the colors of the trans flag. I felt so incredibly held by this community and this dance studio.

What has the response been to sharing your journey with pole dancing?

I struggled when I first started pole, thinking, Is it weird if I do pole as a trans guy? Are people gonna judge me? But representation is so important. Hopefully, there are some femme trans guys out there who can see me performing or see me at a competition, or see me online. And if they want to pole dance, or they want to wear eight-inch heels, or they want to wear makeup, or they want to grow their hair, they can do that, because they can see, Oh, he’s doing it, and he’s celebrated, and he’s accepted.