'I left everything behind' - Meet the Catalan non-binary Irish dancer

Sil Cleary is from Barcelona and now lives in Co Wicklow, having moved here due to their love of the dance
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.32 28 Aug 2023

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'I left everything behind' - M...

'I left everything behind' - Meet the Catalan non-binary Irish dancer

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.32 28 Aug 2023

Share this article

One transgender non-binary Irish dancer has said they see people's reactions to them as a 'breath of fresh air'.

Sil Cleary is from Barcelona in Spain and now lives in Co Wicklow, having moved here due to their love of the dance.

They told Moncrieff they were first introduced to it in school.


"We went with the school to a Celtic concert, where they were showing us what a reel is, what a jig is," they said.

"I had never heard that kind of music before and I loved it.

"I went back home and asked my parents, 'Do we have anything like this here?' and they showed me a VHS of an Irish dancing show that we were gifted years ago.

"I watched it and I completely fell in love with this - I was like 14/15 at the time."

Moving to Ireland

Sil said they tried to find places where they could learn Irish dancing in Spain.

"To my demise, I couldn't find many places where they could teach me dancing," they said.

"I found a local group so I joined them, and I did whatever I could.

"I said, 'I really want to compete and I'd love be in a show one day'".

Sil said they then travelled to summer camps in France and Germany to learn the dances and compete.

However, they ultimately decided the best place to be was here.

"I got a phone call within two hours of applying to a job - I was like, 'OK, this is a sign, I have to go there'" they said.

"I literally moved to Ireland within two or three weeks after that and I've been here ever since.

"That was seven or eight years ago.

"I literally left everything and everybody behind and I just came here on my own.

"I just wanted to see if that made me happy, and it did - it really made me really happy."

Sil said navigating genders in dance competitions "has been a doozy."

"I dance for WIDA, which is the World Irish Dance Association, and they are an open platform - which means we can also dance in other associations," they said.

"The first thing I did when I moved to my current school... I told the teacher, 'I'm non-binary, I don't know what this means but I want to keep competing'.

"She contacted WIDA and told them about me, and they said 'I don't think that's a problem.'

"I've been dancing openly as a non-binary dancer in WIDA for the last year and a half or so.

"I haven't had a single problem, nobody has said to me that I couldn't dance.

"If anything I've been complimented and celebrated for me being a bit different - which I didn't expect.

"Obviously you get a few stares at the beginning, because people are wondering, 'Why are they wearing pants? Are they a man, are they a girl?'

"But everybody has been really welcoming.

"Whether I want to dance traditionally man steps or feminine steps, they don't care.

"To be honest it has been like a breath of fresh air, I think it was needed in the world."

Sil said they realised they were always different growing up.

"It has been always been a thing, where I've been feeling a bit weird like I was felt forced to behave a certain way or dress a certain way," they said.

"I never really felt comfortable with it.

"When I was growing up... I never knew what non-binary was until recently until I started looking into it.

"I publicly came out as non-binary last year, but this comes from basically all my life.

"I think if I had this knowledge as a teenager I probably would have come out then.

"It all kind of clicked into place.... I've been forcing myself to be a certain way, to act a certain way and I never felt comfortable.

"Now I feel like I'm just me," they added.

Listen back here:

Main image: Sil Cleary. Picture: Supplied

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Co.Wicklow Irish Dancer Moncrieff Non-binary Irish Dancer Sil Cleary Spain WIDA World Irish Dance Association

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