Conversations with LGBTQ+ Circus Folks

Part 2, by Stacy Gubar

I had the pleasure of interviewing Oriana from the Wise Fool New Mexico circus program in New Mexico about the experience of an LGBTQIA+ circus enthusiast. The following is an excerpt from that informative conversation. 

What part of the LGBTQIA+ acronym do you identify with

Queer works best for me because it is the most accurate way to describe my gender expansive, nonbinary, and genderfluid identity. 

What are the pronouns you use?

I use any and all pronouns, but I prefer my name. 

How has that affected your circus endeavors? 

I am part of an organization founded by people who identified as queer, so being queer  has not affected me in circus much because I have been very well received. 

Have you found your specific circus studio to be an accepting environment?

Wise Fool New Mexico was founded by queer individuals, and has been very accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community since its founding days, so I have felt accepted as well. Wise Fools is often the model for other circus groups including AYCO and ACE when it comes to diversity, acceptance, and progress. 

Have you found the circus community as a whole to be an accepting environment? 

I have found that me identifying as queer does not come into play much in the broad circus community. Any discrimination I have faced has been more for race than gender identity. 

Do you know any other circus enthusiasts who align themselves with the LGBTQIA+ community?

The presence or lack of LGBTQIA+ circus members varies based on circumstance and location. Select circus groups do have members who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, but when considering circus as a whole I feel it is not very common or widespread. 

Have you participated in/do you know of LGBTQIA+ support groups within the circus community?

My studio offers an intensive for women and transgender and nonbinary individuals called BUST! which offers workshops to address LGBTQIA+ social issues. AYCO and ACE also offer classes at conferences that inform those who take them about LGBTQIA+ issues within and beyond the circus. 

Do you feel the geographical location of your circus studio affects how people at the studio view the LGBTQIA+ community? 

Absolutely! Santa Fe, New Mexico is very progressive when it comes to gay rights, so people are more accepting of others being unapologetically themselves. Even the last mayor was gay and no one treated it as out of the ordinary. However, Tennessee, where I used to live, was much more conservative and less accepting, so the circus programs in that area and other parts of the South are less accepting than Wise Fools. 

What is some advice or encouragement you would like to share with other LGBTQIA+ circus enthusiasts? 

Find a community if you don’t have it because a support system is very important. When you fall into feeling alone, a community, or even one person, there to support you can mean the world. It is not always easy to be unapologetically yourself, but that is what moves the world and creates growth.

Anything else you would like to share?

It is very important for people to understand that these pieces of identity must be respected, but it is also important to be conscious of the fact that the person comes before the set label. Nobody is just one label, so be careful to maintain the human aspect of the individual rather than letting the label overtake the complex identity. 

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