Pairs figure skating is a truly beautiful thing to watch — but with far more women in the sport than men, why does a pair have to be opposite genders? It feels like a question that should have been asked a long time ago (apart from in Blades of Glory). But it’s only recently that a step was taken, with Skate Canada, the country’s figure skating governing body, removing all gendered language from its competition rulebook, redefining teams as “Partner A and Partner B.” In this informative, thoughtful essay, former skater Talia Barrington considers what this means for the future of the sport, along with a detailed look back at its history.

As piano echoed over the sound system, they began to dance, their bodies matching effortlessly, limbs stretching in identical lines, torsos coiling. With their arms wrapped around each other tightly, they unfurled to spin around in endless motion. Improvisation became choreography, and they alternated between carving across the ice and laughing at a botched move. Over and over, they practiced a Fred Astaire–style dip until it was easy. Cheek to cheek, then far apart with just a single push, the pair forged a new routine.