Complaints over Strictly's same-sex partnership isn't a surprise, but it hurts

Before Nicola Adams has even taken to the Strictly Come Dancing stage, Britain’s entrenched homophobia has reared its ugly – albeit consistent – head.

The Olympic boxer was announced as the first celebrity to ever be partnered with a member of the same-sex as this year’s line-up was gradually confirmed last month.

For me, rather than jumping for joy it was a relief: ‘Finally’. This had been a long time coming.

But just the thought of two women embracing each other through a Viennese waltz has proven too much for Strictly’s conservative audience. So much so that complaints have already reached the hundreds, with over a month to go until any of this year’s dancers step foot in the ballroom for the first time.

While writing this piece, I received a charming email which read: ‘Will be boycotting strictly………..never heard anything so ridiculous as same-sex dancing ……..’

Of course, said charmer isn’t alone.

The BBC has been forced to address the backlash already.

In a statement, it said: ‘Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and is proud to have featured same sex dancing amongst the professional dancers in group numbers in previous series.

‘We have stated, in the past, that we are open to the prospect of including same sex pairings between our celebrities and professional dancers, should the opportunity arise.

‘Nicola Adams requested an all-female pairing, which we are happy to facilitate. 

‘The show is first and foremost about dance, the sex of each partner within a coupling should have no bearing on their routine.’

When Diversity honouring the late George Floyd on Britain’s Got Talent, while expressing the anguish of the Black Lives Matter movement, becomes the most complained TV moment of the decade, it’s no surprise the just words ‘same-sex partnership’ would spark a flurry complaints.

If anything is going to shock me in 2020, it’s not that homophobia is thriving.

But it doesn’t stop it from hurting.

In the grand scheme of things, hundreds of complaints for a show which reaches more than 10 million viewers each week may not sound like anything to lose sleep over. But even the BBC needing to respond to backlash legitimises the cries of those so vehemently opposed to a same-sex partnership.

We’re not breezing into, what really is a monumental moment for the LGBTQ+ community, without needing to be ready for battle. Thankfully, we’re well prepared.

Last year – arguably in response to Dancing on Ice achieving the same-sex milestone first in what became a bizarre contest between the two rival series – two of Strictly’s professional dancers, Graziano Di Prima and Johannes Radebe, performed together, delicately gliding through the ballroom.

Most were moved to tears, but the conversation swiftly moved to the 300 angry viewers riled by the routine. To say it was triggering is a vast understatement. Was it too much too soon? I feared we’d never get there.

Already, the complaints behind Nicola’s request to dance with a woman has made the move political. Suddenly, two women dancing together on a prime time Saturday night show for the family is up for debate.

Sadly, the LGBTQ+ community know this debate all too well. Our existence is all too often up for scrutiny, be it teaching about same-sex families in schools, kisses on children’s television (as recently seen on CBBC), or if conversion therapy should be banned – we’re regularly the source of conversation among our straight peers whether we like it or not.

Hop on to Twitter, and it’s not hard to find outrage whenever the LGBTQ community is visible. You don’t need to turn to a dark corner of social media to hear unthinkable language joined at the hip with concern that we’re taking over your TVs and corrupting children with our sordid sexually-driven lifestyles.

Nicola won’t turn your daughters into bra-burning lesbians, heaven forbid. She may, however, open your daughter’s eyes to the possibility of dancing with another girl, spurring on a new kinship – an expression of sisterhood at best.

I promise with the full weight of my snowflakey heart when Nicola performs for the first time on Strictly Come Dancing next month your children will take away nothing but lessons in acceptance.

if even the notion of a same-sex pairing is too much to bear at this point, I dread to think about the reaction that’s yet to come

Ultimately, two women performing together on Strictly Come Dancing isn’t going to put an end to hate crime against LGBTQ people, some of us will still mask the dread we feel walking down the street hand-in-hand with our partners with a defiant smile. Our lives won’t be transformed by Nicola swinging another woman around the dancefloor, and neither will the lives of those so firmly against it. But if even the notion of a same-sex pairing is too much to bear at this point, I dread to think about the reaction that’s yet to come.

Diversity’s performance was nothing but an incredibly moving education, shining a spotlight on racial discrimination and the horror which 99.9 percent of those who complained will never endure.

However, for those who haven’t seen the routine, all they know is it caused huge upset.

My biggest fear is we’ll face the same backlash come night one of Strictly and the moment which has been a long time coming for many, will be tarnished by homophobic critics already sharpening their pitchforks ready to pick up the phone and call the BBC with a well-rehearsed moan.

Does it matter? Maybe not. Whatever their complaints are, they won’t be anything new. We’ve heard it all before and then some. Does that mean it doesn’t sting when the sheer presence of your sexuality on screen causes someone so much hurt and upset they have to file a formal complaint? No, it doesn’t.

That punch still hurts and there’s clearly a bigger beating still to come. But we can take, it, we always do.

Regardless, I know the vast majority will be watching with love. Nicola doesn’t need to be the next Alesha Dixon or Stacey Dooley, for most of us tears will trickle down our faces with pride even if we get an Ed Balls does Gangnam Style: The Sequel.

To quote Ashley Banjo, leader of Diversity: ‘Never let the minority warp the reality… This country really is Great.’

Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One this autumn.

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