One of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing contestants says she’s getting more criticism as a gay female star for having a dance partner of the opposite sex than the show’s gay male stars have – describing the abuse as “unfair” and offensive.
It was revealed during the BBC series’ first episode on Saturday (9 September) that comedian Susan Calman has been partnered with professional dancer Kevin Clifton.
She wrote on Twitter, “My dance boyfriend is @keviclifton. Couldn't be happier. Strictly is a dream come true.”
But before her partner was even announced, Calman was having to respond to fans online demanding to know why she wasn’t dancing with a woman.
Writing on Twitter, Calman said: “For the (hopefully) last time...
“I wanted to dance with a man I am not being held hostage by the BBC. I’m still well gay and proud of it.”
Implying misogyny is playing a part in the criticism she’s receiving, the comedian later pointed out that previous and current gay contestants, all men, weren’t getting the same level of discussion.
“I have protested, I have picketed, I have fought, I have been spat on, I have been punched – and I want to dance,” Calman said, according to the BBC. “There will be a time for same-sex dancing. I think what annoyed me slightly is that I seem to be getting it in the neck.
“Will Young didn't get it, Judge Rinder didn't get it, Richard Coles isn't getting it. It seems to me as a woman, he's not getting it the same way I am.
“And for me to be getting it is, I think, unfair. I seem to be getting the brunt of the LGBT community.”
She added: “I think politically, there's nothing more powerful than having an openly gay woman on the biggest show on television, whose wife’s on the front row [...] For the gay community to criticise me and try to get me what they want to do is, I think, as difficult as suggesting the straight community are trying to.
“No one is holding me hostage in this room, making me wear a dress and dance with a man. I want to learn how to dance.”
The BBC says there are no current plans to introduce same-sex couples to the format.
However, another of this year’s contestants, Rev Richard Coles (dancing with Dianne Buswell) previously said he’d had “a discussion” with the channel’s bosses about it, telling digitalspy.com: “It makes absolutely no sense that anybody resists the idea, in principle.
“It’s just a question of doing it. I think this year would be a good year to do it actually, with the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act.”
A spokesperson for the BBC said: “Strictly has chosen the traditional format of mixed-sex couples and at the moment we have no plans to introduce same-sex couples in the competition.”
Calman has previously proved herself more than adept at dealing with trolls online, responding to homophobic comments with acerbic one-liners and explaining: “When a man calls me a bitch, or someone is homophobic I reply. Because this lesbian bitch ain’t standing for it.”
Following her dance partner announcement, Calman said she’d worked “tirelessly for LGBT equality” and that dancing with a man was not “about sex; it’s acting. when I do a sexy tango with my partner, I’ll be acting.”
She added: “A lot of people are very supportive of my decision, but it’s making this about my sexuality instead of a woman wanting to learn how to dance.
“The idea that people are depressed by it or upset by it, I think offends me because I've done [...] a lot for that community.”
Image: Rex Features