… and what this means for the LGBTQ+ community.
After 17 series, Strictly Come Dancing (the UK equivalent of Dancing with the Stars) is going to showcase its first same-sex partnership. Nicola Adams, the Olympic boxer, will make history as she becomes the first contestant to dance with a professional of the same sex throughout the competition. When discussing her choice to dance with a female professional, Adams said the following:
Nicola Adams, who will be a contestant on this year’s series, requested that she dance with a female professional. The producers were happy to make this happen. This decision marks a monumental step towards inclusion, diversity and LGBTQ+ representation. Strictly Come Dancing is a hugely successful show in the UK, generating millions of viewers every week. With the viewers ranging from young children to elderly people, the reach this will have is incredible.
Representation and why it is so important
The show’s decision to showcase a same-sex partnership has not come without criticism. Many people are writing complaints to the BBC. However, this kind of response highlights exactly why we need more LGBTQ+ representations in the mainstream media. Positive representations of relationships that fall outside of the heterosexual norm provide viewers with an understanding and awareness of queerness that they may not otherwise have been exposed to.
The most notable impact this could have will be on queer people themselves, who may not have seen a depiction of their relationships on the show before. Even though there have been openly gay participants in the past, they have never been paired with a professional of the same sex. This has meant that for the romantic dances, those individuals have not been able to be their authentic selves.
Including a same-sex partnership could be monumental for young queer people, and even adults. For a generation growing up with social media and TV as their main influences, positive and diverse representations in the media are absolutely crucial. Without seeing themselves represented on TV, young queer people may be made to feel like their identity is not valid. Nicola Adams and this same-sex pairing will help to normalize LGBTQ+ sexualities. It will also provide the LGBTQ+ community with a positive representation of themselves, and their relationships, on prime time TV.
Heteronormativity is the idea that heterosexuality is the ‘preferred’ or ‘normal’ sexual orientation. By exclusively showing heterosexual partnerships, the show was indirectly contributing to this idea. The old format perpetuates the idea that male/female relationships are the only option, a notion that is not reflective of the real world. By including a same-sex couple, Strictly Come Dancing is challenging heteronormativity, creating a more inclusive and diverse platform.
Why this is needed
We now live in an increasingly progressive society. However, some people continue to be outraged by LGBTQ+ relationships on mainstream TV. Last year, when a group dance on the show features a same-sex pairing, there were 300 complaints. This year, when the CBBC show ‘The Next Step’ aired a same-sex kiss, the show received over 100 complaints. This unfortunately highlights that we still have a long way to go in terms of normalizing homosexuality.
This decision from the BBC thereby has the potential to change people’s attitudes, increase awareness of different sexualities, and, most importantly, allow queer people to see themselves on TV. We can only hope that one day, a decision like this won’t be such a big deal, and instead will be the norm.