EXCLUSIVE: Strictly Come Dancing's Susan Calman hits back at 'offensive and upsetting' LGBT backlash

By Stephanie Soteriou and Mary Gallagher

Although the vast majority of the UK are huge fans of Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC One show has faced criticism from the LGBT+ community in the past, namely for the show’s refusal to include same-sex dance couples.

Paul O’Grady previously accused the BBC of being “too scared of offending people” by pairing LGBT+ celebrities with same-sex dancers, and the BBC released a statement last year saying that they will be sticking to the “traditional” mixed-sex couples after gay singer Will Young signed up to the show.

Susan has hit back at the backlash. Copyright: [BBC]
Susan has hit back at the backlash. Copyright: [BBC]

When out lesbian comedian Susan Calman was confirmed to be taking part in this year’s series of the show, many argued that she should be paired with a female professional dancer – with some members of the LGBT+ community hitting out at Susan for taking part in Strictly in spite of its reluctance to embrace the gay community with same-sex couples.

Speaking exclusively to Yahoo Celeb UK at this year’s Strictly press launch, Susan told us that she was “offended and upset” by the negative comments that her signing up has receieved from members of her own community – pointing out that gay male stars haven’t ever had as much stick.

Insisting that she is “absolutely not disappointed” that there is no same sex representation on the show, Susan told us: “My decision was to dance with a man, I want to dance with a man and I think sometimes politically there’s nothing more powerful than having an openly gay woman on the biggest show in television, whose wife is in the front row, doing what she wants to do.

Susan’s wife will be sitting ‘front row’. Copyright: [Twitter]
Susan’s wife will be sitting ‘front row’. Copyright: [Twitter]

“Nobody is holding me hostage, making me wear a dress and dance with a man – I want to learn how to dance.

“I have protested, I have picketed, I have fought, I have been spat on, I have been punched, and now I want to dance.

“What annoyed me slightly is that I am getting it in the neck but Will Young didn’t get it… Judge Rinder didn’t get it… And for me to be getting it is, I think, unfair.

“I seem to be getting the brunt from the LGBT+ community for my decision and it’s making this about my sexuality instead of a woman who wants to learn to dance.

Will Young did not get backlash from the LGBT+ community when he danced with a woman. Copyright: [BBC]
Will Young did not get backlash from the LGBT+ community when he danced with a woman. Copyright: [BBC]

“Nobody can say I don’t stand up for my community, the idea that people are upset by [me signing up] offends me as I have done a f*ck of a lot for that community.

“To put the weight of the LGBT+ community on me, of changing perceptions and platforms, is unfair and upsetting and ignoring the impact I will have in the biggest show on television, with my wife and parents and fellow contestants, is unfair.

“It’s become a bigger deal than it should have; it’s just a woman learning to dance.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Susan.

Strictly kicks off tonight. Copyright: [BBC]
Strictly kicks off tonight. Copyright: [BBC]

Scottish Susan is the host of BBC One gameshow The Boss and mystery show Armchair Detectives and is also a regular on the panel show circuit.

Speaking previously about signing up to Strictly, she said: “Finally I can reveal all the moves I’ve been practising in my kitchen to the nation.

“I am an enthusiastic home dancer and now on Saturday nights I’ll be dancing in other people’s homes in a (hopefully) entertaining way.

“I am terrified but excited to start my Strictly journey.”

Susan’s Strictly journey kicks off tonight at 7pm on BBC One.

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