Susan Calman being criticised on Twitter for dancing with a man came as no surprise to me. One of the first questions I was asked when I joined Strictly Come Dancing last year was: “Ooh, how come you’re dancing with a woman?” The answer was always, “What a thoroughly absurd question!” My sexuality, in terms of Strictly or whatever else I do in my life, ought to be as irrelevant as the length of my big toe.
Strictly weren’t asking me to marry my gorgeous professional partner Oksana – they were asking me to dance with her! The reality is that ballroom dancing is a professional sport, and the dancers are athletes who have competed at the highest level. I used to mock everyone saying, “I want to get to Blackpool”, but I soon realised that for Oksana it was like playing tennis at Wimbledon. And just like in tennis there are ballroom championships and rankings – nobody would dream of asking gay players in the mixed doubles to be partnered with someone of the same sex.
Here’s the deal, folks. I’m sorry, but some things ain’t politics. And Strictly is one of them. The joy of the show is the pure escapism. This may come as a surprise, but I don’t walk around on a daily basis wearing glitter, with my chest out, doing jazz hands! For a couple of hours every Saturday night over the autumn, the real world fades and we all disappear into a world of sequins, glitterballs and pure unadulterated joy.
Would it be a big step forward for the LGBTQI community if there were same-sex couples on Strictly? Do me a favour! It would not improve the life of anybody to see a Scottish comedian doing jazz hands with another almost-certainly-not-gay woman on TV. There are plenty of organisations making a real difference to the lives of gay people around the country that do need our help, so why undermine the wonder of Strictly by politicising it?
Would I have felt comfortable dancing with a male partner last year? It wouldn’t have occurred to me, but yes. And I would direct people to watch an amazing video on YouTube of two men dancing the Argentinian tango, which is really beautiful. And, if it would satiate these Twitter trolls, I’ll offer myself up to dance with a man on the Strictly Christmas special.
Would the British public be ready to see two men dancing together on primetime festive telly? I’m not inviting them into my bedroom, I am inviting them to watch me dance. With integrity and enthusiasm. I absolutely don’t believe that even somebody with the most hideously bigoted (and always boring) views about sexuality would be in the least bit shocked or troubled by my dancing with a man. In fact, I reckon that my tango with Anton Du Beke would be something to behold.
By Robert Rinder
Judge Rinder is on at 2pm Monday to Friday on ITV