An historic moment for Strictly Come Dancing
Nicola Adams has made Strictly Come Dancing history by becoming the first celebrity to perform in a same-sex pairing, having agreed to do the show on that condition. It feels like an important moment for the LGBTQ+ community, and for Black women in the UK and beyond. However, it is important to temper celebration of these factors with previous comments Adams has made about trans participation in sport.
The move follows a one-off routine from last year's series that saw two male professionals, Johannes Radebe and Graziano di Prima, dancing together. Unfortunately, both this routine and the announcement of Adams’ same-sex dance partner resulted in complaints to the BBC. The show defended its decision, arguing that it should have no bearing on the ability of the pair to dance together.
Adams echoed this sentiment, stating that the same-sex pairing was "not really a big deal" and "not such an uncommon thing". She said it was about “breaking those boundaries and showing people that it's OK."
Having recently retired from professional boxing due to concerns over her eyesight, Adams has taken up some opportunities to talk more about the intersections of her identity. She has been vocal about her support for the Black Lives Matter movement both on Twitter and in interviews.
She told the Guardian in September:
“I think silence shouldn’t be tolerated now. You can’t just be silent; you’ve got to be anti-racist. I don’t want to be sat here in 70 years talking about the exact same thing. It’s time to change.”
Adams also had some sound advice for young people wrestling with their identities:
“I know there will be kids who are struggling. And I’d just like them to know that it doesn’t matter about your sexuality or what colour you are, you really can achieve anything you want to if you work hard.”
Adams recently “came out” again as a lesbian via tiktok, after getting frustrated by numerous press articles that labelled her bisexual. Last week we celebrated National Coming Out Day, and Adams’ case is a timely reminder that people don’t just come out once in their life, but that it is a continuing process. She has also taken part in a campaign with the dating app Bumble called #myloveisblacklove, which aims to combat stereotypes of black women.
In light of these important and brave moves to stand up for typically under-represented groups in our society, it was disappointing to see Adams cited amongst supporters for Sharron Davies’ campaign against trans inclusion in women’s sports. Adams has been vocal about her view that a level playing field can only be maintained in elite sport by a separate transgender category; a solution she sees as ‘simple’. However, this solution is not ‘simple’. It is deeply problematic and fuels transphobia and exclusion. Trans women are women. It is so important that we, as LGBTQ+ identifying people and allies, stand up against such comments and strive for a world in which everyone can exist and thrive regardless of their gender or sexual identity.
While we can and do celebrate Adams’ involvement in the first same-sex couple on Strictly, we must be careful not to ignore her exclusionary take on trans participation in sport.
For more information on transphobia in sport, see our articles below:
October 24, 2020