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John Whaite and Johannes Radebe - The Power of Mainstream LGBTQ+ Representation

This Saturday, Strictly Come Dancing’s first male, same-sex dance partners and wholly deserving finalists, John Whaite and Johannes Radebe, will compete once more for the Glitterball trophy as the competition draws to a close.

Image credit: BBC

Who is John Whaite?

Baker and former GBBO winner turned Strictly star, John Whaite, was born in Chorley and grew up on a farm in Wigan. He went on to study Law at Manchester University, achieving first class honours - a Mancunian talent!

John shot to fame when he won the Great British Bake Off in 2012 and continues to grace our screens as a chef on shows including; Lorriane, This Morning and Steph’s Packed Lunch. John also owns a cookery school based in Wigan! Keep an eye on John Whaite's Kitchen for updates. 

In August 2021, John Whaite made history when it was announced that he’d appear in the 19th series of Strictly Come Dancing, partnering with Johannes Radebe to become the first male, same-sex dance pairing.

John and Johannes performing the Argentine Tango. Image credit: BBC

Watching John and Johannes compete over the last 12 weeks has left audiences moved, mesmerised and incredibly proud to see two men dance so boldly and passionately on prime time television.

Male dance partners have been practising and performing together for hundreds of years. Did you know that the history of the tango is actually quite queer?! Historical research shows that the tango, a traditional Argentinian dance, was actually danced by male couples from the beginning. Hetronoramative agendas have been pushed for centuries, leading to these traditions being suppressed. Returning the dance to tradition and seeing two men dance an Argentinian Tango shows the normality and beauty in same-sex union, and that it isn’t something to be feared.

This year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing isn’t the first to feature same-sex dance partners - fellow northerner and Olympic Gold Medallist, Nicola Adams, was paired with Katya Jones in the 2020 series, although the dance couple had to sadly withdraw early in the competition due to Covid-19 before being able to make a marked impact with the watching public. The prominence of John and Johannes as dance partners in 2021 has helped to propel LGBTQ+ representation into prime time, mainstream media and celebrate queerness on a large, nationwide platform - in 2020, 13.2m people tuned into the Strictly Come Dancing final.

All of us at Manchester Pride are thrilled to see that John and Johannes have mostly been met with the praise, love and encouragement that they deserve from the British public. Watching two LGBTQ+ men dance so beautifully on prime time TV has been a monumental joy to witness, and has undoubtedly been a life-changing moment in time for so many queer people in the UK (including us!). It really is true that so many of us desperately needed such prominent and fearless representation when we were growing up.

On Instagram in October, John wrote

“I can’t tell you what all the kind comments, messages and little chats in the street mean to me. When I agreed to dance on @bbcstrictly with another chap I was of course excited, but ready for the flak. As queer people we have to carefully choose the places we go, the people we speak to, and live our life somewhat blinkered to keep ourselves safe. But this process has taught me that there is far more love in the world than there is hate. So much so that any messages of hate have been diluted to complete insignificance.

And, as I’ve said from day one, if even just one child watches us and feels instantly more comfortable in their own skin and more accepted by the world, then it’s all a great step forward.”

Ahead of the grand finale Saturday 18th December, you can catch up on John and Johannes’ Couple’s Choice dance in last week’s episode of Strictly Come Dancing here.

Be sure to tune into this joyful and historic moment on BBC One, Saturday 18th December 2021 at 7pm.

Why is LGBTQ+ Representation on TV so important?

This kind of LGBTQ+ representation, especially in today’s climate, really matters. Reports of homophobic hate crimes in the UK have risen by 210 percent over the last six years. Even in 2021, LGBTQ+ prejudice and hostility is alive and kicking and bigotry is still ruining lives.

Manchester Pride is a charity that works all year round to campaign for advancements in equality and challenge discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ people. Through our programme of events, we work tirelessly to promote queer liberation and the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality in all spaces.

Additionally, our All Equals Charter helps businesses and organisations to understand how to recognise and challenge any form of discrimination. We work closely with our members to help cultivate safe and inclusive spaces for all LGBTQ+ people in the workplace - we believe that everyone deserves their whole selves to be accepted without exception.

If you or someone you know is 14-18 and would benefit from regular LGBTQ+ virtual meet-ups, meeting like-minded young people and getting involved in creative tasks and games, why not sign up for our Youth Pride Workshops! It’s the perfect opportunity for young LGBTQ+ people to hang out with other queer young people and their allies across the city.

* All images: BBC

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