Reality TV’s Queer Strides Are Worth Celebrating

Logistical difficulties. That’s what a higher up at Love Island UK said about having queer contestants on the show. “It’s about boys and girls,” agreed ITV’s managing director Kevin Lygo. 
It’s kind of funny being referred to as a logistical difficulty, like we're a shipment delay or a postage error. It’s also funny because plenty of TV shows have proved that it simply isn’t true. 
On Australia’s shores, Love Island already crossed that bridge back in 2019, with Phoebe Thompson and Cassie Lansdell becoming the first same-sex couple in the show’s history. 
For the upcoming Dancing With The Stars US, JoJo Siwa will be the first contestant to be matched with a same-sex partner. The 18-year-old Youtuber, actress, and dancer came out earlier this year without labelling her sexuality. This is a first in the show’s 30 seasons and yet another way she is breaking down walls for LGBTQIA+ youth. 
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"I think it's really special that I get to share with the world that you can love who you love, but now you can dance with who you want to dance with," she told the Television Critics Association.
It’s not the first time that a competitive dance TV show has welcomed same-sex couples, though. In January, British show Dancing On Ice saw Ian ‘H’ Watkins and his dance partner Matt Evers compete together. But out of 5.5 million viewers, 16 people voiced complaints. And while that equates to 0.000029% of the viewing population, the pain of homophobia still struck a chord with Ian, telling HuffPost UK that “they’re a dagger in my heart”.
Representation is a numbers booster, and sometimes disappointingly used as a tokenistic gesture of inclusion. We’re now opening the conversation of whether networks have a responsibility to protect their contestants from discrimination, before and after a show airs. Because visibility without protection is merely a trap
We ask that question again as Australia prepares to welcome Brooke Blurton as our newest Bachelorette. From being told she’s “too pretty to be an Aboriginal” and facing biphobia as an openly bisexual woman, the path ahead of her may not be easy. Just shy of a decade old, Australia’s Bachelor franchise is in need of a shake-up, with dwindling ratings suggesting that people are tired of this tried formula. A fresh injection of talent and diversity might be what saves it.
NSYNC’s Lance Bass is backing a global shift in queer inclusion for The Bachelor, too. Landing a spot as a guest host on the current season of the US’ Bachelor in Paradise, he tells Variety that he would gladly host an LGBTQIA+ version of The Bachelor.
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"If you want the most dramatic season ever, do an LGBT version,” he says.“I think maybe it’s the time for The Bachelor to do a gay Bachelor. I think that would be so much fun,” Bass says. “And I definitely know a host if you need it.”
And in 2019, Bachelor in Paradise US saw its first same-sex couple. Coming out as sexually fluid, Demi Burnett proposed to her then-girlfriend Kristian Haggerty.
Queerness has an important place in reality TV shows — particularly in dating shows, where it has the power to rewrite false narratives LGBTQIA+ folk are told about love.
It proves that all people can find their happily ever afters, logistical difficulties or otherwise. 

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