“So, what’s your biggest fear?” Tayshia Adams asks midway through Bachelor In Paradise 2019’s “Week 2, Part 2.” She is talking to season 6’s breakout star, Demi Burnett, who spends the episode becoming increasingly comfortable speaking about her feelings as a woman who identifies as fluid. They’re the kind of emotions Demi has bottled up over her time in Sayulita, Mexico, especially when it comes to her burgeoning romance with John Krasinksi lookalike Derek Peth.
Demi’s answer to Tayshia’s question is that she worries Derek will forsake her the moment he learns of her bisexuality and dating history. Only, that is not at all what happens. Bachelor in Paradise will never be the same after Demi’s coming out — and the reason is much deeper than you think.
At surface level, Demi simply talking to multiple people in one episode of Bachelor In Paradise about her own queerness is revolutionary. She begins the episode with a beachside sit down with official BIP sounding board Katie Morton. Demi explains she was dating a woman back home and still thinks about her all the time during filming. Yet, the 24-year-old confirms she also has feelings for Derek.
“I really don’t know what I want, and that’s what I’m trying to figure out. And I don’t want to hurt anybody” Demi admits. “I’m afraid of how people are going to take it. I’m afraid of how people change their minds about me.”
Later that day, Demi reiterates those fears to Tayshia. In both instances, Demi’s Bachelor season 15 friends support her without sensationalizing her sexuality. When Demi tells Katie her Paradise process is all about realizing her queerness is “okay,” Katie responds, “It’s more than okay.” Tayshia similarly says, “I hate that you feel you have to hide behind such a strong shield and not be who you really want to be.” These responses fall right in line with Paradise 2019’s premiere, where Bachelor Hannah Brown had a highly produced pre-Mexico meeting with Demi just to officially endorse Demi as a “fluid person.” The scene came off as a signal to viewers they should follow suit.
These purposefully positive conversations are miles past the unnecessary ones that plagued Paradise season 4 contestant Jaimi King. A mere two years ago, BIP reduced Jaimi, an out and proud queer woman who actually prefers the term “fluid,” to creepy bisexual stereotypes with reckless abandon. Rather than pose Jaimi as a contestant much like anyone else, BIP editing repeatedly suggested the late-in-the-season addition was a sexual wild card who could unexpectedly go “either way,” spoiling settled Bachelor Nation relationships along the way. That description is much more predator than romantic heroine.
Yet, Demi is fully the beloved leading lady of her own story, as we see in her final big “Week 2, Part 2” conversation with Derek. “I have been casually dating someone and… it’s a woman,” she plainly says. “And I’ve been uncomfortable talking about it because it’s scary.” Demi then explains that her feelings for a woman don’t change her connection with Derek but she does want to know how he responds to a core part of her being. Throughout Demi’s explanation, all Derek does is say a few short words of affirmation — “Oh,” “Mmmhmm,” “Yeah” — and respectfully nods along as she speaks.
Once Demi is fully done talking, Derek goes into a long and thoughtful speech of his own thanking Demi for being vulnerable enough to even broach such a personal topic with him. There is absolutely no suggestion Derek feels lied to or betrayed over Demi's sexuality. Later he sympathizes with Demi about how anxious she must have felt hiding her feelings from everyone on the show. This simple kindness is huge on a series as relentlessly heternormative as Bachelor In Paradise.
But, the most important part of Demi and Derek’s conversation comes when Derek asks what Demi’s other love interest means for them. The question isn’t how Demi could be attracted to both Derek and a woman, but rather how Demi’s prior relationship, no matter the gender of her casual partner, could affect their romance. “How can you both consider that and me simultaneously? And have this be just as meaningful, if not, you know, potentially more?” he asks (and repeats this specific concern in a confessional). This is something a Paradise contestant would ask any love interest — ask Dylan Barbour. Immediately, Derek’s line of thinking normalizes Demi’s sexuality past a complicated situation in itself and puts it on the same shelf as every other intense BIP coupling.
Demi is then able to articulate the answer to Derek’s understandable question better than most of her messy, heterosexual co-stars. She stresses that can be interested in two people at the same time because of how “different” the relationships are. Derek appreciates Demi's words, saying he’ll take things slow with her as long as they keep communicating. It's a fair request for any new connection. Then, Derek reiterates his dedication to Demi, saying, “What matters to me is feeling connected to you the way that I do. I hope you know this doesn’t slow my resolve towards building a connection to you.”
In 2017, all Jaimi King got was a lukewarm date with Diggy Moreland that glanced over any honest discussion of her much-scandalized sexual preference. Now, Demi is getting the kind of affection that nearly brings tears to her eyes. Maybe the Paradise crew is right — Demi and Derek really could be the strongest couple on the beach.