Representation matters. Although the world of reality dating shows focuses overwhelmingly on heterosexual couples, there are some series that have challenged that norm.
Season 8 of MTV’s Are You The One? featured an entirely LGBTQ+ cast, including trans-masculine nonbinary contestant Kai Wes. The show’s executive producer Sitarah Pendelton spoke to Entertainment Weekly in 2019 about how the AYTO production team knew it was time for a change.
“When you’ve produced a show that has multiple seasons, and in this day and age everything changes every day, we really wanted to make sure that we were continuing to be reflective of our viewers and true to how people were dating,” she told the outlet.
The reality television producer continued, “We’re like, ‘Wow, this younger generation looks at love and dating and their relationships with a completely different prism than maybe generations of the past.’ And again, with MTV always wanting to be reflective of our viewers and understand where those stories lie, it just was an organic path to follow. Like, of course we would do this — if not us, then who?”
By contrast, the Bachelor franchise has stuck to heterosexual relationships since it premiered in 2002. Before longtime host Chris Harrison left Bachelor Nation in 2021, he made comments about why there would probably never be a gay bachelor.
“The question is: Is it a good business decision? ” Harrison told The New York Times in 2014. “I just spoke at U.S.C. the other night, and I explained it like this: Look, if you’ve been making pizzas for 12 years and you’ve made millions of dollars and everybody loves your pizzas and someone comes and says, ‘Hey, you should make hamburgers.’ Why? I have a great business model and I don’t know if hamburgers are going to sell.”
Chris Coelen, the showrunner of Netflix’s wedding-centric dating show Love Is Blind, has also expressed hesitance about an LGBTQ+ season. In a 2020 interview with Metro, Coelen said, “an LGBTQ+ version of [the show] has some logistical difficulties in the current setup. … This is not a show that is particularly about sexuality.”
However, even within the confines of Love is Blind and Bachelor Nation, some LGBTQ+ contestants have been open about their sexuality; Demi Burnett came out as bisexual during season 6 of Bachelor in Paradise, Jaimi King was openly bisexual on Nick Viall’s season and Alexa Caves from Peter Weber’s season identified herself as sexually fluid. On Love Is Blind, Carlton Morton came out as bisexual to then-fiancée Diamond Jack and ended up leaving the show soon after.
“I wish I hadn’t let my emotions get the best of me. But as soon as I began telling her that I was bisexual, I felt so much anxiety,” Morton told Women’s Health in 2020. “Our entire relationship just flashed in front of me. I could see it falling apart. I began to self-sabotage because her reaction didn’t seem 100 percent positive.”
Netflix announced its latest reality dating show The Ultimatum in March 2022, also teasing that the forthcoming second season will feature an all-LGBTQ+ cast.
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Scroll through to see the best reality dating shows with LGBTQ+ representation: