Are you straight or are you “logistically difficult”: Love Island comes under fire for a lack of queer representation

By Jim Jefferies

ITV’s popular dating show Love Island has been criticised for its lack of LGBTQIA+ representation.

The show, which first aired in 2005, sees contestants compete for a £50,000 prize by ‘coupling up’ in a villa on Mallorca.

But this year it’s been under attack on social media for its lack of sexual diversity.

“Shows like Love Island feel like a backhand to the LGBT+ community,” says Katherine, 20, from Sheffield.

“TV and modern media glamourise these short-term and fast relationships, whereas the LGBT+ community have had to fight to get married and just to be seen in a world that is so heteronormative.

“There was a show in Australia, I think, about bisexuality and it was hosted by a drag queen. But even then, it was heteronormative. The relationships between a bisexual woman, for instance, and a man would be very stereotypical, but if it was between two women, it would be overly sexualised.”

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Love Island takes over social media every year, with millions of viewers tweeting about who their favourite contestants are and their coupling predictions.

Gabe, 19, a student from Sheffield and ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, said: “Surely if they are able to find x amount of men and x amount of women, it shouldn’t be that hard to find that amount of people who are a part of the LGBT+ community.

“It segregates people that don’t need to be segregated from something that should be inclusive.”

In June, ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri said in an interview with the Radio Times: “In terms of gay Islanders, I think the main challenge is regarding the format of Love Island.

“There’s a sort of logistical difficulty, because although Islanders don’t have to be 100% straight, the format must sort of give [them] an equal choice when coupling up.”

Katherine shared their views on this statement: “Saying a show is logistically difficult because it would feature queer people feels homophobic.”

Speaking at Edinburgh TV festival, ITV’s managing director Kevin Lygo said: “Love Island is a particular thing.

“It’s about boys and girls coupling up, so if you want to do it as a gay version, or you want to widen it, it is discussed, and we haven’t yet found a way that would make it suitable for that show.”

Moss, 19, from Berkshire, who identifies as non-binary, said: “The statement from ITV makes me feel angry and suggests we are a burden to the world. It completely excludes anyone from the trans and non-binary communites.

“LGBT+ people have always had to advocate for ourselves and prove our worth and this is just another case of that. It also suggests to me that LGBT+ love and relationships may not be as important or as valued as cishet relationships.

“I also feel as if the show carries a lot of stereotypes and allows and demonstrates misogynistic behaviour that is unacceptable.”

Queer representation in dating shows has been successfully done before. Netflix’s Dating Around features numerous cast members who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. MTV’s ‘Are You the One’ introduced queer couplings by casting all sexually-fluid contestants in their eighth season. This initiative was met with critical acclaim.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Moss said queer representation on the screen was vital.

“As someone who grew up questioning from the age of 11 and not having any understanding of what was going on, having that queer representation in the media could have made a massive difference to how I perceived myself as I was growing up.

“It is not just beneficial to those that are questioning, I think it is incredibly beneficial for creating and raising allies that can truly help and understand the queer struggles.”

And Katherine believes there is still a long way to go when it comes to fair treatment: “Growing up I didn’t notice any queer representation, but maybe I wasn’t looking for it. I became openly queer and started exploring that identity when I was 13 or 14.

“Shows that come to mind for today’s generation are Steven Universe and She-Ra, they feature a lot of queer representation in them. But you see articles that say look at this scene that was banned in this country for reasons such as religion or cultural beliefs.

“Even when we have that representation, we are shut down and told that, no, children shouldn’t be seeing these shows.”

When there is representation on screen, many in the queer community believe they are portrayed inaccurately. Non-stereotypical depictions of queer characters are rare, said Gabe: “A lot of LGBT+ characters are written from the perspective of a straight director or people who aren’t a part of the community.

“On TV all you see is a man and a woman, when you do see a LGBT+ character, it isn’t proportional to the community as a whole.”

ITV’s press office declined to make further comment at this time.

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