People who know me, will know that I don't shy away from weighing in on the biggest stories of our time. As a journalist, that's never been what I'm about. Some say journalism's truth-telling ideals are lofty and unrealistic; I say they're noble. Which is why I'm happy to report that Francesca Farago from Too Hot To Handle recently confirmed on social media that she was dating Demi Sims from The Only Way Is Essex.
Speculation that the two were romantically involved was rife when they exchanged flirty comments on each other's Instagram pictures over the last few weeks. (In one telling exchange, Francesca commented "you're mine baby" on one of Demi's photos, to which she replied, "you're perfect baby".) That's when it hit me. These women were more than friends [keyboard drop]. My gay heart can't take this.
The love lives of TV stars are heavily publicised – with break-ups, make-ups and romance rumours constantly making headlines. So, to some people, this may be just another frivolous reality TV relationship. But for reality TV-obsessed queers like myself, it is a much bigger deal.
Growing up, I couldn't visit a supermarket without being inundated with tabloids promising the latest on Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, and every heterosexual celeb couple in between. Deeply straight relationships were on display everywhere you looked. One of the only exceptions to this was Lindsay Lohan and DJ Samantha Ronson, which was handled with the exact biphobia and judgement you'd expect from trash mags in the early 2000s. As a young person questioning my sexuality, I had no queer relationships to look to and see myself in. Without seeing any diversity of love stories, I was made to believe that heterosexuality was the only real option.
The world of reality TV has a tendency to be wildly heteronormative, although huge steps are being made in the right direction. Keeping up with the exciting and dramatic lives of reality stars feels like the modern-day Brad and Jen – is this Ex on the Beach castmate now dating that Geordie Shore star? Did the couple from Love Island stay together? It's good, satisfying trash. But when queerness is thrown into the mix; when same sex couples are as visible as hetero ones, it has a huge impact on those of us who have been bludgeoned by heteronormativity our whole lives. Allowing us to see our identities reflected in mainstream media normalises queer identities and conversations around queerness.
In a YouTube video Francesca posted last September, she addresses her sexuality openly, stating she's just "attracted to people for who they are". She talks about how grateful she is for a culture where exploring your sexuality is celebrated, and goes on to say, "I like girls, I like guys; I've never dated anyone who's trans, I would! Like, it doesn't really matter to me how you identify."
Hearing someone with a prominent platform nonchalantly talk about her sexuality and dating men, women, and even trans folks is wild. I can't help but wonder if I would have come out a lot earlier, had I seen similar things from reality TV stars as a teenager.
Francesca and Demi of course aren't the first same-sex reality TV couple. Demi's dated women from Love Island and Geordie Shore, while Francesca has been spotted loved up with femme influencers and models. The complex web of exes and rumoured lovers across reality shows deeply reminds me of the web of my exes and their ex's exes who are now dating my exes. It's quintessential queer culture.
When queer romance is visible alongside the hetero love stories of reality shows, it reminds the world that these relationships are just as valid. That same-sex relationships aren't juicy gimmicks, but something to be normalised, and celebrated. We haven't exactly arrived at the promised land, but we're at least a far cry from the tabloid mags of the early 2000s.
Anyway, if you need me, I'll be lurking in the comments section of Demi and Francesca's photos, homosexually swooning. Hard.
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