‘My sexuality isn’t a logistical difficulty’: Queer voices on Love Island’s LGBTQ+ policy
‘Sometimes it is just fun to watch regardless of representation’
ITV boss, Kevin Lygo, has recently said including queer people in Love Island “wouldn’t be suitable for the show.” His statement came only three months after Love Island producers said including queer contestants presents is a “logistical identity”.
Kevin Lygo says Love Island is all about boys and girls coupling up, so including queer people wouldn’t be suitable for the show. He says: “You talk about Strictly, we had a gay couple on Dancing On Ice before that. We had a blind skater on Dancing On Ice we had a disabled person in I’m A Celebrity last year. So I think ITV is already involved in the portrayal of a wide range of people on its shows.”
This year’s series of Love Island saw Sharon Gaffka, a 25-year-old bisexual woman, enter the villa. She told the Metro the conversations she had surrounding her sexuality were edited out. She said: “A lot of the conversations I had about modern dating on the show were never aired, but I was very open about my sexuality and being a mixed-race woman in modern dating.”
Despite all of this and just before Love Island 2021 launched, the producers said they were hoping to boost diversity in the upcoming 2021 series by casting a high number of bisexual contestants. It was reported the producers hoped sexually fluid contestants will lead to more authentic romances happening in the villa.
The debate of whether to include queer people in the villa or not has been going around for a long time. A lot of people agree that our LGBTQ+ community deserves representation, whilst other people think Love Island should be left to heterosexuals because those type of viewers aren’t ready to see queer relationships yet.
The Tab asked seven queer young people about what they thought of the Love Island LGBTQ+ policy. Here is what they had to say:
‘It would be great it I could just see some women fall in love on my screen’
Maddy is a 23-year-old bisexual woman. She thinks it makes no sense the producers don’t want as many bisexual people.
“I think that is bullshit”, Maddy said. “It literally makes no sense that they wouldn’t have as many bisexual people on Love Island as possible given that they can go both ways.”
It’s a known stereotype that bisexual people are hypersexual, but that’s not to say bisexual Love Island contestants would add to this. “It would make for great TV given that they won’t be producing typical Love Island where the audience know the men are going to get with the women”, Maddy thinks. “Imagine in the recoupling if a woman picked another woman or a man picked another man, it would be great and amazing to see.”
People are speculating the quick turnaround and failure to include queer islanders is a result of the viewers who won’t be able to handle seeing same-sex relationships. Maddy says: “Because of the type of Love Island viewers, the bosses are probably concerned the viewers wouldn’t be able to hand it which meant the viewings would dip. It would cause controversy and obviously they are scared of that because of how much controversy they have recently had since the show had started – it’s bullshit.
“I would understand hesitation with perhaps having lesbians and gay men on the show because obviously that does make it a bit more difficult because you can only go one way. So, you’d kind of have to have a separate gay island but in terms of the context of Love Island, they have already had bisexual people in there who have been some of the most popular people. They have provided some of the most interesting story lines and they are representative of real life. A lot of young people our age are attracted to more than one gender so I think it makes so much sense.
“It’s repetitive and boring, it would be great it I could just see some women fall in love on my screen.”
‘My sexuality isn’t a logistical difficulty’
Izzy says she has mixed feelings about Love Island saying they can’t have queer people. She told The Tab: “My sexuality isn’t a ‘logistical difficulty’, and for anyone to reduce my genuine feelings to this and say it is downright insulting. We’re not the problem, you are – all reality shows have a duty of care to the public to show a diverse cast, not just in terms of sexuality but obviously also race, body type, class etc.”
Like other women loving women, Izzy feels that same-sex relationships just end up being sexualised by men. “The more I think about it, I think that for women who like women at least, not being on Love Island could be a blessing in disguise”, Izzy said. “All lesbians and girls who date other girls are sick and tired of constantly being sexualised by men. It’s the most horrible feeling when it happens to you, and I personally don’t think I could watch it play out on national TV in front of millions of people. If the male Love Island contestants weren’t sexualising female contestants kissing in front of them, you can bet people all over Twitter and other social media would be doing it.
“It’s awful that we have to take things like this into consideration, because in an ideal world we’d be able to have a diverse Love Island and not have to worry about things like this. But unfortunately, I just think there are too many gross men in the world.”
‘The producers would rather play it safe’
Tom believes the Love Island producers have taken the easy way out rather than choosing to engage with the long-term debate of whether to have queer people or not.
Tom said: “They’d rather play it safe and exclusively present people who behave heterosexually. But actually, it would be super easy to maintain the show as it is but have people couple up in more or less the same way. And it would more accurately represent the audience that watches the programme, because queer people watch Love Island too.”
‘The jokes about Curtis being gay made me so uncomfortable’
Sophie remembers when there was speculation surrounding Curtis Pritchard’s sexuality and how uncomfortable it made her feel. She recalls having to “call out a lot of progressive friends who would usually describe themselves as allies.”
Like other young people, Sophie thinks Love Island lacks any kind of acknowledgement that bisexuality exists. This was seen through Curtis because he was less aggressively masculine compared to the other islanders in the series. “In the same series, Maura talking about her own experiences of dating women also made me very uncomfortable because she was just reinforcing the ‘pick me’ stereotype of bisexual women only doing it to get male attention”, Sophie said. “I’d never want to invalidate anyone’s experiences of being queer, but she only ever spoke about in conversations with boys she was romantically interested in and it came across like she was just using it as a way to raise eyebrows.”
‘Sometimes it is just fun to watch regardless of representation’
Like Izzy, Lizzy believes having queer islanders could easily lead to the sexualisation of the LGBTQ+ community. But on the other hand, having queer people represented on a show that runs on relationship dramas could help “visibility and normalising bisexuality.
“Like if straight people get really invested in same-sex relationships, surely that’s a good thing? At the same time, everyone on Love Island is usually a bit stupid and fun to gawk at and I don’t know if I’d want the LGBTQ+ community correlated with that”, Lizzy told The Tab. “Sometimes it is just fun to watch, regardless of representation. I think cancelling bisexual islanders doesn’t seem that necessary. I’m sure they’re clever enough to work out a logistical way around it. But at the same time, when they’ve had bisexuals in the island before, they’re usually presented as bad/conniving and a negative disruption to heterosexual relationships, so maybe the risk of having bisexuals in the show and then presented badly isn’t worth it when bi reputation is already bad.”
However, Lizzy thinks there should be an all-inclusive version for queer people which gets the same amount of funding because “having only one version which is for straight people reinforces comp het and heterosexuality as the default, therefore LGBTQ+ as ‘other’. I would’ve loved to see a gay or bisexual version when I was a teenager.”
‘Not including queer people excludes us from popular show‘
Emily understands it won’t be easy to include queer people into a heterosexual dating show, “but that being said it’s a mainstream show and not including queer people excludes us from popular show and there isn’t really an alternative for us. Then also what happens if two people like each other from the same gender? Wouldn’t that be ‘logistically difficult? I’m not sure what the solution is.”
‘Love Island is one of my few windows into the heterosexual world’
“I think queer representation is super important and obviously it was going to be a logistical difficulty, so I don’t really know why they announced it in the first place other than to look progressive temporarily”, Alex told The Tab.
But he also acknowledges Love Island is so popular because of the obsession people get over heterosexual relationships. He says: “But also one of the reasons I like Love Island is because it’s kind of like a zoo but with straight people. I get to watch it and look at how naff and cringey straight relationships are. I wouldn’t want the feeling of moral superiority I get from watching Love Island to be shattered by realising that queer people can also be vapid. It’s honestly one of my few windows into the heterosexual world.”
‘I feel like there’s a political undertone’
Aimee has thought about the logistics of the show. She considered the idea that the producers don’t want to risk there being an uneven number of islanders willing to couple up with one another. She says: “They’re probably worried about the queer girls or boys won’t want to couple up with the straight people.”