Iain Gardiner (L) and Harry T (R) make TV history on Seven's First Dates.

Same-sex, Same dates: When Will Australia Get A Gay Reality Dating Show?

Channel Seven’s reality dating show First Dates made Australian television history on Wednesday night, as the show paired together a same-sex couple- for the first time on our country’s TV screens.

The episode saw Sydney remedial massage therapist Iain Gardiner go on a blind date with Melbourne celebrity psychic Harry T.

Harry told Confidential how important the inclusion of same-sex dating is in a broader context, saying

“When I went into this experience, I thought: ‘I haven’t seen this before on television. It’s promising that times are changing. Love is love, and same sex couples go on dates like heterosexual couples. Unfortunately, it’s not broadcast on national television.”

“Being the only same sex date on the series, I think, is a big deal. I am a voice for same sex couples out there.”

Seven's First Dates.

Seven’s First Dates.

The UK version of First Dates – which the program is based upon – has featured same-sex dates in the past, including a date that led to the engagement of its contestants Adam and Dan.

As Australia gradually becomes a more inclusive nation – not withstanding our governments oppressive marriage legislation – it only makes sense to reflect the diverse people that live here, considering viewers include many thousands of LGBT people.

Representing LGBT people on reality television in Australia has had a tepid past.

While its few and far between, Big Brother remarkably stands aside from the rest in including gay and lesbian housemates – showing a well-rounded representation of characters, from 2013’s Tully Smyth to 2012 winner Benjamin Norris- who ended up proposing to his boyfriend on live television.

This off course doesn’t include the colossal fuckup of BB’s David ‘coming out of the closet’ episode countdown- where David Graham announcing he was gay was treated with the solemn seriousness of one announcing they are a Nazi and was treated with suspicion and disdain by his fellow housemates for his perceived ‘lies’.

Or the revolting exploitation of gorgeous Mexican transgender model Miriam Rivera – who was inserted into the 2004 house for the housemates to discover she was biologically male.

But it is important to note, that none of these examples presented same-sex relationships on screen.

Channel Nine introduced the first gay couple to Australian prime time reality television by casting Gavin Atkins and Warren Sonin in the first season of The Block in 2003- but the intimate relationship dynamics between Atkins and Sonin was sidelined in the series.

Image via Herald Sun. Photo by Paul Harris.

When speaking to TV Tonight last year, Atkins and Sonin said how important it is to have same-sex couples on television.

“Our appearance on television made such a huge difference in making the general public realise that we were good people and being gay or straight doesn’t really make a difference,” they said.

“We also realised that our appearance was one that helped so many young gay people to see that you could be in a loving positive relationship and be successful. It also helped so many parents of gay children to accept their gay kids.”

But in the realm of reality dating shows in Australia, same-sex relationships are all but invisible at best and exiled at worst.

Australia’s own upcoming Bachelor Richie Strahan has said himself that a same-sex dating show should be on the nations agenda- to reflect the diverse makeup of our country.

Strahan replied when asked what he would like to see on the next show: “A same sex Bachelor or Bachelorette certainly would command a massive audience and show our Australian politicians that Australia backs equality,” he told news.com.au.

While abroad, there was the American gay dating show Boy Meets Boy, but the shows format relied on the salacious premise that some of the men were in fact heterosexual.

On another U.S reality program Playing It Straight one woman spent time with a group of men in an attempt to discern which of them were gay- with all of the homosexual men pretending to be heterosexual.

Deception was often the common thread, acting as subplot underlying these dating shows.

For the Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises at home and in the United States, there is no same-sex version on the horizon.

Until then, all we have is:

In a promising move, Channel Nine indicated last year that they will include same-sex couples in dating reality series, Married at First Sight.

A spokesperson for the show’s casting agency told TV Tonight that the casting process had been widened to allow entrants to list either a male or female as their preferred partner.

“They have a discreet question under the partner section that asks the gender of their preferred partner, male or female,” a spokesperson said.

As attitudes evolve and equality takes preference, a more egalitarian and realistic representation of dating standards should follow. First Dates contestant Harry told The Age, including non-hetero people in dating shows is a promising sign about “where we’re heading as a nation”.

“I remember going into the experience thinking this could be so much bigger than just me. It could be real platform for other people out there who don’t have the opportunity to witness same-sex love on TV”

“I’m so glad I did this because it really creates another voice for people out there who are unheard or unseen. I think this is for the whole LGBTI community.”


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