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MTV

'Are You The One' Season 8 offers something groundbreaking through a familiar reality TV formula

October 7, 2019

This article includes spoilers of Season 8 of MTV's 'Are You The One.’

Season 8 of ‘Are You The One’ (AYTO) made history for featuring an entire openly bi+ (the show used the phrase “sexually fluid”) cast. All cast members are part of the bi+ community, and have the chance to make connections with people of all genders for a $1,000,000 winning prize. This season validated and uplifted people of various identities, and showed audiences lots of queer love.

There were many moments where drama soared, tears were shed, and people fell in love. Even though these things may seem commonplace in reality TV, seeing queer people become vulnerable with each other and love each other so openly was a first for me. This is especially because, although we see an increasing number of complex LGBTQIA identifying characters on TV shows, they often do not get the happy ending we all wish for. This is what makes Season 8 of AYTO so special to me.

In the first few episodes I could easily connect with many of the cast members, and quickly developed favorites. Watching the cast members grow over the course of the season allowed the audience to grow as well, and learn along with them. I believe that Jonathan was one of the people who grew most visibly. Initially, he did not have a lot of experience with people who identify outside of the gender binary, or with people who use pronouns other than he/him and she/her.  Throughout the season, he learned a lot about these topics, and even expressed himself by dressing in drag one of the nights at the house (something he had never done beforehand). 

The show also featured the experiences of cast members who take hormones. This was a big first for me, especially on reality TV. This happened when Kai, who identifies as a queer, trans-masculine, and non-binary, taught Jenna about the hormones he takes and what he does to feel more comfortable in his body. This sentimental moment is also educational for audience members who have not had such experiences.

Another huge concept this show illuminates is queer love. Media rarely demonstrates the beauty and strength of queer love. For example, throughout the season we get to watch Max fall in love with Justin; he admits to becoming more open and vulnerable than he had ever been in previous relationships. This is important as it allows for audience members to understand that everyone starts somewhere and continues to grow throughout  their life. 

The show also reveals relatable emotions of passion, love, and even heartbreak which hopefully connects all viewers irrespective of their identity or sexual orientation. I appreciate AYTO because it depicts the process of becoming increasingly comfortable and confident in yourself. This long process of self-love truly tests your limits and pushes you to be true to yourself. Cast members navigate caring for themselves while learning how to be cared for by the people they connect with. 

Seeing Justin a cast member, who is a cisgender, masculine, muscular bisexual man go through the process of allowing yourself to be vulnerable and open, especially after years of keeping things to yourself really touched me personally. As a queer person who has experienced homelessness because of abandonment by my father, I had to carve my own way through the world with no guidance. This led me to keep my emotions to myself and live life thinking that people couldn’t actually care for me and want to be with or around me. I want to truly thank Justin for being vulnerable and giving me the chance to see a piece of myself in his story. I know that I am not the only one.

Even though AYTO depicts so many amazing experiences, there is still a lot of room for improvement. As this season featured a groundbreaking all-sexually fluid cast, the cast members had a huge platform where they could have talked about a lot of the issues that are affecting our community as a whole (such as fatphobia, femmephobia, and the alarming rate of murder of black trans women and femmes) on the TV because we don’t often see it especially from big TV networks.

AYTO is a show where I was able to see myself in a reality tv show. It has meant everything to me and I just hope that it continues to be included in our mainstream media more often. I think it is beyond necessary as the number of LGBTQIA+ people onscreen increases.

To the case of Season 8: You have inspired so many people across the U.S. to live as their authentic selves. You all are amazing (and also gorgeous). Thank you for being a part of our onscreen queer history and being people that so many of us can look up to!

Jonathan Leggette is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at The Evergreen State College. Jonathan works as a New Student Mentor and a Peer Advisor at the Trans and Queer Center at Evergreen State. Off-campus, Jonathan serves as an interAct youth advocate and speaker, bringing intersex awareness education to schools across the country.

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