Bachelor In Paradise breaks barriers



For the first time in the seventeen-year history of Bachelor Nation, a same-sex couple is walking away with rings on both of their fingers. Twenty-four-year-old Demi Burnett proposed to twenty-seven-year-old Kristain Haggerty on the finale of the sixth season of Bachelor In Paradise. 

Viewers first met Burnett on Colton Underwood’s season of The Bachelor as a fiery, flirtatious contestant who is short in stature but not character. To be frank, I strongly disliked her on Colton’s season. I thought she was immature and almost seemed to value causing chaos in the house over building a love with Colton. In terms of drama, her character brought plenty of it. When she left during week six, I was both happy to see a “problematic” contestant gone, but saddened to see the feisty spark she added to the show disappear.

To be honest, I had little interest in watching Bachelor in Paradise. However, when I read about the introduction of Kristain Haggerty (with whom Burnett was in a relationship prior to the show) and the brewing romance between the two women, on the show I became curious. All Bachelor franchise shows and spin-offs had featured primarily cisgender, heterosexual contestants. Nick Viall’s season of The Bachelor featured the first openly sexually fluid constant in 2017 but otherwise, any and all LGBTQ+ identities have been…underrepresented. 

When I heard about the engagement between Burnett and Haggertythat happened during the finale, I was not only happy for them but also thrilled by the idea of the increased representation of the LGBTQ+ community on a mainstream dating show. Although it has been four summers since the United States Supreme Court has legalized marriage equality, this is the first time that the show featured a same-sex couple since The Bachelor premiered in 2002. 

At the surface, to many, this engagement doesn’t appear “special.” It’s 2019! The world has seen LGBTQ+ representation in TV shows before, like on ABC’s Modern Family which features a family with two dads, Netflix’s Queer Eye is one of the highest-rated shows, and the once-groundbreaking NBC sitcom, Will and Grace, which was still battling with representation back in 2000, was recently revived on the network. In short, there are ample examples of the growing impact of LGBTQ+ characters on TV shows. However, what made this Bachelor In Paradise couple stands out was the elegance in which the relationship was handled. 

Burnett began the season by dating Derek Peth, a previous contestant on JoJo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette. Burnett wasn’t forced to face her sexuality until producers introduced Kristian Haggerty into the season during the episode that aired on August 20th. Throughout the rest of the season, Burnett dealt with discovering her sexuality and eventually ended with a proposal to Haggerty.  Burnett underwent the process of really discovering who she wanted to be with while on the show. The producer introduced Haggerty to create a difficult decision for Burnett that actually ended up being a very positive action, that led to her admitting her true feelings. 

For the uniqueness of the situation, ABC handled it with grace and created the same respectful conditions for the couple’s love to grow and expand as they would for any of the other couples. ABC should be applauded for creating a precedent that leads the way for other reality dating shows with LGBTQ+ couples, a precedent of normalizing the relationship and treating them the same as any other couple on the show. Other than the difference in the number of rings, the love Haggerty and Burnett created is just a valuable and important as any of the other couples. 

While the LGBTQ+ representation is long overdue, the engagement of the first same-sex couple on Bachelor in Paradise is a reminder that love is love. I have high hopes that their love is going to last; one look at the smiles on the women’s faces proves such.