Love Island Australia’s first same-sex coupling occurred on Monday night, signifying social progress for not only the Channel Nine program in its second season but also Australian dating shows as a collective.
Last week, Phoebe and Cassie discussed their bond after sharing a passionate kiss during a group challenge. Cassie was still paired with Adam Farrugia, while Phoebe was flying solo as she had entered the villa as an intruder.
“There’s definitely something there and we get on really well,” Cassie said during her piece-to-camera. “We just need to spend more time together.”
During a heart-to-heart conversation Cassie explained her feelings to Phoebe.
“So many people are bi these days,” Cassie said. “Or not even bi, just no preference I guess.”
Phoebe agreed and said: “You don’t have to be labelled as anything, just make choices to figure out who you are and what you want.”
“When you’re a bit older you just know what you want,” added Cassie. “I don’t want to regret anything I want to go with the instincts I have.”
As an intruder, Phoebe had her choice to pick a partner to couple up with.
“I want to couple up with this person because as soon as I walked in to the villa I noticed them straight away,” Phoebe said.
“They’ve pretty much been the only person in the villa that I’ve had a sexual attraction to. It took me by surprise, but every time I talk to this person I just feel like we have so much in common. And nothing is ever awkward.
“So the person I would like to couple up with... Cassie.”
Former Bachelor star Megan Marx says seeing a same-sex relationship evolve on Australian television has been a long time coming. The 31-year-old dated female co-star Tiffany Scanlon in 2016 after neither of them found love with bachelor Richie Strahan.
“I’ve just realised we haven’t seen a relationship actually play out on a mainstream reality show,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“There has been talk, and last season on Bachelor In Paradise we got a kiss and of course a few contestants have same-sex dated after the show, but wow, it would be awesome to see two women or two men fall head over heels in love on a reality show. Australia has been ready for a while for something like this.”
Megan believes the exploration of same-sex relationships on dating shows will fight the stigma around gay and lesbian couples and also increase the representation of the LGBTQI community on TV.
“I think viewers, no matter what your belief system or sexual identity, will be able to see desire for desire, and love for love, without the concept of what our culture has defined as ‘normal’ in a relationship in their minds,” she said. “The more we see, the more the public is educated, and the more we can learn to love each other without barriers.
“I remember when I was about twelve in my regional hometown (Geraldton, Western Australia), seeing two women holding hands for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t stop staring – to me it was so weird. Us queers still have to deal with this,” she said.
“I’ve had it myself when I’ve kissed my girlfriend on the beach or gone on dates with girls. I expect crude comments from people, always. Showing a same-sex relationship develop for sure will reduce the stigma. It would feel pretty great not to get stared at for just showing physical affection in public.”
Bachelor In Paradise entered this territory earlier in the year, when Alex Nation and Brooke Blurton explored their attraction with a date and kiss.
Australian TV also got close to exploring bisexuality on The Bachelorette in 2017, when Megan was considered for the big role before Sophie Monk secured the gig.
“When I was in the running to be The Bachelorette we were looking at having predominantly guys, and then a few girls in the mix,” said Megan. ”To me this represented what I’d face in the real world.”
In 2016, Love Island UK witnessed a brief lesbian storyline when intruder Katie Salmon chose to couple up with Sophie Gradon.
Last year Katie spoke about the backlash she faced from the LGBTQI community, telling the BBC: “In the villa I was so scared because I didn’t know what the outside world was thinking, what my family was thinking, what my friends were thinking.
“So I was really upset to be honest that they’d not supported me from my own community, who had probably felt those feelings, those nervous feelings of coming out.”
On Monday night Love Island Australia intruder Phoebe had the power to choose during the first recoupling, and picked Cassie as she’s the first person she had an instant sexual attraction to.
Sam Withers, who was eliminated on the night, said Phoebe and Cassie’s romance had been blossoming over the past few days.
“Absolutely stoked for Cassie and Phoebe. At the end of the day, love is love. I support anyone,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“We were definitely all talking about it for the last couple of days and we knew something was up. We weren’t sure if they were going to allow it or not, and they did so that’s great.”
Love Island airs Monday to Friday at 8:45pm on Channel Nine.