I love 'The Bachelor'. I'm aware it's garbage, and I love it. I have a definitive ranking of the seasons in my mind. I use phrases like "not a winner", and I memorised Keira's "ungrateful" monologue from Richie's season. I'm also gay, "gay as hell" if you will.
What started as a work commitment, staying on top of one of the most talked about shows of the year, became a genuine guilty pleasure. But that pleasure has started to wear down in recent weeks as the show has unfortunately aligned with the fight for marriage equality entering the public forum for the hundredth time in Australia.
Here's the thing, 'The Bachelor' doesn't trivialise marriage; years ago the endgame moved from a proposal, to picking a final person to date, while showcasing sponsored content on Instagram. I don't see 'The Bachelor' as an attack on the institution of marriage, but I do see it as one example of how easy love and relationships are for straight Australians.
Currently, politicians are standing up in front of the nation to discuss my relationships, the relationships of my loved ones, my friends, my family. We're being told we don't deserve the same rights as heterosexuals. The entire nation is given an opportunity to, without knowing me, vote on the limitations of my love.
Meanwhile, another Matty, one with better hair than mine, gets to stand in front of a harem of women, flicking through them like a human rolodex. Sorry, Belinda, you didn't get a rose this week, it's time for me to shift my focus to the other 20 women standing in front of me.
The gamification of straight relationships just reinforces how little the country thinks of my own relationship. We happily watch and judge these overly produced "dates" from the comfort of our own homes.
We suspend our disbelief and pretend the Bachelor spent all afternoon lighting thousands of tealight candles and Moroccan lamps to have the same rigid discussion about wanting a family. We give them the benefit of the doubt, but we won't do the same for LGBTQ Australians, real Australians in real relationships.
It's not just watching the show that's changed, but the way I interact with it. Where I'd usually enjoy live-tweeting along with the ridiculousness of the program, I'm now exhausted from attempting to keep my head above the fray. By the time Matty's handing out his first rose and the hashtags are trending, I've spent the day hearing strangers talk about me like my sexuality makes me a criminal. Tweeting jokes about a Dutch woman going on a date at a Homebush construction site feels worthless.
"They knew what they were getting themselves into," we'll say when casting aspersions on the bachelorettes, "they signed up for this". I guess that's true, but I don't remember signing up for my relationship to be equally picked apart by the country.
I used to love watching 'The Bachelor' because it was an escape from the real world. The drama, the roses, Osher's hair. But as the relationships around me are scrutinised, debated and insulted, the ugliness of the marriage equality debate hangs around the show like a weight around my neck.
Gaming straight relationships isn't new either. From 'The Dating Game' in the '60s to 'Temptation Island', it's a constant reminder how easy society makes it to be straight. They don't need to second guess their relationships, they're inventing obstacles, in some cases actual obstacle courses, to compete in for their chance at love.
The reality for LGBTQ Australians is that those obstacles are being put in place for us by straight policy makers, and the prize at the end is that we're expected to be gracious. When our relationships are finally considered valid by these gatekeepers, we're supposed to celebrate and thank those who have been holding us back, degrading our families.
This week former Prime Minister Tony Abbott called marriage equality an attack on freedoms of speech, the Australian Christian Lobby's Lyle Shelton doubled down on his claims that children of LGBTQ parents are a modern-day "stolen generation". Postcards have been sent out calling us sodomites and degenerates, we're slurred and mocked. This is in the first 48 hours of what Malcolm Turnbull has labelled a "respectful debate".
I guess it's easier to disregard our love when you've broken our hearts.
I used to love 'The Bachelor', but now it's just a reminder that I'm being told I don't deserve what straight Australians get handed to them by people who have never met me, who have never heard of me, who may never know I exist. These people have a say on what my love looks like. It's a constant assault on the heart and mind. At some point we all break.
And don't get me started on 'Married at First Sight'.