If you told me I would be using the phrase “emotionally mature” to describe a mainstream dating show on cable television, I would have laughed in your face. But that’s exactly what this season of Are You The One? has been.
Are You The One? Season 8 promised to give us some major LGBTQ+ representation with an entire cast of sexually fluid individuals. But the show has given us so much more — vulnerability, introspection, and some honest-to-goodness human growth.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve watched as a group of amazing people have faced their greatest insecurities, confronted their own personal biases, and tried to get out of their own way. In such a short time, so many of the contestants have gone through incredible changes.
There’s Jenna, who found the strength to end a toxic relationship and tell Kai, “no.”
There’s Jonathan, who finally realized he was sidelining Basit because he originally didn’t think he could see himself with someone gender fluid.
Then there’s Paige, who had to reconcile with her past and get over her fears of appearing too “vulnerable and weak.”
And, of course, we can’t forget about Kai, who is *definitely* still working shit out but is trying to overcome his insecurities with the support of his castmates.
(I could probably go on and on about each cast member but I think you get the point.)
Perhaps even more remarkable is how the housemates have been there for each other every step of the way. Yes, there have been a few straight-up bitch fights. But for the most part, everyone has been incredibly understanding and gentle with each other.
When Kai was acting like a grade-A douchebag, his fellow castmates confronted him about the situation. But rather than attacking him, they came from a place of love and concern. They truly wanted to help him.
As RuPaul Charles always says, “as gay people, we get to choose our family.” And that’s exactly what this cast has become: a family. A family who hooks up with each other, but a family nonetheless.
In the very first episode, the cast sat around discussing all the shit they had been through as members of the LGBTQ community, whether it was external homophobia or internal struggles. The last thing they need is more judgment, especially from each other.
When AYTO season 8 first premiered in June, we all thought that the most revolutionary thing about the season would be the fluid cast. But what’s truly been groundbreaking has been the incredible emotional journey these folks have been through.
Could a straight cast have accomplished this same level of vulnerability and growth? I’m honestly not sure.
Excuse the cheese, but I gotta say it — because whether or not the cast walks away with the $750,000, they’re all winners at this point.