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Why Colton Underwood’s GMA Interview Is More Nuanced Than You Think

I don’t know about you, but I love the Bachelor. I follow every season of the Bachelor and Bachelorette, and religiously watch old favorites and the usual crazies return on Bachelor in Paradise every summer. So naturally, when former Bachelor star Colton Underwood came out as gay last week, it caught my eye. It’s also drawn a lot of attention online given his problematic past. In an interview with Robin Williams on Good Morning America, he said “I came to terms with it earlier this year, and have been processing it. I’m still nervous but, yeah, it’s been a journey for sure.” I relate to Colton’s “journey”, to borrow the Bachelor franchise’s favorite phrase, as I also spent most of my year indoors reflecting. I am a bisexual woman, which is a part of myself that, like Colton, I only delved into during quarantine. 

When COVID-19 forced us all indoors last spring, many who took the time to turn inward and really examine themselves and their relationship with the world had similar experiences to Colton and myself. Struggling with your sexuality, given societal heteronormativity and countless anti-LGBTQ+ bills being brought to state Senates and even Congress, is no easy task. “I would’ve rather died than say I’m gay,” Colton admitted to experiencing suicidal thoughts during his GMA interview. It's understandable how Colton repressed his sexuality, as he was widely known as the “virgin Bachelor”, and his virginity became the brunt of the ABC promotional team’s joke. “What does he have to lose?” was the promotional tagline of his season. 

Given the anxiety I felt in coming out to just my close friends and family last year, I can’t imagine the weight on Colton’s shoulders given his public status as a former Bachelor. The LGBT+ community supports anyone exploring their gender and/or sexuality, and I am so happy that Colton has made peace with his true self. “I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been,” he said. He’s begun filming a Netflix unscripted reality show about coming into himself as a gay man with Gus Kenworthy.

However, the congratulations can only extend so far. Cassie Randolph, the winner of Colton’s Bachelor season, dated Underwood for a little over a year before the couple split in 2020. In September of the same year, Randolph filed a restraining order against her ex, as she reported him standing outside her apartment at 2 a.m., sending a slew of harassing text messages to her family, taking “obsessive” walks near her parent’s house, and even planting a tracking device in her car. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile these three sides of Colton we now see: the hyper-purity-culture Christian Bachelor we saw on season 23, Cassie’s stalker, and now the proud gay man from his GMA interview. I strongly urge against separating these facets of who Colton has revealed himself to be. Regardless of his identity, the ever-present misogyny and hidden violence against women lurks. The now out- and proud gay man Colton Underwood is does not get to avoid reckoning with his position as a wealthy white man who perpetrated violence against a woman just because he too experiences oppression as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

All of this gets even more complicated when we take the Bachelor franchise into account. So let’s talk about it. Members of #BachelorNation have been calling for an LGBT+ Bachelor/ette season for years. The closest we’ve gotten is Bachelor in Paradise season 6, where Demi Burnett, coincidentally an ex-contestant of Colton’s season, came out as bisexual and proposed to her girlfriend, Kristen Haggarty. Demi and Kristen are the only same-sex couple to ever appear on the Bachelor franchise. I have to ask though… why are so many of us asking the Bachelor, a show started in the early 2000s, to do something it simply wasn’t meant to do? The Bachelor and Bachelorette both follow incredibly heteronormative standards that are simply built into the structure of the show. From the group date structure that plays on assumed gender stereotypes in “competing” for love, to the way that even on the Bachelorette, the men are the ones proposing (despite the contestants being there to win the lead’s heart), the franchise is seeped in heterosexuality, even when LGBTQ+ people get representation within it. For most LGBTQ+ people, relationships with heteronormative aspects just don’t fit with our identities, because who we are inherently breaks those stereotypes. Asking for change and representation- so important. But we shouldn’t look for it within the systems that ultimately don’t reflect who we truly are. 

As a Bachelor fan though… the bisexual disaster that would ensue with a mixed-gender contestant cast and a bisexual Bachelor/ette…. delicious. 

If anything, Colton’s coming out is a lesson in a lot of things: self-reflection, the flaws of mainstream media, and most importantly, not discarding parts of who someone is, even, if not especially, when it's hard to reckon with. And if anyone over at The Bachelor exec team is reading this… I vote Demi Burnett for the first bisexual Bachelorette!

Sophie Himmel

Lafayette '24

Sophie is a first year Government and Law major at Lafayette College. She is interested in social justice, sustainability, and writing. Her hobbies include arts and crafts, reading, and watching tik toks.
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