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Bravo Blind Date For Including LGBT Contestants - Our Cilla Would Be Proud

10/03/2017 07:49 | Updated 10 March 2017
Photoshot via Getty Images

When I was little, I used to watch a programme called Man O' Man.

It wasn't Chris Tarrant's finest work, and the show was problematic in all sorts of ways, but a feeling I had while watching it still sticks with me.

The premise of the show was that a group of eligible bachelors would stand outward-facing around a swimming pool, while a female contestant would push them into the water one by one until she chose a 'date'.

Bouncing around on the couch in hysterics as the men fell in the water, I knew even at the age of 10 that I wanted to be in her shoes and not theirs.

I knew that made me different, and even though I wasn't sure how, also felt as though I couldn't be.

As I grew older, the discomfort I felt listening to homophobic jokes made by 'comedians' like Jim Davidson made me further question who I was and whether there was something wrong with becoming that person.

In secret, I'd revel in watching the likes of Julian Clary, whose unapologetic sense of self was something I envied. I found him funny and familiar, but would flush fuchsia whenever my parents chose to watch him on TV if I was in the room.

For some reason, I felt that doing so might make them twig that I was different, but in hindsight they probably had done a long time ago and were trying to show me that it's alright to be different.

Films I'd watch as I became a teenager would all centre around opposite-sex relationships, which made the thought of a happy-ever-after feel even further for me, as I began dating men without telling friends or family members.

Sugar Rush and Skins came out a few years later and, despite having come out by then, certainly made me feel as though there was a 'place' for me and who I was in society.

Fast-forward to now, and lesbian, gay, bi and trans representation in British TV and film has come a long way.

This includes LGBT-focused content achieving mainstream visibility and success, like the film Pride or Russell T Davies' Cucumber, but also recurring LGBT characters and references in shows like Hollyoaks or Michaela Coel's spectacular Chewing Gum.

However, aside from Channel 4's First Dates, there still seems to be a lack of reality shows that include our relationships or help us find love.

That's why the news that hit 80s, 90s and 00s dating show Blind Date will be returning to our screens this year, complete with LGBT contestants, filled me with happiness.

LGBT folk and our relationships continue to be scrutinized, judged and attacked in our everyday lives, be that in public, at work, at school, in sports or in our faith communities.

It's what makes us fear holding hands with our partner in a restaurant, or refrain from a farewell kiss at the bus stop.

When we're starting a new job, or talking to a new colleague, it's why some of us so dread the question 'what did you do this weekend?'

At school, it stops us from being able to talk about the celebrities who we actually fancy, for fear of being beaten up in the corridor. Or at home, fear of being rejected or thrown out by our families.

Representation alone might not create a world where all LGBT relationships are accepted as equal, but it's a start.

And broadcasters should take not just responsibility, but in fact pride, in helping create positive change for our community.

So bravo, Blind Date, thank you for doing the right thing. I'm sure Our Cilla would be proud.

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