TV

“The Bachelor” Reminds Me Why I’m So Lucky to Be Queer

If Kelley were gay, she'd be in demand. Here, she must tell a guy she could marry him before they’ve even gone grocery shopping together.

If you ever want to feel grateful to be gay, just watch The Bachelor. Never have I felt more fortunate to be in a same-sex marriage than I did during the five hours I spent watching not one but two episodes of heterosexual messiness this week.

If there’s one trend that plays out on The Bachelor year in and year out, it’s this: The lead claims that he wants an equal partner in life—someone who will challenge him—but his actions tell a very different story. Such is the case with 28-year-old commercial pilot Peter Weber, who stumbled badly this week when a professionally accomplished woman his own age questioned whether he was ready for a relationship with her.

ABC/Francisco Roman
Peter Weber in The Bachelor.

That woman is Kelley, a 28-year-old attorney who has a real job on a show in which some women’s occupations have been “dog lover,” “aspiring dolphin trainer,” and “chicken enthusiast.” Kelley is also one of the oldest contestants on a season full of girls who graduated from college the same year Wonder Woman came out.

So when Kelley pointed out to Peter on her date in Costa Rica Monday night that she is more mature than 23-year-old model (and current frontrunner) Hannah Ann, I cheered her on from my sofa—but I also knew Peter wouldn’t take it very well. Because as much as Pilot Pete has said that he values directness, he also clearly wants to stay in the driver’s seat (err, cockpit).

Kelley—whose hair, by the way, held up wonderfully in that Central American humidity—went on to tell Peter that she has wondered if he’s “ready for a wife,” citing his tendency to reward the other women for stirring up drama. If Peter were truly ready for marriage, Kelley boldly asserted, he wouldn’t “put up with that.” To which a visibly taken-aback Peter responded, “Honestly, what do you want out of all this, at the end of this?”

ABC/Francisco Roman
Kelley and Peter Weber in The Bachelor.

And it was at that precise moment that I, dear reader, turned to the heavens and said, “Thank God I’m gay!” Because in a same-sex courtship, those challenging conversations happen on more equal footing. Peter was so clearly trying to take back the reins in the conversation, almost instinctively, instead of addressing Kelley’s concerns. Same-sex relationships aren’t free of problems, of course—LGBTQ people are still people, and people can be pretty terrible—but emerging research suggests that they do tend to be more egalitarian than heterosexual couplings. Chores are divided more fairly, the balance of power is less lopsided, and decisions are made together. (My own wonderful but imperfect marriage fits this pattern: For seven years, my wife and I have essentially taken turns being the primary breadwinner. You might guess—correctly!—that she is currently out-earning a part-time Bachelor analyst.)

This is the exact kind of relationship that rarely comes out of The Bachelor. Most of the dynamic and interesting women, like Kelley, get sidelined as the lead zeroes in on younger contestants who will fully give themselves over to him—and to the ludicrous “process” of the show, which demands maximum commitment in minimum time. That’s exactly what Peter ended up asking of Kelley after she expressed her desire to be part of “a power couple” who challenges each other.

“I need you to trust in this process,” Peter said. “I need you to trust everything about it.”

“Mhm,” Kelly responded, with the exact right amount of disbelief. (She didn’t get sent home, but it’s obvious Peter will be a bit wary of her going forward.) In the queer community, a woman like Kelley would be in high demand: She’s got a great job, she’s confident, and she knows what she wants out of life. But within the confines of a straight reality dating show, Kelley has to reassure a guy she just met that she could be ready to marry him before they’ve even gone grocery shopping together.

ABC/Francisco Roman
Victoria F. and Peter Weber in The Bachelor.

The second episode of this week’s double offering gave us a clearer view of what actually tickles Peter’s pickle. On Wednesday night’s evening date in Chile, Peter was momentarily troubled by Hannah Ann’s twin admissions that she has never been in love before and that her modeling is “not necessarily a job.” For a moment, it was like Peter was hearing Kelley’s voice in his head, telling him that he’s not in the same “stage of life” as Hannah Ann. But then, the second that Hannah Ann started crying and confessing she is starting to fall in love with him, Peter literally said: “This is what I want to see.”

It doesn’t get more transparent than that! Peter doesn’t want to be challenged so much as he wants to be adored. It all stems from a place of insecurity.

If you’re wondering why this season has been so disproportionately full of drama, immaturity, and tears—including so much that I’m not even bothering to mention this week—it is only partially because the women this season are so young. It also seems to be exactly what Peter’s after.

Samantha Allen is the author of "Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States" and a GLAAD Award-winning LGBTQ journalist.
@SLAWrites