'Love Island' Reverses Course, Seeks Non-binary, LGBTQ+ Contestants

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday January 10, 2022
Originally published on January 10, 2022

The British reality series "Love Island," formerly deemed "unsuitable" for same-sex romance, now seeks non-binary and LGBTQ+ contestants, UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported.

"This year's 'Love Island' is set to be its most diverse yet, as it has been reported that the show's bosses are actively encouraging non-binary Islanders to apply," the article specified.

British newspaper The Sun detailed that "Potential contestants asked to specify their gender on the application form are given the options of male, female, non-binary, prefer not to say, or prefer to self-describe.

"They can also describe their sexual orientation as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or other."

The Sun recalled that the show's producers "have been criticized for a lack of diversity and going for unrealistic body types."

Fans have heard that the show was reforming and becoming more diverse before; prior to the start of last year's season, the ITV program was reportedly "accepting applications... from both gay and straight singletons," as UK tabloid the Daily Star reported at the time.

"Producers say they are open to any applicant who is looking for love so long as they are over 18," the Daily Star added.

But the story quickly changed, with ITV executive Kevin Lygo saying that same-sex pairings would not be "suitable" for the program.

"'Love Island' is a particular thing," Lygo, ITV's director of television, said in August of 2021. "It's about boys and girls coupling up, so if you want to do it as a gay version or you want to widen it, it is discussed and we haven't yet found a way that would make it suitable for that show."

ITV executive Amanda Stavri likewise threw cold water on sizzling rumors that the show might be extending a welcoming hand to LGBTQ+ contestants.

"There's a sort of logistical difficulty, because although Islanders don't have to be 100 [percent] straight, the format must sort of give [the] Islanders an equal choice when coupling up," Stavri told the Radio Times, referring to the show's typical pairing of mixed-gender couples.

Same-sex moments have not been unknown on the show, however. As i-D noted, "2016 saw the series' first and only same-sex pairing when Katie Salmon and Sophie Gradon coupled up."

But even that celebrated moment became a point of controversy, when the late Gradon's ex-boyfriend, Tom Powell, claimed that the same-sex clench had been "manipulated," and that "Sophie didn't want to kiss on screen."

"The producers wanted the kiss to appeal to the LGBT community," Powell alleged.

Whether the show will actually gain a gay or lesbian contestant remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a source insisted that the show's desire to cast a non-binary cast member is genuine, telling the Daily Mail that the producers "are keen to have a non-binary contestant this year."

"It's all about inclusivity and breaking down boundaries," the source went on to say.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.