When it comes to LGBTQ+ representation, TV has come on leaps and bounds since the first series of the social experiment hit our small screens way back in 2000. However, even to this day Big Brother continues to do more for gay and trans culture than most TV shows have done in the last two decades, thanks to the unfiltered broadcasting of real conversations between real people.
To mark the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, here are some of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ+ moments in Big Brother history...
1. When Anna Nolan revealed she used to be a nun, 2000
Big Brother has become a platform for some people who might not have otherwise had the chance to shine, and this certainly rang true for season-one finalist Anna Nolan, who grabbed tabloid attention for being a lesbian ex-nun.
Media circus aside, her presence and popularity on Big Brother back in the early '00s was significant, and although Anna herself admits her intention was never to increase gay representation on the small screen, she did state: "Before I applied for Big Brother there was very little lesbian visibility on television.
"I now realise how important it was to the LGBT community. When I came out of Big Brother I received lots of letters – people wrote letters back then! – from men and women, who found it a positive thing that I was a gay woman on a prime-time television show. And someone who, for some reason, their parents also liked!"
2. When Brian Dowling won, 2001
Back in 2001, for many viewers, Brian Dowling was the first out gay man on screen who wasn't a fictional character in a TV show or a punchline in a movie.
Not only did the nation grow to adore him, but he went on to triumph in the competition voted on by the public.
Many LGBTQ+ viewers still cite Brian as a person they could relate to, describing the impact his win had on those who struggled with their sexual identity. Just like Nadia, Brian's win spread the message of acceptance loud and clear.
3. When Nadia became the first transgender contestant to win the show, 2004
Suffice to say, Nadia Almada absolutely stole the show when she appeared on Big Brother back in 2004 – Davina McCall even hailed the star her favourite contestant of all time, for crying out loud.
We've come a long way for trans representation, but at the time Nadia made strides for the community by becoming a household name, making her an early representation of trans women in the public eye. Her triumph at winning over the public sent out a beautiful message of understanding and acceptance.
4. When Luke explained what being a trans man means, 2012
Long before Courtney opened up the conversation about trans identity, the thirteenth season of Big Brother saw trans contestant Luke Anderson speak about the topic in a frank and honest way.
Just like Courtney, Luke was patient and took his time when answering the many questions thrown at him by the other contestants, and proved to be an absolute force in the house. As such, he went on to win Big Brother 2012 after stealing the hearts of the viewers.
5. When Christopher Biggins was booted out over bisexual comments
Not all moments on this list are positive, unfortunately. In 2016, Christopher Biggins was kicked out of the Celebrity Big Brother house after causing offence with comments made about AIDS.
Speaking with Renee Graziano on the history of the LGBTQ+ community, Biggins said: "Gays had been really badly treated, then suddenly they became respected. Then a killer disease came that was attributed to homosexuals. I think it was a bisexual disease to be honest."
The controversial comments sparked a heated debate regarding biphobia, and it was those remarks that sparked Big Brother's decision to remove him from the show.
6. When Hughie and Ryan put a ring on it... kinda, 2016
We laughed, we cried, we wondered what the hell was going on with the whole #fakeproposalgate. To give you a bit of context, Big Brother duo Ryan Ruckledge and Hughie Maughan started their tumultuous relationship on the seventeenth season of the show. Whatever your take on the couple, there's no denying their budding romance was infectious to watch.
Particularly when the pair eagerly announced their engagement to the nation. Although this turned out to be a prank, the moment escalated and became part of a wider debate regarding gay marriage.
Fellow housemate Andy, who got engaged to his boyfriend Ed in the house for real, chimed in on the argument and berated the couple for making a mockery of those who fought for LGBTQ+ equality, although viewers were quick to defend Ryan and Hughie. Either way, it's yet another unexpected Big Brother moment that got people talking about the systemic oppression of the gay community.
7. When Amanda shocked the nation with her statements on equality, 2018
Season 21 of Celebrity Big Brother wasn't all about acceptance, as the former Coronation Street actress Amanda Barrie shocked many with her views on gay rights.
In a blowout with Shane, Amanda – herself bisexual and married to a woman – defended former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who had clashed with housemates during discussions about sexuality and how she had voted against pro-LGBTQ+ legislation during her time in parliament.
Following the comments, Amanda received a backlash on social media, with a number of viewers describing her words and her anti-equality statements as "disappointing" (and that's on the less harsh end of the scale).
8. When Courtney described the scale of sexuality and gender perfectly, 2018
The trans community is finally receiving recognition and representation on the small screen, but even in 2018 there's still a way to go. Even now a significant chunk of the nation struggles with its understanding of gender, which is why Australian drag queen Courtney Act (aka Shane Gilberto Jenek) was such a revelation in season 21 of Celebrity Big Brother.
The former Drag Race contestant, noticing that trans contestant India Willoughby might have felt a bit uncomfortable about his presence, took it upon herself to answer the questions some of the less-knowledgeable housemates had regarding the almighty differences between being trans and being drag.
Instead of going in all guns blazing, Courtney was patient, understanding and gave clear answers to the questions she was asked. It was this frankness that led to an outpouring of gratitude from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies on social media, with some saying she'd done more for the understanding of trans identity than some organisations have done in a lifetime.
9. When Cameron came out as gay, 2018
Just this week, 18-year-old contestant Cameron Cole came out as gay in front of the whole nation during an emotional conversation with the house.
It was a touching moment, made even more significant by the fact that the vlogger was shown coming to grips with the realisation about himself in the run-up to his announcement. As you'd expect, Cameron received an outpouring of love and support for showing his authentic self, from both the housemates and from the viewers at home.
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