The Bachelor lacks LGBTQ representation. This is gospel. Only one openly not-straight person has competed in the US franchise: Jaimi King, a bisexual woman who appeared on Nick Viall’s season. If she’d won, she’d be expected to get engaged in the final episode and married on an ABC special. There’s that old cliche about lesbians and U-Hauls, but I’ve never seen anyone move at the pace expected of the Bachelor franchise.
That’s why it came as a surprise when, in September 2018, Asian news site NextShark reported that The Bachelor: Vietnam contestant Minh Thu had confessed her love not to the Bachelor, the handsome Jean-Marc Nguyen Quoc Trung, but to Truc Nhu, another woman competing for his heart. Truc Nhu chose to remain on the show, but she eventually left and the pair began dating. Like most Bachelor alumni, they frequently post couple photos—but their social media saturation has a different purpose than the average member of Bachelor Nation clinging to their 15 minutes.
Every so often, a new study about social media use and relationships comes out. One oft-cited study concludes that posting a lot about your relationship on social media signals insecurity. I don’t think these studies tell the whole story. When you’re not straight or cisgender—in my case, when you’re a gay woman—posting about your relationship is an act with broad implications. It isn’t just for you; it has an impact on other people like you. That visibility is important: without examples of what relationships between two women look like, knowing you like women is not the same as being able to see yourself actually dating a woman.
At 15, I realized I liked girls, but boys still took up most of my mental space. When I dreamed of my future, I saw men. I didn’t know what a future with a woman could look like, and I couldn’t dream of what I couldn’t see. That changed as I got older and images of a relationship between two women (that didn’t end in one or both dying) became easier to find. And one day, on a friend’s recommendation, I watched “Carmilla,” the Canadian-made YouTube adaptation of the novella by the same name, about Carmilla and Laura, two university students who become roommates after Laura’s roommate mysteriously disappears.
This was a turning point for me. Carmilla and Laura didn’t experience a crisis of sexuality when they fell for each other. Being women was key to their relationship, and also not a big deal at all. I would have started to date women anyway, but now I’d seen what it looks like for a life, long portrayed as impossible, to be easy. Every date with a woman brought me closer to the point where I couldn’t envision a future with men. I don’t know how long it would have taken to realize I’m a lesbian if I hadn’t been able to literally see that sex, love, and happily ever after are possible with women—and that a future with a woman was the only one I wanted.
Today, I am living that future, and I don’t think twice about posting about my relationship on social media. This isn’t changing the world; I don’t have a broad platform, and it’s not revolutionary to see young white women in love. I live in a progressive city and have supportive family and friends, as does my girlfriend. We’re both comfortable with being gay.
But I want our love on the record. I want my friends and younger cousins to see that if they fall for a woman, someone understands what that’s like. There is a blueprint. Watching the fictional Carmilla and Laura helped me realize the importance of that. For others, the real-life Minh Thu and Truc Nhu did.
Young Vietnamese women have written on social media about what it’s like to see them being open and loving as a couple, hoping that this helps normalize queer relationships in Vietnam and applauding their bravery in coming out on national television. Minh Thu and Truc Nhu know their story isn’t nearly as commonplace as the Bachelor breaking up with his fiancée within six months of the finale. Talking to NextShark, Minh Thu described the moment she decided to confess her feelings on-camera: “I wanted to say it in front of everyone, so people know that it’s real, that this in itself is a form of an expression of love, that it’s true to who I am.”
To be clear, LGBTQ people are not remotely obligated to post about their relationships on social media. This is a decision you make for yourself. But when people who are comfortable sharing their private life do so, it helps others see that this can be real for them. Minh Thu and Truc Nhu know that. In my moments of self-consciousness, they reminded me of that, too.