Forming a relationship is hard enough. Forming a relationship on reality TV is harder but what may or may not have happened between Frankie Grande (on the right), an out gay man, and Zach Rance (on the left), a straight man, on Big Brother 16 this year is even harder than usual. So what was it that happened? Something that either confused, excited or horrified millions.
I talk about sexual orientation a lot on this blog and how complicated it is, which is why when I heard about this “Zankie” phenomenon, I had to see it for myself. The fact that this was happening on Big Brother also provided a unique opportunity, because the 24/7 online live feeds made it so you can see what any of the contestants were doing or saying at any moment within the day.
So what happened between the two at face value? This is the segment to get yourself caught up:
So you see, the two men cuddled, were practically attached at the hip and exchanged constant “I love yous” – all things that could possibly be platonic. However, it wasn’t just the cuddling that got people talking. Many of the other men in the house cuddled with each other (which is awesome! Because hell, men should be able to cuddle like girls can without no homo-ing) but what got people talking was the strange amount of intimacy they shared, both verbal and physical that had everybody questioning their relationship. And even more so, this particular bit of interaction that got people going “…what?”:
But Zach asserted his heterosexuality very often despite this. “I’m not gay but if I was…I would (insert something sexual or romantic here) you, Frankie” was basically his catchphrase this year. (Right after “fruit loop dingus”, of course)
And that is what really got me thinking… why did he always have to have those words before he said the things he said? Oh yeah, maybe it was the fear of the homophobia that still exists in America or our incessant need to put people in categories and make them only one thing while they may be many. And then… Zach himself asked this very strange question:
It was at this point that I realized, if we were to just say “yes”… that is like erasing the intricacy that is sexual orientation. It’s erasing bisexuality, pansexuality, demi-sexuality, everything that falls under the grey areas of sexual orientation. Hell, it’s erasing the possibility of Zach simply being Frankie-sexual. It’s erasing all sexuality research that shows that sexual orientation is more of a spectrum than a box. (I’ve briefly explained the Kinsey scale in this article)
I think one of the worst parts of this real life struggle on TV and the Live Feeds was that, within the fandom, this whole issue has turned into an all out war between people who say “ZACH HAS TO BE GAY BECAUSE HE SAYS HE’S IN LOVE WITH FRANKIE” and “NO ZACH SAYS HE’S STRAIGHT SO LET’S PRETEND EVERYTHING HE DID AND SAID THIS SUMMER NEVER HAPPENED” Either way, saying either of these things are ignoring things Zach has said. So why is it that so many people are extremely bothered by the idea that someone who identifies as straight might love just one person of the same sex (Like in this man’s case)?
It’s for all these reasons that I don’t exactly blame Zach for now retreating into tweets about wanting to meet ladies and pretending his cuddles were “game strategy”, instead of saying “I may have gotten a little bit homo with Frankie this summer and I don’t know what it is but it is. Regardless, I still do mostly like women. At least I’m sure of that part.” In a perfect world, he should be able to say that without the entire world literally flipping out, the homophobes yelling the F word and just the general population trying to stick him in a box.
Basically what I’m trying to say here is that sexual orientation labels are in place for people tell you what they’re looking for, what their preference is, not for you to hold them to it as if it’s some sort of contract they signed as soon as they spoke the words out loud. If someone is straight and they fall in love with someone of the same sex, that is okay. If they’re gay and they fall in love with someone of the opposite sex that is okay. If they’re anything else and love another person regardless of labels or anything of the sort, THAT IS OKAY. Using a label to in any way erase anything that actually happened or forcing someone to label themselves something that makes you more comfortable is what is not okay.