“Big Brother” will feature its first transgender houseguest on this summer’s upcoming season, Variety has confirmed.
Twenty-five-year-old Audrey Middleton, who was born Adam, will compete in the 17th season of the reality show.
“Audrey Middleton is a ‘Big Brother’ super fan who applied online, like many other hopeful houseguests, and was open about her transition in the application process,” a CBS spokesperson tells Variety. “It is customary for ‘Big Brother’ houseguests to share personal news inside the house, and Audrey plans to discuss her story with the houseguests in her own words during the premiere episode on Wednesday, June 24.”
Middleton, a digital media consultant, hails from a small Georgia town. According to her bio on CBS’ website, she is a former competitive swimmer and MMA Ring Girl who loves to dress up and “look fabulous head-to-toe, but also isn’t afraid to get dirty.” She is attracted to “tall, dark and handsome guys with a quick wit,” her description reads.
“I think that I’m bringing in a very versatile perspective of a character that hasn’t been brought before,” Middleton said in her introduction video for the show. When asked how she’ll be perceived by America during the new season, she added, “I think there’s a chance I could be a misunderstood hero, but I’m going to be a hero.”
Middleton marks the first transgender contestant for the U.S. version of the show, though trans houseguest Nadia Almada won the fifth season of of the U.K.’s series, and the twelfth season of “Celebrity Big Brother,” which also airs across the pond, featured media personality Lauren Harries.
Unscripted television has been accepting of the transgender community in seasons past, and scripted content has been slowly but steadily including trans characters in recent years, like Emmy winner Laverne Cox on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” Jeffrey Tambor’s Golden Globe-winning role on Amazon series “Transparent,” and CBS’ long-running daytime soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” introducing a transgender storyline in March by revealing that the established character Maya Avant (played by Karla Mosley) had been born Myron.
“America’s Next Top Model” featured its first transgender contestant, Isis King, on the 10th cycle in 2008; Logo TV’s inclusive competition series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a hit, having been renewed for Season 8; Oyxgen’s “The Prancing Elites Project” chronicles an African-American gay and gender non-conforming dance team; and ABC Family is currently airing docu-series “Becoming Us” from exec producer Ryan Seacrest, which follows a teenage boy’s journey after his father becomes a woman.
“I Am Jazz” about 14-year-old trans teenager Jazz Jennings bows this July on TLC, and Caitlyn Jenner’s hotly anticipated docu-series “I Am Cait” premieres July 26 on E!, following the cable net’s two “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” specials about Jenner’s transition and Diane Sawyer’s “20/20” interview.
Also this summer, USA Network’s “Royal Pains” will feature Nicole Maines in the June 23 episode, marking the transgender teen’s acting debut, as she takes on the role of Anna, a transgender choreographer. Maines made history in Jan. 2014 when she won a transgender rights case in the state of Maine, which was the first time a state court ruled that transgender students were allowed to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
Along with Maines’ guest role, came a PSA, featuring star Mark Feuerstein (watch below). Deputy exec director of PFLAG National, Elizabeth R. Kohm, commented, “With the visibility of people who are transgender at an all-time high, it is more important than ever that PFLAG’s support and educational resources are easy to find and readily available. We are thrilled to partner with our friends at USA Network on a public service announcement to bring that important, and potentially life-saving, information to its viewers,” adding, “We are so proud to see Nicole step confidently into this challenging and groundbreaking role on ‘Royal Pains.'”
Watch Mark Feuerstein’s PFLAG PSA, in anticipation of “Royal Pains” summer episode, featuring transgender teen Nicole Maines: