On August 6, 2004, millions of people in the UK were glued to their screens to see Nadia Almada win the fifth series of Big Brother. Originally from Portugal, Nadia, 27 at the time, was the show’s first ever transgender contestant
Big Brother hasn’t always had a perfect track record when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. At times, the show has been quite happy to fall on and hype up outdated stereotypes when it suits, but it cannot be underestimated how much of an impact Nadia’s appearance had on the community.
Nadia, who didn’t reveal she was transgender to her fellow contestants during her time in the house, said being on the show was an opportunity for her to ‘[be] who I am, rather than a label’ and she says she still hears from people who were inspired by her time on the show.
Speaking to Heat Magazine, Nadia said: “I still get messages saying, ‘Thank you for showing me who I am and allowing me to be who I want to be’. And that makes me so happy. You have to remember, 20 years ago, there was no reference or representation for these people. I think I sort of kick-started that conversation.”
Personally speaking, watching that season of Big Brother in particular was a big moment for me. I was 15 at the time - and everyone can attest to how difficult and confusing it can be at that age - but seeing a transgender woman on screen really opened my eyes to the LGBTQ+ community I was just only, at the time, beginning to find myself associated with. And I wasn’t the only one.
@BadlyDrawnRoy posted on X: “The night Nadia won Big Brother, I got drunk with my best friend who plucked up the courage to come out to me and I responded by coming out to him. That 2004 BB finale is a key part of my queer history.”
It’s worth pointing out that Nadia is not the only transgender contestant to appear on the show, nor is she the only winner. There was also Luke Anderson in series 13, but I had switched off from the show at that point so that moment has sadly passed me by…
But the return of Big Brother this week (after a five-year hiatus) is seeing us potentially tread familiar waters once again - with contestant Hallie, who decided not to tell the housemates she was transgender upon her arrival.
However, on the second day, she decided to be open with them as they sat round the dinner table. The 18-year-old youth worker said: "I thought I'd let everyone know I'm trans, if you didn't know already. I just thought I'd make that loud and clear. I'm a trans woman if you didn't know. Just wanted to bring that up!”
The news was met with praise from the housemates, with Chanelle saying: “Good for you. That’s very brave of you.” And the moment also received praise from viewers - as it came at a particular time where trans and non-binary people can often feel so vilified, ignored and disrespected.
Matt Horwood, chair of London Friend, posted on X: “This is incredibly brave, given the hateful and unsafe environment our media and ‘leaders’ have created for trans folk, in particular trans young people. While it’s not the first time openly trans contestants have been cast on #BBUK, this feels a more pivotal point than ever.”
He later added: “Anti-trans hate crimes continue to rise amidst our Gov’s scapegoating of trans folk, to distract from its own monumental failures. And while it shouldn’t fall to 18-year-old #BBUK housemates to combat that, Halle’s very brave and I hope this representation brings positive change.”
Hollyoaks actress Annie Wallace wrote: “When Nadia won Big Brother in 2004, public understanding of trans people was exceptionally low, and she was taken completely at face value. Hallie has entered the Big Brother house at a time when trans people are being vilified by our own government and media.
“This is an act of exceptional bravery, and I am here for her all the way. Her openness and honesty has been a highlight of the first two days, and I wish her all the best in the competition.”
Speaking to Big Brother in the Diary Room after telling her housemates, Hallie said: “I’m not going to lie, my heart was beating out of my chest, it was quite nerve racking. I was scared of people having a prejudiced opinion towards me because as soon as you hear the word trans, some people’s minds go elsewhere.”
Following Hallie’s moment, the housemates then went round the table sharing each other’s preferred pronouns. It showed just how simple, and easy, a conversation like that can be had. Pronouns were shared, and people moved on with their lives whilst respecting each other’s choices. That’s how it should - but sadly isn’t always - done.
The fact that Hallie is just eighteen and is able to do this so bravely on national television must be truly inspiring to see for young LGBTQ+ people today - I was certainly moved by it.
In scenes aired on Tuesday night, Hallie had a conversation with housemate Farida, which surely wasn’t the easiest to have. Accepting she was not very educated on how trans people live their lives, she asked: “If a guy was to get with you would they be seen as gay?”
But absolute icon Hallie handled the situation calmly and respectfully whilst still squashing down that perspective. Hallie replied: “There's men out there who specifically like trans women, and there's men out there that will just see me as a woman, and just be with me as a woman.”
Discussing the moment later with other housemates, Hallie accepted that the conversation had been ‘frustrating’, adding: “I was like no I'm a woman, they like me like I'm a woman. She was all confused. I was like, you need to chill out babe. If that made them gay I would be a man.”
The pair were later able to have a further discussion over Farida’s questions, with her saying: “I was just curious because I feel it's my first opportunity... It's a social experiment being in here. Different people celebrating their culture and what they're about.”
Again, it received praise from viewers. One said: “So much respect to Hallie for having a mature convo with Farida and not go off at someone who's trying to learn but saying the wrong thing.”
Another added: “This is why it's important to have these convos! Education is key. Hallie handled it so well!”
I’m looking forward to seeing Hallie’s Big Brother journey on screen and hopefully she will help educate people, just like Nadia and Luke before her have done for others.
In just a couple of days, she's had some really powerful and inspirational moments and she could have a real impact on changing narratives or, at the very least, just helping those who don't see themselves on screen feel seen for the first time.
LGBTQ+ 12 October 2023