A transgender cast member will move into the Big Brother house for the first time when the series returns next week.
Among the 14 house guests set to star in the upcoming 17th season of the CBS reality show is Audrey Middleton (pictured), a 25-year-old digital media consultant from Villa Rica, Georgia.
After the network announced this season’s cast on Tuesday (June 16), TMZ reported that Middleton was born Adam and transitioned from male to female a few years ago. The network then confirmed that Middleton is transgender in a statement.
“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 said. “It is customary for Big Brother houseguests to share personal news inside the house, and Middleton plans to discuss her story with the houseguests in her own words during the premiere episode on Wednesday, June 24th.”
Although U.S. cable networks have a progressive track record when it comes to casting transgender characters on reality shows, LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD has criticized broadcasters NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox for not featuring trans characters on popular unscripted franchises such as Big Brother, The Amazing Race, Survivor and American Idol.
A GLAAD/Harris Interactive poll found that only 8% of Americans said they personally know a trans person, so advocates consider broadcast TV an important frontier because of its reach.
“Media is really critical for transgender people because for those 92% of Americans who think they don’t know someone who is transgender, everything they’re learning about this community is coming through the media,” Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender media programs told realscreen for a feature on the recent trend toward transgender-focused reality programs.
Middleton’s casting on Big Brother follows Caitlyn Jenner’s high-profile coming out, which will be explored further in the E! series I Am Cait, as well as Discovery Life’s New Girls on the Block, ABC Family’s Becoming Us and TLC’s upcoming I Am Jazz.
Adams cited AMC’s Small Town Security, MTV’s The Real World, The CW’s America’s Next Top Model and ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, which featured competitor Chaz Bono on season 13, as past examples of unscripted series that portrayed trans people and stories in progressive lights.
In other Big Brother news, a Turkish version of the franchise is in the works.
Star TV has ordered the first local version of the program from Istanbul-based Endemol Shine Turkey. Big Brother Türkiye will be shot over 15 weeks and air in a one-hour primetime slot five days a week in addition to a three-hour eviction show on the weekends.
The greenlight in Turkey follows renewals from Bulgaria’s Nova TV and in five Balkan territories including Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Production will last more than 100 days at a regional hub in Serbia and the series will begin airing simultaneously in each market later this year
Last month, Telemundo ordered the first U.S. Hispanic version of Big Brother to air under the title Gran Hermano. Endemol Shine Latino is producing.