During the Season 4 premiere of 90 Day Fiance: The Other Wayviewers first got to meet Gabriel Paboga.
We have to wait before the show introduces us to Isabel Posada, let alone reveals how Isabel’s parents will react.
Gabe is transgender. In fact, he is the first trans cast member of any gender in 90 Day Fiance’s history as a franchise.
Yes, his journey brings long overdue representation to the show. But it’s more than that. Viewers have experienced disappointment before. Could the show be finally getting something right?
Before we get into why this could be such a refreshing change of pace for the franchise, let’s talk about Gabriel himself.
He is, as we learned on the season premiere, an entrepreneur.
Gabe hand-makes padded underwear for trans men like himself. Not all trans folks seek bottom surgery or even experience genital dysphoria, but for those who do, a built-in packer can be life-changing and affirming.
In addition to showing off his work for the camera, Gabriel also showcased his sense of humor.
He is proud to make a product that can help people—particularly members of his marginalized, vulnerable community.
Gabriel knows what his products do for men because he’s dealt with the weight and embarrassing moments of ordinary packers.
Gabriel spoke about his own journey as a trans man. Obviously, just as gender and sexuality are richly diverse and bring many experiences, being trans in America is far away from one-size-fits-all.
Some trans people know their gender from a young age (just like a lot of cis people do). For Gabe, he just knew that something was different.
It wasn’t until he saw a documentary about trans men that he found himself. And he is now free to live his best life.
Gabe was in Colombia in search of a manufacturing partner when he met Isabel at a friend’s house.
The two hit things off right away. They spent a day dancing, kissing, and hanging out. Isabel, it turns out, doesn’t have sex on the first date.
That suited Gabriel just fine. He wanted to find the right time to come out to her as trans. He did. Soon, he secured an apartment so that he could come and visit her regularly.
As he discussed with his friend Kion, part of Gabriel’s story in Season 4 will hinge upon people’s reactions when they learn that he is trans. This can be, quite literally, a matter of life and death for trans folks.
Kion’s worry was about the community in the part of Colombia where Isabel lives. Gabe shared that he won’t be the only trans person around, and both men acknowledged that random strangers may be less likely to clock trans men. That is, to recognize them as trans.
Meanwhile, the biggest worry for Gabriel is Isabel’s family. How will her parents react? Because he certainly plans to tell them before marrying their daughter.
While Gabriel received a tattoo as a tribute to his lady love, his delightful sister, Monica, showed up to roast him.
She notes that he is sometimes way too impulsive. And she reminded him of various past mistakes.
Isabel isn’t the first woman whose name he’s gotten tattooed on his body. In fact, he still needs to get the one on the back of his neck covered.
From Monica’s point of view, a major source of worry is that Isabel has kids, and Gabriel didn’t intend to date any more moms.
He countered that this is different — Isabel’s kids, a teenager and a tween, are older. He has a better dynamic with them.
Viewers don’t know how things will turn out with Isabel, her parents, or her kids. But many hope that Gabriel’s milestone casting in the franchise will break an unsettling pattern.
90 Day Fiance has actually been reasonably good when it comes to racing.
Oh, there is absolutely xenophobia and racism among viewers. And yes, the show has truly catered to that at times.
But when you compare this franchise to, say, The Bachelor, the racial diversity is so much better. (Even if 90 Day Fiance‘s infamous misogyny problem is even worse)
But representation in other areas has been sorely lacking. And, to be fair, we think that at least some of the producers for Sharp Entertainment truly, genuinely wish that LGBTQ+ reps were better.
It’s time for an unfortunate blast from the past: Stephanie Matto and Erika Owens. They were the show’s first same-sex couple.
Both women were bi, both had interesting personalities and backstories. Unfortunately, their one season totally blew up in everyone’s faces.
Many couples have mutual problems, even if viewers only blame one of them. But … there is no evidence of that with these two.
By all accounts, Stephanie was simply a standoffish, even hostile person once she met Erika in person. Totally different from how she was online.
We’re not saying that Stephanie was one of this franchise’s greatest monsters or anything like that. But she made a horrible impression on viewers and on Erika.
Stephanie and Erika were neither the first nor the last by cast members. Just the first same-sex couple.
Tarik Myers and Hazel Cagalitan had hoped to be the franchise’s first polyamorous on-screen relationship.
Hazel is out and proud of her bisexuality. Not all bi folks are polyamorous (just as not all het folks are monogamous), but she and Tarik were looking for a girlfriend.
Unfortunately, their group goals fell short. Part of it was a bad previous experience with a girl named Minty.
Honestly, part of it was also the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s hard to look for a girlfriend as a couple when you’re on lockdown. It was bad timing.
It’s not fair that monogamous marriages fail on screen all of the time without people citing them as “proof” that monogamy can’t work but polyamory doesn’t have that luxury.
But that’s the way that it is. Polyamorous viewers admitted on social media that it might have been better if Tarik and Hazel hadn’t even tried.
At least, not that season.
At 90 Days: The Single Life‘s Season 3 Tell All special, Caesar Mack shared some troupe goals of his own.
He announced that he was in contact with two Ukrainian women. The plan was that they would both live with him, and they would be a family of three.
There are plenty of people who live that way. But some of his castmates questioned whether this was real, given that he has seemed to be gullible in the past. And Natalie Mordovtseva condemned him in a vicious, judgmental way.
The most recent season of Love in Paradise: The Caribbean had a same-sex couple and a failed attempt at a polyamorous group (which, in turn, included a same-sex couple).
And we’re not pretending that the franchise was totally bereft of LGBTQ+ representation before that.
Kenneth Niedermeier and Armando Rubio aren’t just positive representations of two gay dads who found love without borders. They’re fan-favorites, and with good reason.
Fans hope that the production has made and will continue to make tasteful choices with how Gabriel’s real life and story make it onto the screen.
We all know that the editing room can exaggerate bad moments and erase positive ones. It is, one might argue, part of the job.
But Gabriel and viewers alike deserve to see an honest, positive portrayal of a trans man living his life and loving his future wife. We’re rooting for him!