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This year, Married at First Sight UK finally introduced its first-ever openly transgender participant, Ella Morgan. As one of 16 singletons on the show’s eighth season, Ella got hitched to someone mere moments after seeing them for the first time. “No one in their right mind would choose to do something like this,” she says, laughing on a Zoom call with GAY TIMES. “I genuinely just wanted to get married and fall in love.”

Reality TV has often been a powerful way of educating the general public about issues relating to minority groups, with stars like Big Brother winner Nadia Almada and Survivor star Zeke Smith among those who have provided viewers with much-needed trans representation. “People have to understand that I didn’t ask to be this representative of the community, but I’m not stupid,” Ella explains. “I know that because we as trans people don’t get given the chance to have a voice or to be seen or heard, that when someone does, it’s once in a blue moon and, as soon as that person gets announced, whether you asked for it or not, you are being thrust into that role as a spokesperson because we just don’t get listened to.”

Ella’s participation in Married at First Sight UK comes at a time when trans people are continuously trivialised in the British media. Their rights are often framed as a so-called ‘debate’, which rarely include input from trans voices. Ella tells GAY TIMES that this is part of the reason why appearing in the series now was so important to her: “A lot of people, cisgendered straight people, especially in politics and in the media, they speak for us and they write these articles about us without having lived our experiences, spoken to us or met us and I’m just sick of people talking on behalf of us.”

When she got the call confirming that she had been cast in the series, Ella says that she couldn’t believe it. “I never thought that anyone would put a trans person on a mainstream dating show, or a massive dating show like this,” she shares. “I still am shocked that I’ve done it because this doesn’t happen for girls like me. Weddings don’t happen for girls like me, relationships are so difficult that – I think I can speak for a lot of trans girls – that s**t doesn’t really happen for us and we don’t get given opportunities or given a voice because there’s no representation. You’ve got very few people that represent our community and that are in the public eye.”

Despite the historic nature of her appearance on Married at First Sight UK, Ella states that she’s happy with how Channel 4 didn’t make it the defining part of her storyline in the final cut of the episodes. “I also wanted to still show me, rather than just be like, ‘That’s Ella, the trans girl off MAFS’. There’s so much more to me than being trans. I’m 10 per cent trans, 90 per cent crazy Ella, which I love and I’m so glad that it’s translating on TV and they’re not just talking about me being trans – I am still a person and there’s so much more to me.”

“You’ll start to see that we talk about me being trans and the difficulties I’ve had less and more about me navigating a marriage with a stranger and dealing with the hardships and everyday challenges of marrying someone that you don’t really know very well,” she says of what viewers can expect from the upcoming episodes, adding: “I’d kind of always thought about the trans thing, but it was always in the back of my head and I just thought, ‘Yeah, okay, I know it’s going to be a big deal and I’m going to have a lot of backlash for it’, but I didn’t want to think about it the whole way through the show…because I thought it would then stop me from being authentically myself and I’d be worried about what I could and couldn’t say.”

The backlash Ella alludes to forced her to take a step back from social media as she was being targeted by online trolls. “It was so shocking, the amount of people that were sending me stuff and the comments on the articles – some good, some bad,” she continues. “If there was ever a time for trans people to take over the world in TV and media, it would be now because I’m shocked that it’s 2023 and there’s still this uproar that I’m the first trans person on a show. What the f**k? I can’t comprehend in my head why that is so shocking, but that’s the proof that it’s important for me to do this now because the backlash is still prevalent.”

Explaining how she has been dealing with the abuse, Ella says she is doing “okay” and learning to pay less attention to what’s being said. “I have thick skin because I’ve gone through so much and so it doesn’t really bother me being called a ‘man’ and a ‘bloke’ and all this s**t about my nasally voice and my lip fillers or my boobs,” she shares. “I put myself forward for this when I knew I was mentally loving myself and I was at the highest with my confidence…I had a lot of self awareness that there would be a lot of backlash [and] if I didn’t feel that I was prepared for it, I wouldn’t have applied for this and I wouldn’t have done this now.”

Regardless of how some people online have treated Ella, the response to her inclusion on the show has been overwhelmingly positive. She recently moved viewers when she came out as trans to her castmates in a powerful speech, which she says “every single person was so supportive” of during filming. “So many people have messaged me and I don’t know, I can’t even – there’s no words to describe it,” Ella explains. “It’s the best feeling in the world of knowing that you’ve got so many supporters out there.”

“When you get bogged down with all of the s**t and the nasty comments, it just caught me off guard. I didn’t expect it to be as amazing as it was and have the reception and the support that it has now got. The love that I’ve had is amazing and, in the moment when I was reading it, I didn’t expect that at all. I don’t know how I managed to watch it without crying!”

One of the most important things about doing Married at First Sight UK for Ella was ensuring that the “unbreakable bond” she shares with her family was accurately depicted on screen. “I wanted me being on the show to be a love letter to my family, to say thank you, because I’m very aware that most trans people don’t have the support that I’ve had,” she says, adding: “I’m so blessed, grateful and lucky that I have had them and that’s why I wanted them to be a big part of the show, to not only show trans people that you can have this, but if you don’t, then your friends and the people you choose in your life are your chosen family.”

As the show continues to air, Ella is confident that she can handle whatever the remaining episodes will bring her way: “I’ve come to realise whatever you say, people are going to give you backlash and hate you and say you’re this and you’re that, so you can’t really win. So, all I can do is be myself and I think I’m f***ing fabulous.”