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Emmerdale's LGBT Representation: What Could Be Improved?

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

Part Two of our series asking LGBT+ Emmerdale fans what they think of Emmerdale's LGBT representation has a slightly different tone. Today we are asking what fans believe Emmerdale could do better to represent LGBT characters and stories, and where they might have made mistakes in the past.

When deciding how to structure our series on LGBT+ representation, and talking to the fans who wanted to be involved, some had concerns they wanted to be able to voice, and that they had found difficult to express. Many were concerned that such criticisms would come across as hate for the show that they love, and here at Talking Emmerdale, we wanted to give them that opportunity to voice those concerns in a constructive way.

We love Emmerdale (hence this website!) but every show can do better, and we think it can't hurt to listen to where marginalised groups think a show can improve. We would have felt uncomfortable with leaving out these criticisms and only using the positive comments that were made, since the fans took their time to talk to us, and it would have been wrong of us to 'pick and choose' their comments. At Talking Emmerdale we want to represent what the fans really think, so we made the decision to go ahead with this second part of the series.

In a post like this it is even more vital we stress that the people who have come forward with answers for this one (which we know may be controversial) have been brave to do so, and have also given up their time, so we urge you to be respectful to them in return. Often the criticisms of those from marginalised groups can be dismissed as hate or abuse, but what we have found is that Emmerdale is lucky to have extremely articulate LGBT+ fans who know exactly what they think would improve their representation on screen. We have been surprised by some of the responses we received, and they've certainly made us think again about a number of topics. It has also made us consider what it means to be a fan of something, and how sometimes criticism, if given fairly, can become a positive step forward.

So, today's question is:

Have there been any ways in which Emmerdale's representation hasn't worked in your view? And what do you think Emmerdale could do better going forward?

Once again, LGBT+ Emmerdale fans, it's over to you!

"The best way forward is always finding ways to incorporate LGBT+ characters into the whole of the show, writing them just as you would any other character; making them a natural part of the diverse tapestry that is Emmerdale." - (@artloveharmony)

"Maybe Emmerdale could write some of the stories from more of a gay/lesbian point of view? One example is the Robron storyline in 2017. Robert sleeping with Bex was an insult on so many levels to both the gay community and bi. A lot of people think it is okay because now they have a baby, but I think Emmerdale missed a major storyline there. I also think the way Finn was treated last year was bad." - Jashton, LGBT

Finn Barton was killed off in October, 2017

"Last year Emmerdale killed off two of their gay characters (Lawrence and Finn) and broke up their gay male couple with a plot that was full of biphobic cliches and tropes. It wasn't a good time for LGBT viewers when we looked at the whole, but I do think things are getting better now and that Emmerdale are thinking more about these things. I hope it is because they have understood many of the complaints. I think they want to do right by us as a community but they got some things wrong. Hopefully they can learn from that and use their platform for good." - Laura, pansexual/bisexual

"Something especially problematic I think was the ‘Robert cheating on Aaron with Rebecca leads to Seb’ storyline, which managed to be biphobic (bi stereotypes, disregard of Robert’s character and his priorities and the moment, previous storylines about Aaron, also Rebecca’s biphobia etc), homophobic (Aaron and attitude of other Emmerdale residents toward him after Robert/Rebecca) and misogynistic (Rebecca as character with no personality whatsoever, accept since Seb – Mother) at the same time.

There has been tendency in the last year of killing those LGBT+ characters – Finn, Lawrence, Ali, (in 2015 also Ruby) – who has no more prominent storylines planned. There are other ways to write characters out rather than making it “bury your gays”." - Kristine, aro ace

Lawrence White met a sticky end at the beginning of 2018

"The storyline written for Lawrence, about him being taken advantage of by a younger bisexual man (which was full of bad stereotypes), and then dying felt disrespectful. It filled two tropes, one of bi men being predatory and manipulative to gay men, and the other of older gay men not being sexual or being shown as happy in their relationships. I think Lawrence could have had better storylines, although I did like seeing Lawrence and Ronnie on screen, as it's good to remind viewers that older LGBT couples exist." - Hannah, bisexual

"Finn and Lawrence dying, Aaron getting homophobic abuse in prison, Robert turning into a biphobic stereotype, Kasim being beaten up and never seen again, that baby plot that took us back about 50 years... it (last year) wasn't a good time for LGBT rep on Emmerdale." - LGBT fan

"Some of the LGBT stories feel so straight. I mean that it feels like they've been written by straight writers or storyliners who have bigotry inside them they don't even understand. Why else would we have fallen into these tropes the rest of us in the community are trying to escape every day? Although it is better now. I have to admit when they announced Matty I felt hope again. The trans community need representation and I was proud of Emmerdale for giving us that." - LGBT fan

Matty Barton's (re)introduction to the show has been met with overwhelming praise

"I hated the storyline for Robert Sugden last year. As he was the first bisexual character (who had used the word and talked about it) on the show I was quite excited. It was the first time I had seen anyone like me on television before. Like Robert, I have a boyfriend who is gay and have experienced boyfriends from that community who think I will cheat or that I want both genders. It has been hard because when your own community think these things it can be upsetting. There is a lot of biphobia towards bi men so I was interested when they showed Aaron being biphobic towards Robert, because I thought it was a good way to show the prejudice that some gay men can have and prove that bi men and gay men are just the same, it's just that those of us who are bi can be attracted to women as well...

During Super Soap Week 2016, Aaron showed ignorance about bisexuality, and Robert tried to explain his sexuality and counter stereotypes

...I was devastated when instead of showing this, they made Robert cheat almost right away and they never had Aaron (or Rebecca who was also very biphobic) admit they were wrong. The story proved them right. It made me realise that this sort of representation was why I had found it so hard to come out and why several boyfriends had treated me badly. They think we can't be faithful even when we are in love, and so that storyline was upsetting. I would like to see Robert be able to fight back against the biphobia he got from other characters one day, so that anyone watching knows that it isn't okay to treat people like that. Robert might have cheated before but I think this was irresponsible and they should have at least made sure people understood it wasn't because he was bisexual. Some people do think that still. I hate that." - Matt, bisexual

Robert and Aaron's 2017 storyline has been controversial with Emmerdale fans

"The cheating was so unnecessary. Looking back now I don't see why it was needed. Aside from it being a bad stereotype and something the show had recently made an empowering story out of with Robert coming to terms with who he was meaning he wasn't that person anymore (as I am sure many others will point out), it wasn't something that even needed to happen. They could have had the same story with a Robron break up while Aaron was addicted to Spice in prison. Looking back it seems they just wanted to villainize the bisexual even further. As if it wasn't bad enough they were using his sexuality to give Robron a child and they would later discard the mother, they also had to have the bisexual cheat on the gay man, just like the gay man had said he would. The bisexual then had to grovel for forgiveness and change his ways. Regressive seems too generous a word." - Steven, bisexual

"Clearly they had no idea what these storylines would do to the LGBT community. I don't have anything against the show, in fact I love it and love the cast and crew, but they did make mistakes. I think Iain (Macleod) said on a LGBT panel he doesn't think about characters' sexualities when story lining, but you need to. Part of that is that people have unconscious biphobia and homophobia which unless they educate themselves won't disappear. It will come up in story choices. Which is what we saw last year. Ignorance at best, anti-LGBT at worst. If you can't see how making your one character from a a marginalised group every bad stereotype going might be a bad idea, then I don't know what to think. Yes stories should be character driven but when you're having to alter characters in order to fit plots and make them better suit these stereotypical storyline decisions then perhaps it shouldn't be done?" Nithya, LGBT fan

"I still think it's funny how Robron's story last year made it all the way to screen because it means so many people must have thought it was okay, which is hilarious. The instant backlash should have been enough, but Emmerdale kept on going and going. You can only laugh. It is at least good viewing to show future generations how not to write bi people and LGBT storylines. And how not to write women as plot devices." - Holly, LGBT fan

"To this day I don't get why they didn't just have Aaron and Robert break up and then have Robert sleep with Rebecca. They could still have the exact same story they have now, (Aaron's insecurity, Rebecca feeling upset and used at being 2nd best, Seb born) but without playing into that bad bi stereotype. It was almost like they wanted to use it. It left a sour taste in my mouth." - Bi Emmerdale fan

Rebecca says she is furious at being used by Robert who admits he was drunk the night before

"Emmerdale can still write Robert as a soap villain as well as bisexual and not fall into negative stereotypes. It can easily be done if they listen to the bi community. I hope they will in future." - Danielle, 21, lesbian

"I love Emmerdale so much and I have watched for ages. I think it's the best soap on tv by miles, but I still feel uncomfortable with some of the biphobia from last year and also how they didn't address it. We are loyal fans, many of us LGBTQIA+, and we have come to this show and supported it for a long time. We were drawn to Robron as a couple because they're not stereotypes and they break the usual moulds. To know you have that following and so many LGBTQI+ people rooting for them and relating to them, and then giving them the worst possible most homophobic storyline was hurtful. We came to watch a complicated love story played by two amazing actors. Robron were different because despite being a popular m/m couple they didn't fill the usual tropes. That was what was special about them. I can't help but think the magic has gone now. The show can never get back what they've done. I hope it was worth it to them." - Biromantic asexual fan

Fan favourite couple Robron split up in 2017 following a cheating storyline and Rebecca White's pregnancy with Robert's child

"Emmerdale wrote Robert as the stereotypical manipulative bisexual and then had him beaten up by a gay man (Lawrence). Because of the way they wrote it, it came across to viewers that he deserved it. Do Emmerdale not realise the violence bi men face? The reason we face violence is because of representations like 2017 Robert Sugden. People thought Robert deserved to get hurt (and he had been awful so he did to be honest) but in context that's sick. The show wrote him as the most terrible bisexual stereotype only to write his comeuppance that viewers were manipulated into thinking he deserved. They made a choice to write him that way and then have him be brutalised. They maintained the narrative that he deserved it. Dangerous and irresponsible." - David, bisexual

Robert Sugden was attacked by Lawrence White after manipulating his family

"Not being funny but if you had your first trans character end up being confused and going back to the first gender they were given, or had them assault someone in a bathroom, or showed them as a predator, or all of those things, people would be able to see why that's irresponsible. That's essentially what Emmerdale did to Robert Sugden and the bi community. It was like they went out of their way to make sure he filled every bad stereotype last year, even if that meant them going back on his character growth and common sense. He became the character he was in 2015, only even worse, which erased so much of his development to make this plot work. I mean they also changed Rebecca's character completely so she was a new person she had never been before and Aaron just wasn't really on screen at all until they needed him to be magically over things or make Robert feel guilt with the new relationship. The three characters suffered but I think honestly the bi thing is the worst of all and without doubt has only made the world a worse and more intolerant place. " - LGBT fan

Robert spent much of 2017 seducing and manipulating the White family

"Poor Robert got a seriously raw deal. What other character from a marginalised group has had their coming out story and the story of their trauma and shame so horrifically used and abused for drama? It's the worst coming out story I have seen. The fact they chose to do it directly before the big cheating storyline was misjudged at best. All it did was reinforce negative stereotypes. If they had done that with their first gay or trans character (fallen into negative stereotypes immediately) there would be uproar. But because bi men are such a vulnerable group that people are already discriminatory and judgmental towards, it was allowed to slide." - LGBT fan

"Aaron had one of the best and most sensitive coming out stories, whereas Robert had one of the worst. Robert's was all about plot and was out of character for that time and also fed into negative ideas about bisexuality. In comparison Aaron's was everything you could want. It shows that when Emmerdale put their minds to it they can do great things. Unfortunately they did not seem to try with Robert which is disappointing for their one canon bi character. They could improve this by talking to bisexual people or having bisexual writers, and not relying on stereotypes." - D, gay

"For me there was a lot of biphobia in Emmerdale and nobody ever really said anything about it. Rebecca told Robert he just craved novelty and that because he was into men now going with her wouldn't count. She asked Aaron what the rules were when him and Robert were married about him sleeping with men and women. This was all very offensive and I feel like the show forgot about it. Hearing those things hurt because I hear that all the time. I don't hate Rebecca but I think those things she said were bad, and then after she told Robert Aaron couldn't give him what she could, they wrote her having Robert's child. It felt like a kick in the teeth. I wish the show would have done things differently. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if the characters who were biphobic had apologised but now it just looks like they were right. I don't think people would have been okay with having someone be very homophobic to Aaron and it not being argued with, but it's like some shows don't think bi people matter as much. I don't think Robert's bisexuality was shown respect. He can still be a bad character if they want but it wasn't right they put in all those terrible biphobic things from the other characters so we had to hear it. That was not nice for me as a bi person." - Jess, bisexual

Rebecca asks Aaron what the rules will be when he is married to Robert with regard to sleeping with both men and women, since he is bisexual

"2017 for Robert & Aaron was a disaster. Let's start with the whole marriage fiasco. At the time it made sense within the context of the story but now looking back the whole thing was insensitive at best. Speaking from personal experience my husband and I waited to marry so that it meant something. Here in the US until the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality it was different state by state. We waited 15 years for it to be legal everywhere so the fake marriage was disappointing especially when it was revealed that it was just to make the cheating scheme that much more powerful. Next on my list is Aaron becoming a nanny to Robert's....illegitimate son and I'm being polite here! Making Aaron into a doormat to facilitate this mess is ridiculous, remember what I said about not changing Aaron's character earlier? So now we have the stereotypical "accommodating gay" that Aaron has become." - Rich, LGBT

Robert and Aaron's wedding ceremony in February 2017 was held in the pub, and wasn't legally binding

"I think it was strange that Aaron and Robert's marriage wasn't legal, because that is something we have fought for and would mean something. It is the same with how Aaron is with Seb. He is not his legal guardian because Emmerdale had Seb through cheating and not something better like adoption or surrogacy. It doesn't feel like it is breaking boundaries or teaching anyone anything. I think viewers need to see that gay people can get legally married and have children. Those are the things we are fighting and have fought hard for. It's sad for Aaron's character (because he means so much to the gay community and we have watched him grow up) that his first child is through cheating. Everything else in his story has felt so fresh and educational. It feels like because he is a gay man he just has to accept all this. I wanted Aaron to have a family of his own, and although Seb is his family now, I think Seb should have been added to the family in a less offensive way." - Kirsty, bisexual

"By their own admission, EMMERDALE seems to operate on a 'if we can write it for straight characters, we can write it for LGBT characters'. They don't seem to take LGBT realities into account when developing their storylines. They work with charity and organizations for other important storylines, why are organizations like GLAAD, Stonewall or even ITV's own LGBT group not involved when creating storylines?" - Wolfie, LGBT (@Golden_Gaytime)

Aaron with Robert's son, Sebastian White

"If Emmerdale use charities and special groups to write their important stories (which is a good idea) then I think they needed to treat their bisexuality storyline with the same respect. They should have spoken to bi charities and bisexual people in order to understand what would help and harm the community. Unfortunately what they did caused harm. I think it was an accident because they didn't think about the power they had and how people already viewed bisexual people, but they still should have thought more about it. An apology or some recognition of the terrible missteps would be a good thing in my opinion." - LGBT fan

"I have to mention when Robert cheated!!! I know he is a cheat historically which is understandable but the way it was done was very misjudged and irresponsible. He was the first bi man to be honest about that on the show and then he went and did that! People were saying disgusting things about bi people after that (on social media, twitter Facebook etc). They thought he did it because he was bi and could not choose. They were wrong of course, but the show should have made sure people never thought that. They might have harmed the bi community and that makes me sad. A lot of my bi friends who watch felt awful about that storyline and had to defend themselves in the fandom, because a lot of people were blaming it on Rob's bisexuality! They were saying it meant bi people couldn't be trusted to be faithful. And now there is a baby it means the story can't ever be forgotten. I don't understand why Emmerdale did it because if they wanted a baby for Robron to look after then they could have done that in other ways. It didn't make sense to me at all. I know a lot of people still find the storyline hard because now Robron are stuck with the product of the biphobic storyline and it's a constant reminder. It will always be there now." - Bri, LGBT fan

Robert Sugden with his son Sebastian

"One day people will look back on this Robron storyline and the poor bisexual representation Emmerdale gave us and it will be infamous. I can only hope and pray Emmerdale do more research when it comes to Matty's storyline as a trans man, and with Vanity. I couldn't bear for them to be given the same harmful stereotypes Robron had. It's not only lazy, but it's irresponsible. I do think the show should be ashamed of it. I am sorry to say that and I love so much about Emmerdale and am thankful for them, but that storyline is really really awful. It makes me feel sick to think about. If you asked Donald Trump or someone like that to come up with how Robron could get a baby he would probably pick something like that. I mean it's homophobic, biphobic, and sexist enough for someone like him! There's also dodgy consent too. Emmerdale should build a wall next." - LGBT fan

"Emmerdale could have used Robert, their most scheming bisexual character, to break boundaries. I think it would have been incredibly powerful to see a man who previously filled every negative stereotype, who cheated and lied and schemed, finding the man he loved and showing that he could be faithful and true. What a chance for a learning experience for viewers that could have been! That's what they need to know. That bi people can bet faithful. They can fall in love and be satisfied. They don't need both. The fact Robert was such a stereotypical bisexual character would only have made that story better. It would have taught biphobic viewers so much. And they could still have added Seb if they wanted. All it would have taken would be for Robert to have split with Aaron for a while. Hell, he could have even tried dating Rebecca because he was lonely and she was kind to him! Anything but what they did. They showed that even the most in love bisexual, the most devoted, will still cheat. It's mad!" - Christine, LGBT fan

"Okay the elephant in the room is Seb. I don't mind him (because he's just a baby) and it's not his fault how he came into the world, but the way Emmerdale chose to introduce him was unbelievably offensive. I couldn't believe it! I know some fans wanted to see Robron with a child and that could have been an amazing story for them, to show how two men can be fathers together and raise a happy child, but the way Emmerdale chose was the worst possible. It is what I have come to expect from homophobic programmes. I never expected Emmerdale to have Robron get a child through something so harmful and damaging. It's a bad stereotype. That male couples can't be fathers unless a woman is involved, and also using the bisexuals as cheats even after they are in love and committed trope. I haven't been able to enjoy their stories ever since. I don't mind Seb because I think seeing Robron as dads is a cool idea, but I can't ever really get over how the show chose to brought him in. I wonder how that happened. They must have known it would be disrespectful and upsetting, and they've never done anything like that before." - Sophie, bisexual

Baby Sebastian was born in November 2017, and his parents are Robert Sugden and Rebecca White

"I love Robron and I think they are a good couple. I have enjoyed watching them because they are played really well and the writing has been good. They are very complicated. They were the most popular LGBT couple which is good, but the show gave them a baby with a cheating story where they had a bisexual man sleep with a woman. It felt like a bad cliche stereotype and I thought Emmerdale would have chosen something better. It would have been nice to see adoption or something like that that LGBT people can relate to. People would have been interested as well because it would have been with Robron who people liked a lot in lots of countries. They have a lot of fans and it is sad they have a baby that way. Gay and bi men don't need a woman to have a child. Or if they do they do surrogacy. It cannot be undone now but it will always feel disappointing." - Jenna, 28, bisexual

"I know Emmerdale wanted to write in a baby for Robron. I remember Iain saying that he thought Aaron feeding a baby would be cute. And viewers did want that (or some did). But they didn't want to just see them holding a cute child. They wanted to see an LGBT couple adopt or go through surrogacy. When they said they wanted Robron as parents, they wanted that rich emotional story that would inspire others and help the world move forward. They wanted to see the struggles and the process on screen, as something that would further bond Robron as a couple, and really do some good in the world. As something that could have delved into Robert and Aaron's own issues with their childhoods and parents (something a lot of LGBT viewers have in common with them) and become something beautiful. Instead Emmerdale just threw in a baby through cheating. So I guess if they wanted a cute baby being held by Robert and Aaron they got their wish. But that's not what the viewers wanted, and it was a cheap waste of a valuable potential story that now can never have the same impact. I am sure Robron can go on to do these things, but they already have this child. They'll never be able to show that wholesome and beautiful experience of an LGBT couple making that choice and being first time parents together. Especially in light of recent events (for example with Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black who experienced so much hatred for their choice to have a baby son through surrogacy), Emmerdale were perfectly poised to tackle this relevant storyline. I can't believe they threw that chance away, and for what?" Claudia, bisexual

"Rebecca was used as a walking womb for Robron to have a baby. That's what happened when you look at it now. What happened to gay couples having children and. being happy together without a woman involved? Rebecca carried the child for as long as the plot needed Robron apart then almost as soon as he was born and Robert bonded with it she was badly injured and had to give him to Robert and Aaron who suddenly reuinted. I really hope they didn't give their female character a brain injury just so Robert and Aaron got a cute baby. It's not even something most of the fans wanted and it's messed with the characters forever. I can't lie I'm uncomfortable with how Rebecca got used and how now most people think it would be better if she was out of the picture and Robron had her son. No way it wouldn't. Emmerdale made her disposable. You have people hoping she dies because they want Robron to have Seb without her around. I even get why. It's because they want Aaron to be able to have a son with Robert without her there. Who wanted a Robert and Rebecca baby? Not me. Not even either of them did until the show needed angst for Robron. Rebecca deserves better than being reliant on Robert who treated her family so badly, and Robron deserve better than bringing up a child through cheating and having the mother always around to make it heteronormative." - LGBT fan

Rebecca White smiles joyfully down at her newborn baby boy

"I can't believe Emmerdale decided to have Robron have a child by using a female character as a womb. They keep saying that's not the story they are telling but it is. They made a strange situation to make it happen (so they got Robert drunk because he wouldn't have done it sober, and had him cheat on Aaron so he would still be a soap villain instead of have him and Aaron just break up properly over the drugs stuff - which would have made more sense to be honest) and then they had Rebecca get pregnant, even though it made no sense for her to want that child. They added a plot about Rebecca having an abortion before that traumatised her even though that made no sense with her earlier story and her being friends with Robert and wanting him back constantly. And then to add insult to injury to what was already a story full of overused homophobic and sexist tropes, they gave Rebecca brain damage so she had to give her baby to Robron. So they obviously wanted this to be a way for Robron to have a child. Which begs the question why do it like this? Why be so offensive and mess with all three of those characters? They've turned the joy of LGBT parenthood (which has been fought for and is still a controversial issue people need to know about) into something terrible. It's a burden on Aaron he has had to accept as a gay man and does for Robert.

They had him say he would get over it and do his best not to resent the child, which feels unhealthy and unfair on him as a character. Aaron deserved to love his child from the start. His and Robert's. Not be added like a spare part as the gay man. It's used bisexual stereotypes for Robert and also had the baby conceived under a non-consensual situation after which he was victim blamed and written as the villain. And then probably worst is that they took Rebecca and made her carry the child and then made it so she couldn't even look after her own son, so that Robert and Aaron could have him. It's terrible. I can't enjoy the scenes because of all these reasons. I either hate that Aaron is dealing with this, or I feel bad for Rebecca and think it's wrong that she can't look after her son who she loves. I can't believe they made something so joyous into something miserable and that has upset so many people. You know there's a problem when people are looking at the LGBT parents and thinking the baby should be with its mother. It's backwards." - LGBT fan

Following a car accident, Rebecca White had to hand her son Sebastian over to Robert Sugden and Aaron Dingle, as she was unable to care for him herself and cannot be alone with Seb

"Using a female character to be a donor to the male male couple was bad anyway but the way this was done only made it worse. Emmerdale probably could have got away with it if they'd listened to early criticism and throughout the story had done their best to fix what they could, but they didn't listen and now so many LGBT fans are angry and upset. Every scene with Emmerdale's most popular couple, and an LGBT couple which mean so much to so many people, is now shadowed by this plot. It's the sort of storyline someone might write if they wanted to show LGBT parenthood in the worst light they could get away with. I think that's why some people think Emmerdale doesn't support the LGBT community (even though I think they do). They just made a mistake and stuck with it instead of making things better." - LGBT fan

"The way they wrote other characters reaction to Rebecca and Robert having a baby was offensive to me. If it was a straight couple, people would have been on Aaron's side and supported him. They would have been upset about the break up of a marriage, but instead Aaron's family weren't there for him, and people seemed to expect him to just get over it. Nobody was horrified about the break up of this family, and I think it's because they were two men. They seemed to think (especially characters like Victoria) that a man and a woman having a baby was more important than two men who were married and who had had their family torn apart. Everyone rallied around Rebecca, but where were the people to support the real victim? Aaron was the victim. But as a gay man they wrote that he had to accept it. If Rebecca had broken up a straight couple other characters would have been fuming with her. It just shows they don't view the LGBT couples as the same. It was like it wasn't a big deal. Surprise surprise the straight women became the victim and Aaron just had to suck it up and accept what happened as a gay man. I'm fed up of LGBT relationships not being seen as 'real' by people and like they don't matter or are just pretend families." - Ryan, gay

"Just after Seb was born had Diane tell Robert that Jack would be proud of him and looking down happy, which felt so wrong considering Jack beat Robert when he found out he was bi, but now would be pleased with this heteronormative baby even though it broke Robert's LGBT family. The message came through loud and clear. I bet Jack WAS pleased because it was such a homophobic decision." - Ann, LGBT fan

Diane Sugden tells Robert his father Jack would be proud of him on the day of Sebastian White's birth

"Emmerdale should consider topical issues for LGBT individuals/couples relevant today. The NEED to ‘marry’, have a family of their own (without the need to introduce a female donor to produce the child)." - Kats, 38, lesbian

"She's always going to be there now. She's always going to have that with you. It's always going to be in my face what you two did - those were Aaron's words and the words of most viewers. For some reason Emmerdale wrote a heteronormative story where the m/m couple now are constantly tied to this baby and its mother. Without the cheating it would have been bad but bearable. With it, it's unacceptable. Aaron is a valuable gay character people relate to and have watched grow up. Doing this to him, and to the viewers, was sick. The gay man just had to get over it. Like always. It's really clear the show is telling us that Aaron as a gay man can't have that with Robert. He can't give him what Rebecca can (those were Rebecca's words), and this is a soap in 2017-2018. They chose to do this to Robron. Were they just too uncomfortable with a real LGBT family? Did they think they'd get complaints if they didn't have a mother involved? They lost respect from me, and now I don't enjoy Robron. I watch for Vanity and now Matty. As a gay man you have no idea what hearing that did, and what now seeing Seb with Robron all the time means and seeing how Aaron just has to sit and smile and put up with it for the relationship with the man he loves to work. It's just what Aaron said, and the fact the show had him say that shows they understood. You and her, it's not over. It can never be over now - Aaron's words again, and what Emmerdale chose when they had every other option under the sun." - Matt, LGBT fan

Robert and Rebecca smile at their baby son

"The truth is that unless they kill Rebecca off or she leaves we and Robron are stuck with her forever. It's not about her as a person, it's what she represents and the heternormative biphobic storyline. People want Rebecca to just leave Robron alone and vice versa. No straight couple would be treated like this." - Lynn, LGBT fan

"Even the Robron engagement party was all about Rebecca and Aaron did nothing but stand behind Robert while he worried about his baby momma! Talk about insulting!" - LGBT fan

Robert goes outside during his engagement party to read Rebecca's memory book, and Aaron comes out to find him

"This whole situation has made Aaron look like a mug and we're also supposed to actually like the woman who arrived to split up the gay couple, was insulting about bisexuality, acted like some creepy predator, slept with Robert and then acted like she had nothing to do with anything and no blame like it was the immaculate conception, without one apology to Aaron, telling him to leave Robert, while being rude to the little girl whose family she selfishly split. Robert had a year long redemption and will be being redeemed for this for the rest of his life. Rebecca the straight woman somehow gets away with it all though. They've stuck Robron with the worst woman imaginable and we're supposed to think she's a saint. It's like they think we should be lucky she gave us her womb to give Robron the greatest gift of all of a child that they couldn't have themselves. I'm surprised they haven't had Aaron thank her yet or invite her to be the best man at his wedding instead of Liv, or invite her to marry him and Robert so the three of them can always be together. Maybe he will even step aside so she can marry her one true love Robert and he can babysit their child. That sounds bitter but I am bitter. It's an insult to gay men. Aaron's the babysitter in this situation. It's not his child unless they kill Rebecca, which really is even more insulting. There should not have been three people involved here. One will have to go at some point, and come on it's not going to be Aaron." - LGBT fan

"The moment LGBT fans started saying how offensive last year's Robron story was I expected Emmerdale to listen and understand and make changes. But they didn't listen. So many people explained that it wasn't about the couple, it was about what it meant for LGBT viewers and the offence it caused. Emmerdale had so many chances to improve the story as it went along, even if they couldn't change it entirely. I'm disappointed and I am confused more than anything because Emmerdale say they want to help LGBT people, and I do believe they mean well, but they didn't listen to that and still don't, and it was such a huge thing they did. The amount of bi and homophobia that storyline caused is unforgivable, and that hurt LGBT viewers." - LGBT fan

"People think the criticisms come from straight fangirls who love Robron, but it's mostly coming from our community. What Emmerdale did with Robron was the worst they could do for us as viewers. They made Aaron endure homophobia in prison so that they could create a biphobic cheating plot - which was bad enough as it was! But they somehow made it even worse by adding a child through this storyline and then having Aaron and Robert split, and last (and worst to me) having Aaron accept it as a gay man, as though it was the best he could get. It felt like they were saying the best a gay man could hope for was a baby this way and that he should almost be grateful. Now they are writing Aaron as happy about it, and it's not realistic at all. As a gay man he deserved better, and even though I am not bisexual, I have many bisexual friends and they think what the show did to Robert to make this storyline happen was terrible. All it has done is make homophobic viewers think that bi people can't be faithful, and that gay men should be happy to get a baby in any way they can. They they should even be *grateful* to the woman, even if it's cheating. Every time I see Aaron have to be in a scene with Rebecca I want to claw my eyes out. I can't believe he has to put up with her in his life forever through Sebastian. The only redeeming quality here is how Danny Miller plays Aaron around Rebecca. He seems to understand what an insult it is at least. But then he has always understood Aaron." - Mark, 38, gay

Aaron Dingle holds Sebastian White

"The scenes where they have Aaron suddenly loving Seb out of nowhere don't work. They could have made it work if they'd showed them bonding and him being a stepdad, but they gave us practically nothing and now the baby that made Aaron harm himself again is suddenly okay with him? The plot dictates it, but it makes no sense. Clearly Emmerdale just wanted him to be okay with it so him and Robert get a baby. It doesn't matter how the characters would actually feel. Why would Aaron think about adopting Seb anyway? They think Rebecca is abroad. He can't just adopt the baby that is Rebecca's. It could have been heartwarming but it's rushed and feels like a disservice to Aaron Dingle's character. He's one of Emmerdale's best but they dragged him into this. Thank god Danny Miller is such a good actor because he makes it almost seem believable." - LGBT fan

"They thought that making Aaron hold a cute baby would make us all forget how offensive the story was, but I am a gay man and I will not forget. Aaron means so much to us, and they did this to him. That is his chance at fatherhood. His first chance after all he has gone through with his own dad. How could Emmerdale have chosen that?" - gay male fan

Aaron recently told Robert he would like to adopt Sebastian if Rebecca doesn't come back

"What I don't get is that there were so many options for giving Robron a child, but they chose the most offensive one possible to every character involved. They managed to be biphobic, homophobic and sexist all at once. They got Rebecca pregnant and then gave her a brain injury so she can't look after her own child, and now Robron have him. They used her like a womb for the story. And Robron deserved their own child through a good storyline like adoption or surrogacy. It was bad for every character and still is to me." - LGBT fan

"Rebecca White. It's not her fault but the storyline with her was honestly so bad. She's a good character otherwise and no disrespect meant to the actress at all, but the way they keep inserting her into the Robron storyline and have done since she arrived is too much. Not only was she constantly and verbally biphobic, not only did she keep trying to break them up, but then they had her sleep with drunk Robert and have his child, and now because she has a brain injury Robert has to look after her almost, in a way that wouldn't be usual for a coparenting situation. It's not right and feels like the show were uncomfortable about having two dads in an LGBT family, and so they needed to keep having the woman close. Even at Robron's engagement party the plot was about Rebecca. It's a good plot and again I think Rebecca's story with Lachlan is interesting, but they need to let Robron be now. Okay if she is Seb's mum she should be part of Seb's life (even if that storyline was bad to me), but that doesn't mean she needs to be part of Robrons. If they want to move forward they need to keep these characters separate. Too much damage has been done and it would be better for everyone. It would be the same if they attached a disrespectful biphobic or lesbophobic male character to Vanity for a long period of time." - Millie, bisexual

Rebecca White arrived in the village in 2016, determined to have former brother in law Robert Sugden for herself and expose Chrissie and Lachlan's scheme against Andy Sugden

"Shortly before the Super Soap Week scene, Emmerdale introduced a character called Rebecca White and she was portrayed as very biphobic (together with her sister Chrissie). Her comments are typical of the biphobic stuff bisexual people have to endure on a daily basis. For example: “Fine, you are into men. In that case, going with me won’t count. “ “So I guess, the question you have to ask yourself is, just how gay are you?” “You’re not gay Robert, you just don’t like rules”. “We were family once, until you decided a woman could no longer satisfy you.” “You certainly never gave any indication you were gay when you were sharing my bed.” “With Robert being bi, I mean sleeping with other men gotta be a big no no, right? What about sleeping with other women?” “Obviously still got quite an eye for the ladies, isn’t that right Robert?” “Say you love him all you like, he can’t give you what I can, and you know it...

Rebecca tries to convince Robert that since he's 'into men now', 'going with her won't count'

...Her views on bisexuality have never been challenged or contradicted by Emmerdale, which implies to the viewers that they are acceptable. The fact that Emmerdale chose to prove the biphobic comments right and to reduce Robert's statement about not cheating to a lie is one of the worst examples of (unconscious possibly) biphobia ever shown on British TV.

This attitude to bisexuality is very damaging, but the prejudices held by some of the general audience have just been reinforced and endorsed by Emmerdale. This would have been an excellent opportunity for Emmerdale to educate their viewers on bisexuality, instead they have proven Rebecca’s prejudiced views right by choosing this storyline development. I have to question who made the decision to run this storyline and why Emmerdale / ITV did not consult LGBTQ+ organisations to get their advice?

When we finally had a character come out as bisexual, it should have been their responsibility to portray bisexuality responsibly. Being bisexual is challenging enough - not quite accepted by fellow LGBTQ+s, viewed with suspicion by straight people, always having to defend or explain ourselves - and I believe the portrayal of Robert as the damaging stereotype of a bisexual man (cheating, lying, one person not enough) has done a lot of damage to how bisexuality is viewed." - Kay, LGBT viewer

Robert Sugden first opened up about his bisexuality to Aaron Dingle during Super Soap Week 2016

"Are we all ignoring the fact Rebecca slept with the drunk bisexual dude and then acted like he had forced her into something and the show seemed to agree with her or..." LGBT fan

"I have no idea why they wrote the woman who would go on to be the mother of Robert's child and sleep with him when he was drunk (I think there was a consent issue there but what do I know) as someone who was biphobic to him all the time and invalidated his sexuality, and also who schemed to get him into bed even though he kept rejecting her. It's no wonder people don't like this plot. If they had to do it they could at least have chosen someone who didn't have that history, like a random ONS or someone who Robert didn't keep rejecting when he was sober. Now Robron are stuck with her and Aaron has to play nice with the woman who did all this. It's like he's become a doormat and Aaron used to be way more fiery than that. I've seen this happen to so many gay characters in shows. They have to put up with everything and accept it. They're not allowed to be angry. Their anger is shown as wrong just like LGBT anger is always shown when we stand up and say how we feel. " - LGBT fan

In controversial scenes, Rebecca White found drunk Robert Sugden in a trashed room of Mill Cottage

"Consent consent consent. Emmerdale wrote a story where a woman took advantage of a drunk and vulnerable friend who had turned her down every time when he was sober. Every time. She was aware he was vulnerable, upset, and not acting like himself. He would not have been allowed to drive a car in that state, yet Rebecca slept with him? She admitted she knew his words and actions came from drunkenness many times. What we witnessed was at worst an assault or at the very least morally dubious, but because it was a woman on man the show just hushed it up. They wrote Robert as the villain when what happened was not right on any level. They even had Rebecca say he used her, when she was well aware of his state and said so herself. It was the final straw for me. I had to detach from the show after that for a while. If the genders were different there would be protests. If someone had done that to drunk Liv, or drunk Rebecca, or drunk Victoria, people would be angry, but they thought Robert had it coming because of his sexual history and sexuality. That's victim blaming. And now it's embedded in Robron's story though Seb (the product of that assault) forever. I want to include it here in the LGBT survey because I think the fact Robert is a bisexual male character added to this idea of people wanting to have him as the villain, as a typical 'scheming bisexual' and it made people not think about the situation that was portrayed logically." - unhappy LGBT fan

Many viewers have questioned scenes in which Rebecca White acknowledged Robert Sugden's drunk state, and then slept with him, conceiving baby Sebastian

"If you're too drunk to drive a car, you're too drunk to have sex. Rebecca would not have got in a car Robert was driving. She didn't just make a mistake. She realised the state of him and mentioned it several times. She had her wits about her, and he was clearly a mess. If Emmerdale wanted to give Robron a baby, they REALLY could have done it without this non-consensual mess. We watched Aaron bravely speak up about his own assaults, and then Emmerdale gave us this new assault to create Seb. They literally wrote a female predator, but I don't even think they realised they did it. Watch her story back and imagine her as a male character and Robert as a female. You'll see what I mean. I suppose Robert is just a scheming manipulative bisexual who deserved what he got in their eyes. Drunk or not, vulnerable or not, it had to be his fault. How could it not be? He's the bisexual villain who has been manipulative and devious since birth." - bisexual Emmerdale fan

"Emmerdale accidentally wrote an assault storyline in the middle of their biphobic cheating storyline, just when you think it can't get any worse. If you go after someone who keeps turning you down when sober, and the only time they show interest is when they are drunk on the floor with a bottle, you've got serious problems. It was a joke, and then what followed was Robert having to redeem himself over months and months. He's done some bad stuff in his life he needs to apologise and make up for but that was actually not one of them. The one time he isn't actually in the wrong they do this. What a way to undermine male victims of assault. They actually planned this as the set up for the LGBT couple's first child." - Kes, LGBT fan

Rebecca asks Robert if he wants both she and Aaron. Robert tells her he only wants the man he's going to marry.

"Just want to remind people that when Robert was drunk after breaking up with Chrissie and he came onto Aaron, Aaron pushed him away, got him a drink of water to sober him up, made sure he was safe, and then left. That's how you care for a friend in need. Just saying. Making Bex the victim of all this made me want to laugh. Of all the people to make the mother of Robert's child... they picked a blatant vocal biphobe with no respect for the LGBT relationship." - LGBT fan

When a drunk Robert leaned in to kiss Aaron after his breakup with Chrissie, Aaron pushed him away and left due to his inebriated state

"This probably isn't the sort of answer you guys are expecting but I have to speak the truth. I hope you will not mind. Seb was conceived when Rob was drunk and Rebecca knew what she was doing. I don't mean to be against Rebecca because I do like her and since the crash she has been sweet and funny. I don't want her to die. I hope she gets away from Lachlan. I watched the scene and I felt sick because Robert was on the floor and he did not remember he text her. The next day he clearly regret it and tells Aaron he was hammered and Bex says she knows he had drunk a lot. That is not right. It is not in answer to the question about LGBT things but it is a part of the story so it is important. How could Robert be to blame for that when that was the situation? He lost everything because of it. I wanted to cry. Yes he has been cruel to Bex many times and he should feel sorry but there was no condom and she got pregnant during this and it was not right. He said no all other times she wanted to sleep with him and the only time he agreed was when he was drunk and she knew. He said his words with alcohol and she did know this at the time. I was thinking how this would be if it happened to other characters maybe a woman. Now there is a baby who is innocent of all things but still the situation is not good. I wish Aaron would know and understand how it happened. He has been in bad situations and knows these things. He was angry with Robert for cheating but if Robert had not been drunk he would not and never had before even when Rebecca kissed him and tried to get him to. He only went to her to help with Andy and he said this to her. Robert had no choice over the baby she kept. I used to think it was her plan but now I wonder what happened for it to be written like that, because it was very wrong. Rebecca is not bad and she is sweet so why did they write that? It is scary how it happened and people did not realise. This thing broke up Robert and Aaron and changed so much." - LGBT fan

Robert gives Rebecca a gift to thank her for giving him a perfect son

"I can't believe that Emmerdale had Rebecca sleep with Robert even though he was drunk and upset and supposed to be her friend, and then they made him the bad guy. I think it was to do with him being bi. People think when you are bi you are bad and manipulative. If the genders were switched people would be really angry at Robert for taking advantage of a married, drunk, and vulnerable Rebecca. But they wrote it like he was the one in the wrong, which he would have been if he was sober and emotionally stable, but Rebecca was supposed to be his friend. She said herself that Robert was drunk and needed to go home to bed (there is proof in the episode and others that he was drunk and she knew), but she still slept with him and didn't use protection. I think that was unforgivable. Because Robert was a bisexual man the show wrote him like he was the villain. They said he had used Rebecca, but in reality they wrote him as drunk and vulnerable. He had even trashed his own house! They made him the stereotypical bisexual manipulative villain but they based it all on a lack of consent. I don't know why they wrote it that way. Why didn't they just make him sober or have him break up with Aaron and sleep with Rebecca if they had to make him do that? There are so many problems with it. People think bi men deserve what they get if they are assaulted because they are 'promiscuous'. People knew Robert was drunk but people blamed him. Even Aaron did. That was a big mistake. Forget the other biphobia and homophobia, that in itself was a huge and devastating error." - LGBT fan (bi male)

"I'm not saying Robert was in the right with Rebecca in anything else. He used her to get his brother back and thought she could be useful. He used her feelings for him. Even the drunk things he said were bad and he shouldn't have said them, but the moment Rebecca slept with him it changed. It doesn't matter if someone is naked or begging you or wearing a tee shirt that says have sex with me. If they are drunk and vulnerable and you are aware of this then you don't go there period. Non negotiable. You could have loved that person all your life but if they constantly said no to you when they were normal and then only acted like they wanted it when so drunk they were sitting on the floor and just broken up and deeply upset, you are in the wrong for taking advantage. Rebecca knew what she was doing then and in that moment I switched sides. She crossed a line and then the result of that disgusting sick act became the baby Robron are probably going to bring up. They gave their first really big and popular m/m couple a baby born from female on male assault, then made the female attached to the couple, and also made her out to be the victim. Way to stick the assaulter to the victim for life. The BI MALE victim. Bi males are statistically vulnerable as we know and suffer this quite often." - Rachel, LGBT fan

During Super Soap Week 2016, Rebecca comes to the scrapyard to see Robert and is allowed in on the understanding she keep her hands to herself and stops trying to seduce him, as she now says she understands he is spoken for

"The one night stand Robert spent months having to make up for was essentially him being taken advantage of when drunk by the woman that didn't seem to ever understand the word no as evidenced by her relentless attempts to get him into bed and split him and Aaron when she got to the village. She was going to get Robert into bed somehow and it looks like she got her way. Unfortunately what should have been written as a serious piece about assault (like Hollyoaks did) ended up as Bex the martyr, Aaron the doormat, and Robert having some sort of scheming bisexual version of a mental breakdown. I do wonder how Robron will tell Seb about how he came into the world. It's not exactly a heartwarming tale. Hopefully he will ask why his mother slept with his drunk father in a ruined bedroom and then left after his dad passed out. A great storytime for Robron. I want Emmerdale to know that it's not cheating if you get taken advantage of when drunk by a 'friend' and that being bi doesn't automatically mean you are always up for it. Bex always did seem obsessed by the idea he wanted both men and women (aka her and Aaron). His attraction to women as a gender seemed like a green light to her." - Lucy, LGBT fan

Rebecca tells Robert she has a 'pretty decent gaydar', that he craves novelty, and jokes that he must think he's 'all over the style thing' since coming out

"I think Emmerdale could do better at listening to LGBT fans when they talk about something which has been offensive. A lot of us (gay, bi, lesbian, trans) think the Robron cheating storyline and how they got their baby was badly handled, but when fans say this, they are called bad fans. We're not bad fans! We really love the show and we care about the characters a lot. If the show makes a mistake or does something that is accidentally offensive, it would be nice if they could apologise. It's not nice to be called a 'hater' when all you are doing is saying that a storyline has been bad for a certain group of people. I understand if people are rude about it, but if people are just explaining how they feel then they should listen. Some LGBT websites (esp bi ones) have said the way Robert's story last year was handled was dangerous and potentially harmful, but there has been no comment. We just want Emmerdale to be better because we love it so much. They think it is just crazy fangirls, but it is all sorts of people. It is not about Robron, it is about representation. We would feel the same if it happened to Vanity. If people never spoke up (without being rude of course) then nothing would ever change. That is why I am happy to be writing this. I want Emmerdale to know without thinking I'm being rude." - LGBT fan

"This is a bit personal so I don't know if it will fit here but I have a story. It's a bit long but I hope it is okay. I had just come out as bisexual to my family around the time Robert came out. It meant everything to me. My family had watched Emmerdale for years and they didn't agree (and still don't) with me being bisexual. But them seeing that made them realise that it was real. I felt so happy and proud and I cried a bit. I related to what Robert said about feeling ashamed and people thinking it just meant not being able to decide or being a cheater. That helped me through a hard time. I think it was Maxine Alderton who wrote when Robert came out and I think she was so good and real with it. Then they had Rebecca trying to seduce Robert over and over, and he kept telling her no, which made me happy again. My family kept saying you couldn't trust someone who was bi, but I know you can. Robert and Aaron's love meant something to me because I want to be happy like them one day and to be accepted as myself.

When they had Robert cheat on Aaron while he was in prison it broke my heart. Not because of what happened to my favourite couple (not just that) but because my mum turned around to me and said that she had told me so. I apparently should have known because Robert was bi and it was bound to happen. She kept saying that it should have been expected. My family were very biphobic and agreed with everything people on the show said about Robert. They still haven't changed their minds and lots of people haven't. I am on Facebook and people were saying things about bi people after the episode and all the way after, about how Aaron shouldn't have trusted a bi person, and that we were warned when him and Rebecca said biphobic things. I kept trying to say that he didn't cheat because he was bi (I think it was bad he cheated anyway because I believe he really loves Aaron, and also that he was very drunk which was bad for other reasons) but now a lot of people still think he cheated because of that.

Robert is the only bisexual character I had ever seen on a show I watch with my family, and he is the only one they have ever seen. So now they think the are right about bi people and that he represents them. Sometimes I wonder about all the people who never knew about bisexual people and who only saw Robert. I think a lot of more elderly people probably only knew about bisexual people or saw them through Robert Sugden, and it makes me want to cry. I did cry a lot. Maybe Charity can say she is bisexual and that might change some things, but it will be hard to change people's minds and a first impression is so important. I think about how different things could have been if my family had seen that Robert was telling the truth and that because he found the person he loved, it didn't matter who threw themselves at him. But they didn't see that. I am sorry it is long but I hope this answers the question." - Charli, 17

Charity Dingle has had relationships with men and women, which some fans hope will lead to a positive bisexual storyline and representation

"Going forward I would like to see Vanessa and Charity continue their storyline with Ryan and getting justice for Charity. In comparison to how Robron were written, this way of introducing a child seemed respectful to me. It did not involve stereotypes and allowed for Charity and Vanessa to grow closer as a couple. I want to see Ryan as a part of their family and for them to show that two mums can work really well. I'm excited to see what Emmerdale do with Vanity, and hope they continue to do them justice. Emma and Michelle have perfect chemistry and represent the community in a great way." - Zoe, lesbian

"I think Charity should say she is bi because it will be a good story for bi people (because Robert's story made some upset) and it can also be good to hear a label. Not all people like labels but it can be good to see someone who is the same as you and know you are not alone." - Abi, bisexual

"What Emerdale can do to improve is fix the biphobic Robron narrative somehow (maybe with a parerntiy twist so Robert didn't sleep with Bex and the baby is Ross's so it shows he didn't actually cheat) and then build better representation by using Charity and maybe Vanessa as examples of bi people the audience can learn from. Vanessa might be gay but Charity seems to be bisexual. The only thing I have noticed is that the bi characters seem to be more scheming and villains and the gay ones not. In Robron and Vanity Charity and Robert are the bi ones, and they are the ones shown to be more difficult. Emmerdale could break that stigma if they wanted. They could add more bi characters too. Debbie could talk about being bi." - LGBT fan

"Emmerdale should do a surrogacy or adoption storyline for Robron. Vanity have already got kids so they couldn't do it, but it would be better to see two men going through that process instead of being landed with a baby through cheating." - Lewis, LGBT fan

Aaron Dingle and Sebastian White

"Last year Emmerdale prioritised a heteronormative baby over their most popular gay (m/m) couple, which sort of says it all. I am glad we have Vanity now because Robron have been ruined for me. I could get over it if Seb was out of the picture (and Rebecca who the show have inexplicably tied to Robron through him) but now he's being made part of their family and it's disgusting." - LGBT fan

"Having Robert and Aaron learn how to be parents to Liv would have been way more important and educational than any baby plot. Their family was already complete and did not need the added heteronormative child to make them legit and valid. Exploring the dynamic of Robron caring for Liv and making her happy and safe, and exploring their own backgrounds and parenting in the process would have been phenomenal as a character driven and inspiring storyline. They started it with Robert looking after Liv when Aaron was in prison and then dropped it in favour of adding the unnecessary and insulting new addition. Roblivion are and were an LGBT family made of love. They have earned that dynamic through good writing. Do we really need to see Robert with his child from cheating when we could be seeing him learning the same parenting lessons with Liv? Only after that has happened would it make sense for Robron to want to expand their family and look into options for that." - LGBT fan

Roblivion (Robert Sugden, Liv Flaherty, and Aaron Dingle) are one of Emmerdale's most popular family units

"When they had Robert say holding Sebastian was the best feeling he'd ever felt it was a joke. It undermines Roblivion and what they mean. Biology doesn't come first. Of course he will love his child fiercely as he should, but this whole biology meaning everything needs to stop. So Robert wanted to change for Seb but not for Liv or Aaron? This is why it would have been better if Robert and Aaron's baby was adopted. Roblivion represent that family is what you make it and who you love. Instead Emmerdale have gone for the whole magically holding your biological child gives you a redemption and means more than anything else route. A mistake for a character like Robert Jacob Sugden, who was not genetically related to his mother or his brother Andy. I would like to see Robron foster kids from difficult homes like their own growing up. It would be much more moving, inspirational, and true to who they are as characters, than having this biological baby through cheating. " - Jade, LGBT fan

Robert visits Jack Sugden's grave and tells him holding baby Sebastian is the best feeling he's ever felt

"If they wanted to show Robron with a cute baby they could have given them one through surrogacy, adoption, or made them godparents to another child. Victoria, who wanted a baby, could have had Adam's child for example. Then Robron would have been uncles. The quest to please straight viewers by showing Robron being heteronormative with a baby has alienated and hurt the LGBT viewers." - LGBT fan

"Essentially Robron's storyline last year was gay misery porn generated by the evil bisexual, all for a straight audience. As a result the straight fans now get to see Robron with a cute baby, but the show don't think about their many loyal LGBT fans who had to see stereotype after stereotype and now have to live with it because it looks like they are making Robron keep Seb." - gay fan

Baby Sebastian currently lives with Robert, Aaron, and Liv at Mill Cottage

"What Emmerdale could have done to save last year if they were determined to make Seb happen, was to have had Robert and Aaron split for a while. If Seb didn't come from cheating and dubious consent, things would be better. They could still have had Aaron struggle with it, but Robert wouldn't have been a cheating bisexual, he still could have stepped up for a son he wasn't expecting, and also Rebecca could have been portrayed as someone sympathetic instead of someone who slept with Robert while he was drunk and undergoing some sort of obvious breakdown! Then the show still have Seb. They can still do the coparenting. It's not ideal, but it doesn't fulfil those bad bisexual stereotypes, and also makes sense of why Aaron would later accept it all. It could have been done so much better. Robert and Rebecca could have been friends who didn't work out together because Robert loved Aaron. They didn't need to tick every bad bisecual stereotype for Robert's arc last year. It was unnecessary to the story and what they wanted to show now." - LGBT fan (female)

"Speaking as an Emmerdale fan it caused huge problems in fandoms (as in the online fandoms). There was a divide between bi and gay fans because a lot of bi people were trying their best to defend Robert's bisexuality and saying that it hasn't made him do what he did, where gay fans were starting to hate on them and Robert and saying that they should have expected it from Robert who was bisexual, and that Aaron shouldn't have been with him. A fandom of young LGBT people that used to be united started to split apart in places. Young bi people ended up losing friends. It sounds extreme but Emmerdale don't understand their fanbase sometimes. A lot of younger people love Emmerdale, and Robron are a worldwide phenomenon. I saw young bi people getting so much biphobia just from that storyline. They went to that fandom to feel safe and happy and accepted (because some didn't in their countries or with their families who were biphobic/homophobic) and then they ended up being just as upset in the place that was supposed to accept them. It hurt SO much. Emmerdale need to think of the consequences of their storylines for real people from vulnerable groups, because it's not just about making drama. It's about education and helping people and teaching and making people feel loved and accepted. So many of those people left the fandom. What if that was their only place to be with people like them? I think about it all the time." - 17, LGBT fan

Many fans are pleased to see Vanity representing f/f relationships in an older age bracket

"I am glad Charity and Vanessa are slightly older and have already had kids because otherwise I would be worried they would make Charity cheat with a man and have his child so that they could be mothers. I love the family Vanity are building with the kids they already have and I want to see that brought together more." - Beth, bisexual

"I would like a character to identify as lesbian. Vanessa is one of my favourite characters, I love her so much! It would be great for her to say the word. I know she might be bisexual, but it would be nice if they wrote her as lesbian, because some people still think it is a sort of dirty word! I would like Charity and Vanessa to talk about how they identify and maybe Vanessa could talk about how it is to come out as lesbian later in life. They have not let me down at all but it is something they could do to make things better." - Lily, 19, lesbian

Many viewers are interested to see if Vanessa will come out as lesbian, bisexual, or will choose not to use a label

"I have loved everything Emmerdale has done regarding LGBT but in future they could possibly have just a gay female character as they haven’t got one. Charity and Vanessa are both seen to be bi." - Ellie, bisexual

"Matty's storyline is educational and I would like to see them continue to show a trans perspective but with a character who has other things about them too. I like that Matty isn't just trans. He is a character with history and relationships. I hope they build on those." - LGBT fan

"Emmerdale are writing Matty's story well to me, and I hope they will consult with Ash and other trans people to make sure they do it justice. The best thing they can do is to talk to people from these groups so they can understand. It looks like they are doing that with Matty which is very exciting. The fact they have cast a trans actor will help because he will be able to know the experience and help with that stuff. I heard that Ash does write so they should ask him about storylines to see what he thinks would be a good way to help the community but also keep in character for Matty and the Bartons." - Vicky, LGBT fan

Matty Barton is a popular new addition to the show

"One of the main problems I have with Emmerdale’s LGBT characters is that sometimes their sexuality seems to be forgotten. Debbie’s possible bisexuality hasn’t been addressed since her relationship with Jasmine, and even if it’s just the fact that she either hasn’t fallen for another girl since, or doesn’t feel that she identifies as bisexual that’s fine- it would just be nice to have been recognised rather than left as a past story and never mentioned again. Another main problem that I feel a lot of other fans will have is the representation of Robert’s bisexuality - it was brilliant when he finally came out and told Aaron he identifies as bisexual, I know a lot of the fandom were overjoyed that we finally had that representation in the soap but then it felt like a kick in the teeth to have him cheat with Rebecca. I feel like it fuelled the stereotype of Bisexuality meaning “Greedy” and not being able to decide who you want. While I feel that a lot of this was down to Robert being in his typical emotional self-destruction mode I can’t help but wish that Emmerdale hadn’t gone down this route and played up to the stereotypes." - Kelsey, 25, bisexual (@FunGh0ulz)

Debbie Dingle and Jasmine Thomas

"I would love for Emmerdale to address Debbie Dingle's bisexuality and her relationship with Jasmine Thomas, because that meant a lot to me growing up. I really believed they loved each other. It would be great to see a bi character like Debbie in a relationship with a man, but still being proudly bi. Some people think your sexuality has to be the gender you are with, but if Debbie could speak about Jasmine, maybe to Joe, that would break some stereotypes. " - Amy, bisexual

"When Debbie and Jasmine were together it was a long time ago and a different society. They faced a lot a prejudice from other characters (which is understandable of the time). I have watched a lot of their scenes recently and it's great to see how far the show has come. I do think Emmerdale could have handled that better, but I know it's in the past. In the future, if they could talk about it I would love that. I think Debbie is bisexual so she could maybe talk to her mum about that now Charity is with Vanessa. That would be good to see. You don't often see a bisexual mum and daughter." - LGBT fan

Jasmine Thomas and Debbie Dingle

"As much as I love Emmerdale, they could do better. For example we have Debbie, Charity and Vanessa who have had both gay and straight relationships but yet they’re characters have not formally come out to whatever they identify as. Until recently Charity’s attraction to both women and men had been ignored. Until her relationship with Vanessa. And sadly the only bisexual character that has identified as bisexual ended up cheating which particularly didn’t bother me seeing as Robert character had always been a cheater long before coming out and probably will always be, though to be honest it didn’t help with bi representation. However what I hate about the storyline is they did it as a way to give Robron a baby. Not only that they completely re-wrote Rebecca as this soppy woman who’s chasing a married man and has no control over over her own body, I loved Rebecca when she first came in she seemed like a strong manipulative badass they completely victimized who she was. It’s 2018 a gay couple should be able to have kids with a cheating cliche storyline. Even though Robert is bisexual we hardly ever hear him talk about his past relations with men, I would love for Emmerdale to explore that, seeing as he left the village for 9 years. Lastly I didn’t like Robert coming out story it felt like a cheap cop out to destroy the image of a beloved and old character ( Jack Sugden). I would love for them to fix that and change the story." - Priscilla, asexual

"Going forward I think they can definitely improve on the affection side between homosexual couples such as Vanity and Robron. At the moment in the show it seems that affection between hetero couples are being displayed more often and more openly and it seems that the homosexual couples are more like friends." - Aimee, pansexual

Aaron and Robert share a kiss on the morning after their engagement

"I want to see more sexual stuff between the LGBT characters. Not in a pervy way, but since we have storylines about how Rodney and Misty and Jimmy and Nicola have sex (and lots of others) it feels strange that the m/m couple don't get heated scenes now. I don't want Emmerdale to make Robron boring. They are passionate and always have been. That is part of why they are exciting. I hope they are still able to keep that excitement and passion to their relationship, instead of keeping them at a distance all the time." - LGBT fan

"I think the writers could show more affection between Aaron and Robert like them holding hands in public and showing more affection at home. I know they can't include them having sex or anything on tv, but they could at least show them afterwards." - Chloe, 16

"Emmerdale need to make sure they are writing their LGBT couples with the same on screen affection as their straight ones. People get excited when Robron even nudge each other because recently they haven't been written like a couple in love. They should be acting more like a couple." - LGBT fan

Aaron and Robert exchanged vows for the first time in February 2017

"I have noticed that Aaron and Robert don't always act like a couple on the show. Danny and Ryan are brilliant and have good chemistry, but I want people to be able to see that m/m couples can be just as affectionate and loving as straight ones. I don't mean them having sex necessarily I just mean that little things like them holding hands or kissing on the cheek like other couples get would make them seem more realistic. Vanity have been really good with this, but it would be nice to see it with two men, because a lot of the time homophobic people find affection between men uncomfortable. It would be nice for Emmerdale to make people used to that in small ways that might make a difference." - Billie, LGBT

"Shows often like to desexualise LGBT couples so I hope Emmerdale won't do that with Robron and Vanity, who are both passionate couples." - LGBT fan

Charity and Vanessa kiss

"I think Emmerdale are doing wonderfully but even more queer characters won’t hurt, especially LGBT folks of colour." - Shanika (Neeko_F)

"I'd like to see more people of colour in Emmerdale and for them to be LGBT. There aren't many LGBT people of colour on tv. There can often be racism in LGBT spaces so it is important for straight cis viewers and the rest of the community to see queer people of colour on screen." - LGBT fan

"I think that in the future they could have a more diverse cast (though that goes for everyone). It is very white looking (though I am an American, so that is different). Include someone who isn't white! Include someone who is disabled and LGBT! I know there is a lot of pressure for Aaron and Robert to have their own child which could be interesting... But also, just showing that they live lives like everyone else is important as well." - Zander, 31, trans

Kasim Sabet was in a relationship with Finn Barton

"I want to see more people of colour in Emmerdale and for us to have representation of LGBT people of colour. Maybe Jessie's son could be LGBT? Or they could bring in someone else. Kasim was good but he was never in it again, and it would be nice for people to see that you can be a person or colour AND LGBT. I think Kasim was Muslim so that would be a good story, because people think that you can't be gay and Muslim, but you can. Maybe they could give the LGBT characters more friends too? I like the friendship between Vanessa and Robert because in real life we look out for each other and make connections because we have lots in common and some similar struggles. I liked seeing Robert help Vanessa, so more of their friendship would be good. I also hope Matty and Aaron become good friends. The LGBT characters should interact more." - Sam, pansexual

Vanessa Woodfield and Robert Sugden became friends after Robert tried to help Vanessa understand her sexuality. She returned the favour by encouraging heartbroken Robert to try and find love again after losing Aaron.

"Just to keep up as times change. To also develop a deeper understanding of the community to enhance the public to have more educated and meaningful conversations." - (@chxritydingle), lesbian

"I think some of the relationships that receive backlash should be looked at and reassessed instead of returning to the show" - Billie, 20, non binary lesbian

"I know that one of the writers on the show was fantastic because she was talking about the controversial Robert storyline last year and she listened to the concerns of people, and asked how it could have been done in a different way. Her approach was refreshing and I think the show should take that attitude on board going forward. If people are talking about the show it's usually because they love it and care about the characters and what it can do, not that they want to hate. I respect her so much for that." - LGBT fan

"I think Emmerdale should broaden their horizons with how they approach different coming out stories as not everyone comes out the same." - Jamie, 16, asexual

Aaron Dingle came out as gay in 2010 while in court

"I think they could do a better job of letting characters identity themselves as part of the LGBTQIA community (let Liv call herself asexual for example!) Such a popular soap has such an opportunity to help an older generation understand that sexual and gender identification is not new, it’s just now people are more comfortable with themselves." - Amanda, 31, bisexual

"There is always more that can be done, as public perception changes as does soap representation - and one can influence the other. I think it is important that Emmerdale continues to push boundaries and be proactive in introducing and supporting, as well as normalising, positive perceptions of LGBT lives" - (@VanityCharity), 32, bisexual

"Going forward, I just think they need to keep the relationships as realistic as they can in a soap and avoid any common LGBT tropes and stereotypes as this possibly could upset fans." - Lauren, 18, lesbian

"What can they do going forward? Listen to the community. I don't think Emmerdale have really listened to bi fans very much, which is part of the ongoing problem they now have. We know they want to help us and tell our stories with care, but it has to be a two way thing. If we are going to trust them with representation then they need to listen when they get things wrong. We will support them because they are there for us, and we truly love the cast who always show us love in return. But sometimes all they need to do is listen or accept when they have done something badly. An apology could make all the difference, because it shows they have listened and understand. It would make people more hopeful about the future." - LGBT fan

Vanity and Robron, Emmerdale's current LGBT couples

"Going forward, Emmerdale needs to show their LGBT+ viewers the acknowledgment, appreciation and respect that we deserve by taking responsibility and sincerely apologising when they produce offensive content that is disrespectful and harmful to us. It is essential for them to realise that they cannot tell any story they feel like with LGBT+ characters, as the rightfully negative and ongoing reaction to the Robron cheating/pregnancy storyline has made them well aware of. I also think that the show should consult and support LGBT+ charities and organisations who will educate them on the positive and negative histories and complexities of their LGBT+ characters identities. Which would also give them plenty of inspiration for future storylines that would educate non LGBT+ viewers, LGBT+ viewers who are struggling with their own identities, and LGBT+ viewers who deserve to see their lives and their history represented on screen.

The show are more than capable of doing this. And with the vast and diverse range of LGBT+ characters on the show now, they have the opportunity to produce the best LGBT+ content there can be, that would make LGBT+ viewers of every generation feel hopeful and heard. Our voices are valid and important, and we should never be silenced. Emmerdale have the power and responsibility to tell our stories and help our voices be heard." - Hannah, 22, pansexual


Thanks so much to everyone who got involved, and we hope this post has been a valuable part of the conversation about LGBT+ representation in soap. If you enjoyed this or found it interesting, please share. Part three of the series is asking fans if and why they find LGBT representation important in soap and on television. If you are LGBT+ and would like to get involved, send us a message on twitter or email us.

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