DIVA spoke to the reality dating show star about queer representation, parenthood, and conversations in the queer community
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY NETFLIX
If you followed Netflix’s new sapphic dating show Ultimatum: Queer Love, you’ll recognise Xander Boger. After issuing their partner an ultimatum – either they got married or they would break up – Xander was thrown into the deep end of reality TV.
Fans watched as Xander had to cope with the tumultuous feelings of falling in love with someone else (Yoly) whilst still not being ready to let go of their original partner, Vanessa. One and half years after the show was filmed, Xander joins us at an eye-wateringly early 6 am Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time to talk about life after Ultimatum: Queer Love.
Before you went on the show, did you know how big it was going to be?
I really didn’t. I don’t think that I had enough time to process it because Vanessa and I left Hawaii only a week before it was filmed. I didn’t even know if I was going to be on the show! Once I got there, I realised how big it was going to be. I realised that it would have a whole global impact as the first queer dating reality TV show.
It was so popular, and there were so many parts of the show that created these amazing conversations outside of the show. Why do you think that Queer Love was so important for the queer community?
I didn’t come out till I was 26. I grew up in the South in North Carolina where my whole family was very religious. Every country has its own societal norms and cultural norms which we follow, and of course, what most people follow is the idea that they will end up with the opposite sex. Will & Grace is the only thing I can think of which gave queer representation. I had no idea what it was like to be in a queer relationship until I was in one.
There are no guidelines or handbook to know how to go about that relationship or how to even get into a relationship with the same sex. My niece came out to me when she was 11 or 12. She now has all of these opportunities to educate herself and come out at an earlier age so she can feel like herself.
What was so nice about Queer Love is that you don’t often see queer people on reality TV shows. What was your response to the way they had produced it?
When I watched it back, it still felt geared towards heterosexual fashion. I didn’t love all the sex scenes because there were so many other things which happened that led up to that. Two women in a relationship get such a deep emotional connection and there were so many conversations between Yoly and me before something physical happened. I wish that more of that had been shown. I know it’s TV, but it still felt like it had been based on heterosexual relationships.
We did have a lot of queer crew members though which was nice. But the final product of the show felt a lot more hetero than queer.
There’s been some feedback from fans after the show aired about how they could have improved it. What would you suggest they do for the next season?
One of the things I knew would be an issue is the fact that there wasn’t a queer host. I think that our host – JoAnna Garcia Swisher – did an amazing job. She was so sweet and gave us a safe space to open up. But I think at the same time it would have driven a lot of different conversations if there had been a queer host. I think there would have been fewer petty arguments, and instead, there would have been deeper conversations.
Were there any conversations that happened which did not get shown which you wish had been?
We were given prompts that they wanted us to talk about which I thought was helpful because all of us were so tired! Yoly and I would get into conversations about theoretically how we would have a baby. I want to carry a child, but she wasn’t sure about it. But how would we do that? Would it be through IVF? Would we find a random guy at the bar?
Those conversations were really meaningful to me because it’s something that we don’t talk about regularly. I think when I talk to some of my straight friends they don’t really know how much we have to plan for parenthood. We have to save for years if we are going to do IVF. It’s not just that we need funds to have the child but we have to have funds to get the child.
Mal and I also had some amazing conversations when we were dating. We talked a lot about what it would look like on the street for her and me to be holding hands. We would get a lot of looks not only because we’d be a white and a Black person, but also because we’d be two masc presenting people.
What was so nice to see about your relationship with Yoly was to see queer people talk about parenthood. Often queer parenting is surrounded by a lot of stigma. Since the show do you think that your opinion on marriage or parenthood has changed?
I definitely feel a lot more cautious. I haven’t really been dating this whole time because I’ve felt like I need to make up time for myself and figure out all the things that I want before I involve myself with someone else. I think I still have the same values, but I feel a lot more cautious about who I really want to spend the rest of my life with and who I want to be the mother of my children.
When you bring kids into the mix, they soak in your actions and words with your partner. That just means so much to me. There are some couples in this world that don’t acknowledge how their relationship will affect their child. I want to make sure I’m choosing someone that I can have a conflict or argument with but it won’t be explosive where my future child is going to take in all of that.
Coming out of the whole experience, what was the one thing you learnt about yourself going through the process?
Oh, man! I learnt so much about myself. I really needed it too. I definitely learned how to speak up for myself. Being around Yoly who created that safe environment by really listening to me and asking me questions about myself and my wants and needs helped me open my eyes to see that I can have a partner who I can have fun with but also listens to me and helps me feel heard.
I also learned how much I want to make sure that my future relationship will look different. I know that I was giving too much of myself to Vanessa and it was creating an unhealthy relationship for us with a lot of codependent tendencies. I learnt that I need to find my sense of true self first.
What has been the response you’ve got from fans now that the show has aired?
You’re always your worst critic. We all watched the full show a few hours before the reunion – which is probably why we all look so tired. I watched it and I had so much negative self-talk. Eventually, over the next few months, I had to give myself grace and gentleness.
I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the love and support that I received. Given what was shown, I am thankful to have so much love from everyone and I hope to keep pouring that into my own community.
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