No More Mr. Gay

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Last Saturday night, Mr. Gay USA opened to a trilogy of Gaga songs with sexy dancers, an amazing drag performance and a complimenting brass section behind her. Stunning performance aside, is there a need for a Mr. Gay USA? How is this night going to be different from any other big party that comes to Voyeur?

The first floor, with the VIPS, was nicely filled with enough space for people to move around without hitting each other’s cocktails but the second floor which sold regular tickets seemed a little empty with only a few faces poking out of the balcony. I can’t say I blame gay Philadelphia for not turning out in full force because at 40 dollars a pop, the ticket price was a little steep in this economy.

Hosts Britney Lynn and Frank Decaro were an entertaining odd pair with Ms Lynn towering over the stubby Decaro with her outrageous hair and although they managed to gel quite comfortably towards the middle of the show, their beginning was much like dry insertion, little painful and forced.

The evening wear round zipped by pretty quickly with most of the audience paying more attention to their chatter than the contestants and at first glance of the contestants I thought that it was a pretty good mix. You had young, old, Black, White, Latino, skinny, buff, but what was glaringly missing to me was that there were no Asians. We are definitely getting there in terms of diversity but not quite. But maybe, that’s just me being an Asian advocate.

The highlight of the evening – the swimsuit round – certainly gave the crowd a bang for their buck with a plentiful supply for pecs and abs gracing the stage. However, you could not help but notice that skinnier ones didn’t linger on for too long on stage.

I spoke to some people in the crowd and although everyone unanimously agreed that there was a need for a Mr. Gay USA to promote diversity within a larger society, they also all agreed that the competition also enforces body stereotypes within the gay community.

“It does bother me that this is a hot body contest.” Jesse Cute said.

So then why do we still do it?

Some say it a great way for the gay and straight community to interact, which it is, others say it’s just another fun event, which it was.

One woman I interviewed said she rather be watching Mr. Gay USA than Ms. USA which just objectifies women. I am going to leave the glaring irony to speak for itself.

The official mission statement from Noble Beast Foundation which supports the competition is that the competition seeks to “…advocate international equal rights by confirming the essential nature and contributions of gay men to a healthy society where gay is not a stereotype.”

I am a little confused as to what their mission statement is trying to say but I am going to assume that that by holding such a competition they are trying to show that gay men are a part of society, and that by all means is a noble intention but I don’t think that they are going about it in the healthiest of means.

I am not against the promotion of openly gay role models because we are still experiencing a deep level of homophobia in today’s society and having openly gay role models would hopefully help more people come out. However I am against holding a beauty pageant which typecasts gay men into a certain body stereotype.

By having a competition which celebrates who has the least percentage of body fat, we are forcing the very board and diversity community into a narrow prism of how they should look. This pressures young gay individuals, who are living in an increasingly visual society, to attain a certain look in order to be accepted by the LGBT community. Having a Mr. Gay USA competition makes our community exclusive, not inclusive.

If the competition is serious about promoting openly gay men, then they better be serious about putting these winners to work. What has the past winners done for the gay community? In light of the recent suicides, we need to tap into a suitable role model for LGBT youth. We need to have a well-rounded individual that is part of the diversity of our community to campaign against gay bullying. Maybe going a high school tour to share their personal story, organizing a workshop, or throwing a bachelor auction to benefit a LGBT youth organization. The list is endless but there are better ways to spend our pink dollars.

Despite the icy environment of sideward giggles and cynical comments, there was one heartwarming moment. Ann Rabon, the mother of Mr. South Carolina flew all the way to Philadelphia to cheer on her son and when asked what was her reaction when Eddie told her that he was going to be entering Mr. Gay USA she said: “I just wanted to find out how I could be supportive.”

The organizers have an opportunity to make purposeful impact on the community by having a person not just present what the community has to offer but also represent what we are about. So don’t be just a pretty face, mean what you say if you want to be Mr. Gay USA.

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