By Hadley | @wordsbyhadley |

Is your wrist sore? All that nakedness in this issue must be giving it a bit of a workout. Now if we could press pause on all that flesh, for just a moment, and turn our attention to my wrist. It’s not sore, but it is limp.

Now, I’ve always been camp. Personally, I blame Julie Andrews and all those weekends watching the Sound of Music. With a tea towel over my head, I would dance around the living room and sing along at the top of my lungs. I was five. Although the hills of Manchester may now be a lot quieter without me, the hills within the gay community are alive with the sound of hatred towards camp gay men.

I find it baffling that a group of people, who for years were rejected from society and to some extent remain on the periphery today, can find it within themselves to start cherry-picking their own victims of isolation within their own community. Camp men paved the way for the gay movement a few decades ago, yet today we are being pushed aside, in favour of macho men with toned muscles. One of the most wonderful things about being gay is that diversity can be celebrated freely; have we somehow lost sight of this, in favour of a desire to conform to a heteronormative mould?

Internalised homophobia has a lot to answer for. It’s been eating away at various aspects of ourselves for years, leaving us with an objectified view of what it means to be gay. This objectification has led to us placing strong emphasis on physical attractiveness. Seldom do we see images of ‘attractive’ men being depicted as camp men. The language used on dating apps have also facilitated the separation between ‘camp’ and ‘attractive’. Have you seen many dating profiles looking for a camp guy? No. Seen any asking for a ‘straight acting’ one? Of course. 

These comments send a strong and toxic message to camp men that they are simply unattractive, and given the emphasis placed upon the importance of this within the gay community, it has the potential to leave camp men with poor self-esteem.

As somebody who describes themselves as camp, the fact that my effeminate nature is deemed unattractive by some, isn’t always an issue. I feel I have grown into somebody who is, on the whole, comfortable and proud of who they are. Yet the importance of physical appearance within gay culture and the need to be ‘straight acting’, leaves me feeling that I don’t always have a seat at the table. It’s OK to find camp unattractive, but does that make it wrong?

Accepting that I am camp hasn’t been easy. You come out as gay, then you come out as camp. There have been times where my camp nature has meant I’ve been left to drown in the dating pool, while other ‘straight acting’ guys have been thrown a life ring. I’ve become immune to the disapproving side glances, and embraced my campness. I remind myself that it’s not me that’s the issue, but the internalised homophobia that lurks within so many of us.

It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is a hater of all things camp, yet internalised homophobia remains prevalent among many gay men, leading us to believe that camp is somehow wrong. Perhaps now is a time for self-reflection. Do we want to be spreading messages of hate within the gay community? Equally, let’s begin to move away from the idea of what a gay man should and shouldn’t be, and move towards an open-mindedness that gives people the freedom to grow into the person they want to be. But most importantly, if you are camp, embrace it.

For all those guys at the bar sneering, there will that one guy who will see beyond the camp and want to get to know you. He’s the one you want to be waking up next to. And if all else fails, tell him you’re a writer. Works every time.