Community True Life & Opinions You make me ashamed to be gay By Richard Patrick | @IncrediblyRich Are you homophobic? Actor and screenwriter Wentworth Miller recently came out by turning down an invitation to appear as guest of honour at the St Petersburg International Film Festival, citing his sexual orientation as the reason he declined. His timing was perfect and sent a clear message of support to LGBT Russians following the introduction of legislation outlawing ‘homosexual propaganda’. Despite his honourable intentions, various social media channels were awash with immediate criticism, mainly from surprisingly smug individuals claiming to have identified his sexuality well in advance of any official statement. A similar reaction arose when Ricky Martin came out in 2010, with many gay men quick to point the finger and laugh at a supposedly pointless gesture given that most of the gay community, if not the world, already knew he shook his bon- bon the other way. But why choose to mock rather than offer words of support? Ricky Martin acknowledged that he had struggled for years to accept his sexuality. “I look back now and realise I would bully people who I knew were gay,” he said. “I had internalised homophobia. I used to look at gay men and think, I’m not like that, I don’t want to be like that, that’s not me. I was ashamed.” His explanation of internalised homophobia could also be applied to those who scoffed at Wentworth Miller and seemingly take regular pleasure in knocking down members of their own community. So desperate are they to be accepted by their heterosexual counterparts, they begrudge anyone who, in their eyes, makes a song and dance about their sexuality. Never was this notion more prevalent than the latter stages of last year’s X Factor when Rylan Clark descended from the rafters in a spandex onesie, his glitter-soaked screams forcing their way through a spectacular Spice Girls medley. Twitter ignited in a blaze of insults that strangely avoided any criticism of his vocal prowess (or lack thereof) and instead went straight for the jugular by condemning his brazen display of camp confidence. Sadly, many of these comments weren’t coming from ‘traditional’ homophobes but from gay men themselves, ranging from the ridiculous – “Rylan makes me ashamed to be gay!” – to the downright horrendous - “I wouldn’t normally condone homophobia, but for Rylan I would make an exception!” These hecklers were so repulsed by an openly gay man flaunting his (metaphorical) flag on prime time television that they were willing to declare themselves homophobic. I sincerely doubt any of these detractors would tolerate such a statement from a straight man, so why were they willing to turn a blind eye to their own internalised homophobia? This rejection of camp culture goes hand in hand with promoting the ‘straight-acting gay man’ as the ideal embodiment of modern-day homosexuality. Fans of this particular mindset make it clear that flamboyance is to be rejected at all costs, lest it damage the noble cause of assimilating into mainstream heteronormative society. One often hears these individuals ridiculing effeminate men and proclaiming loudly that they could never date someone with a spray tan and a 26” waist. In some respects, an aversion to camp is no different to preferring brunettes or men with rippling abdominal muscles, provided this preference is based purely on physiological attraction. But to openly revile this aspect of gay culture and spit the word ‘camp’ with such venom that your eyes have to be peeled off the ceiling is just another form of internalised homophobia. The underlying suggestion is that camp men are somehow inferior and of detriment to gay society at large. Personally, I would have no qualms with dating a guy who knew his way around the Bananarama back catalogue. I firmly believe that wearing your rainbow badge for all to see is a thousand times more attractive than openly abusing others in a thinly-veiled effort to repress the issues you have with your own sexuality. Many of us grew up in a society where homophobic, discriminatory culture was the norm and, to a certain extent, this is undoubtedly true of the landscape today. As a result, many of us may have learned deep-seated negative ideas about what it is to be gay. But it is reductive and internally homophobic to suggest that one subset of gay culture is indicative of the whole. We should be embracing all aspects of gay life and celebrating our differences, not condemning those we consider to be a distasteful representation of modern gay life. Perhaps if those men who were so afraid of being different were more open with the world, the world would be more open with them. How to beat internalised homophobia Internalised homophobia is something that we all go through at some point in our lives, whether we realise it or not. There is a theory that gay men go through stages of coming out and that it takes a while to get to the point that we are truly comfortable with ourselves. Some gay men never get to that point where the sight of a camp lad doesn’t make them cringe. However, no matter what stage of your coming out you are in, hating other gay men because they are camp or feminine is not cool. It doesn’t take much for keyboard warriors to sit behind a computer and shout about homophobia in Russia while those same people will pull the piss out of Rylan Clark when he pops up on our TV screens. It’s bad enough that we still live in a world where gay hate is often the norm without us all hating each other. You don’t have to understand why some gay men are the way they are. You just have to respect them. Don’t make anyone feel bad for who they are. Do that and we’ll beat internalised homophobia.