Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Death Of Camp: Groundhog Gay

One of the problems of reading gay journalism and the gay press for a few years is it starts to feel like Groundhog Day.
The same arguments and the same articles keep coming around again and again and again.
But while you feel trapped in this realm of endless repetition, the journalist you're reading is convinced his tired words and old cliches are saying something breathtakingly bold and new.
There's a piece in The Guardian today announcing 'The Death Of Camp - Effeminate gay men are an increasingly rare sight now the 'straight-acting' are in the ascendency'.
The author, Kevin Troughton, doesn't like "camp" or "effeminate gay men".
Thankfully they're a dying breed.
Ding-dong the witches are dead.
Most of the gay men he knows are "straight-acting", he says proudly.
Many gay men fancy "masculine" men, he proffers as proof of some paradigm shift.
As if Quentin Crisp et al hadn't been saying the same thing way back in the last century.
Troughton thinks he has discovered a new "masculine gay man... now he's mainstream, confident and critical of the camp-it-up gay scene".
Good for him. Grrr!
He seems unaware that you could regularly read silly articles arguing just this in Gay News in the 1970s.
"If only gay men could be less gay what a wonderful world it would be..."
Writers are always announcing the death or the end of something.
In Septemper in The Sunday times Camille Paglia announced 'The Death Of Sex'.
It sounds good, dramatic, daring.
But like Francis Fukuyama's The End Of History, it's usually just wishful thinking.
And hearing of "The Death Of Camp" just sounds like history repeating.
Self-loathing masquerading as critique.


  1. As you'll see if you click on the link, 'The Death Of Camp' was retitled 'The end of gay men being camp' in the online version for some reason...

  2. Great post, Fagburn.

    He conflates "effeminate" men with "camp" men, which is quite dangerous I think. For a start, while camp behaviour may be adopted or learnt, there are many men and boys who exhibit some feminine characteristics long before you can attribute it to any outside influence.

    If camp behaviour may be learnt or adopted then one presumes so can the art of "acting straight"
    He neglects to make the opposite point that the - in his view - rise in striaght acting gay men, could be as a result of outside influence and people like him creating an atmosphere where effeminate behaviour is regarded with disdain.
    The fact is, boys can display effeminate characteristics long before any outside influence can be accused of causing it. For those boys to grow up into a society that views their natural way of behaving as not only abnormal and deserving of mockery but a thing of the past - and an element of that past, presumably, that we should feel increasingly ashamed of - is depressing in the extreme. You would think the opposite would be true in a society that is becoming more tolerant. But Troughton - and all the rest before him - seem to want to create a world where this should not even be tolerated (and commenting on these curious camp men one sees about the place, making huge distinctions between "them and us" is not an act of acceptance, it's divisive) - a world where those young boys who exhibit feminine characteristics are more pressured into suppressing their true nature and "acting straight" just so they aren't pointed and stared at by idiots like Troughton.
    As you say, it's self-loathing masquerading as critique - and the worst kind of homophobia, in my view.

    It's a fucking awful article. What about this line:

    That limp-wristed, bitchy queen might be hilarious, but you wouldn't want him as a boyfriend, or even as a one-night stand.

    At least they're more likely to be interesting - to STAND OUT - it seems to me there's a desperation in some quarters of the gay community to just "fit in" with the status quo.
    Never mind that the status quo still discriminates against gay people - still discriminates along the lines of FEMININE and MASCULINE - they'll just act straight and pretend we're all the same and any part of the gay community that doesn't allow them to do that they'll belittle and suppress. Our magazines have more straight men than gay men on their covers, which it seems are being marketed more and more to teenage girls.
    It's a weakness and what they attack is a strength - they haven't got the balls to stand out so much, to express themselves so completely. They'd rather sit in packs, stare, point and look disparagingly - that article is little more than vile bullying cowardice.

    Sorry, I may have repeated myself a bit there and got a bit confused but I haven't got time to edit, I've got to catch a train.
    Great post though, Fagburn. :)

  3. Thanks.
    Opening with this description of the enemy spoke volumes I thought;
    "His appearance may be something to do with it; the hair colour and the skin colour, for that matter, make quite a statement. But he's not the only one in here with bleached hair or a tan that owes little to natural sunlight."
    How frightfully common!

    I'll comment on your thought-provoking comment after some thinking...

  4. The thing with all these sort of snobby articles is that "gay" is used as a euphemism for "working class gay men"...

  5. It's the queens that get bashed by straights.
    And by gays like in this.

  6. An interesting commentary on The Guardian article appeared on AfterElton yestreday;

    Are “Straight-Acting” Gays Killing Camp?
    by Aymar Jean Christian

    He shows up just how Groundhog Day it is by beginning;

    "Is something changing in the gay community? Are we afraid of campy feminine boys? Anthropologist Esther Newton thinks so.
    “Where ten years ago the streets of Greenwich Village abounded with limp wrists and eye makeup,” she writes, “now you see an interchangeable parade of young men with cropped hair, leather jackets, and well-trimmed mustaches.”
    “Leather jackets, and well-trimmed mustaches”? Okay, you got me. Newton wrote that 40 years ago in her classic book, Mother Camp, on female impersonators. It was the reign of the gay clone. Sissies were out. So 1969!"