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Mr Gay World: ‘Be gay, but please be normal’

Photo by Alex Efimoff

It was awesome to see that, as a judge at this year’s Mr Gay New Zealand competition, I had a tiny part to play in Andy Derleth’s ascension to the throne of Mr Gay World 2012. But then I saw some of his comments in New Zealand media and started to get a little worried.

By ANDY BOREHAM

Beauty pageants lately seem to be trying desperately to remain relevant by pretending they are something more than good looking people walking up and down a stage looking tasty. Mr Gay World is no exception. But is this move helpful, or detrimental?

Kiwi Andy Derleth was pressured to enter Mr Gay New Zealand early this year by some friends and took the title on February 12. A few weeks ago he swooned his way into the position of Mr Gay World 2012, which sent New Zealand’s media into a flutter. But I’m not sure the sudden platform Derleth was given was such a good thing.

You see, beauty pageants these days are striving for relevance in a world where hot people walking up and down a stage don’t deserve titles and adulation just because they are easy on the eye. Mr Gay World, for example, now features an essay component — this year entrants were asked to write an essay on the gay rights movement. (Note to self: get hold of those essays!) And now Mr Gay World has come home to New Zealand with the new-found vigour of a kid after his first chocolate rush: he wants to change the world. (The Mr Gay World ‘delegates’ even got to help change the lives of kids with HIV/AIDS. “We saw these kids who were orphaned from aids and we gave them books and read to them. It was a truly amazing experience.” Yes, I’m sure it was just as amazing for them as it was for you.)

But this is obviously the first time Derleth has thought about the plight of those down-trodden gays because his comments are as contradictory as a bi-polar bunny rabbit, and nearly as dangerous. Mr Gay World 2012 wants to stop youth suicide, but he also wants us to be ‘normal’, by the hegemonic heterosexual definition, that is.

“The role of Mr Gay World is to stand up for gay and human rights, which I’m very into,” he professed to Fairfax. “I want to use this to raise public awareness about gay rights and promote acceptance.” And he’s been given a $25,000 grant to travel the world and make sure this happens! But there’s a catch: you have to fit the hetero-normative definition of being a man if you want to be accepted. He wants to use the money to help banish “the image of us [gay men] running around with handbags”. So, according to Mr Gay World 2012, you can be gay and that’s fine and dandy. But don’t you dare, by any means, do anything outside of what is deemed acceptable by heterosexual society as ‘normal’ and ‘masculine’, at least not if you want Mr Gay World 2012 to have your back.

To be completely honest with you, that comment really fucked me off. How can someone be so contradictory? See this comment he made in the media, for example: “You will get some people who say things about gay people around young people and that behaviour possibly makes it hard for people to come out. We need to see people embracing it and not scaring them away.” And who would be a moderately visible candidate to show young gay people that they can be who they want to be? Mr Gay World 2012. Oh but I forgot, he doesn’t want you to express yourselves outside of the rigid and binary gender definitions society has set.

“There are many cases where young people are scared to come out, so I want to encourage them to get in touch with Rainbow Youth or organisations like that,” Derleth continues. (Can I just note that throwing in ‘Rainbow Youth’ and ‘the AIDS Foundation’ in Kiwi gay pageants is as cringe-worthy as saying ‘world peace’ in Miss Universe). “You hear so many stories of young people who commit suicide and then you don’t know the reason why. It then comes out later that they were gay and they can’t deal with it.”

Let me put this to you, Derleth: it’s because of attitudes like yours that so many young people feel they have no where to turn. It’s because of society’s binary definitions and rigid rules around identity and sexuality and appearance and mannerisms and so on that so many young people feel they don’t fit into the world and feel that suicide is their only option. Telling them they can’t express themselves in whatever way they feel comfortable, which is what you are promoting, causes more harm than good.

So I’d like to use this opportunity to suggest that beauty pageants should remain just that: beauty pageants. The last thing I want to see is Mr Club Ivy running for public office! It’s all very well to watch hot people mince up and down a stage in varying degrees of undress, but please don’t give them the mandate to change the world unless they have explicitly shown, outside of the context of said beauty pageants, that they understand the world to a degree that their comments and actions won’t cause more harm than good. Anyone can be smart and anyone can change the world, even beautiful people, but I’m guessing they’ll probably do so outside of the beauty pageant arena.

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Comments

  1. Everyone loves him till he opens his mouth? Buahahahaha!

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  2. Thanks Andy 🙂 well put.

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  3. Oh Andy, you stand against the whole concept of Mr Gay World then… Maybe it’s time to run _The Real Mr Gay World_ competition, with real gay guys, flamboyant, manneristic and not quite and let the winner to promote gay acceptance amongst the _straight_ fellas?

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    • Aaron and Andy says:

      I think Mr Gay World is a perfectly entertaining and legitimate event, but they should stop trying to pretend that it is anything other than a beauty pageant. By all means we should be celebrating beauty, especially male beauty, but we shouldn’t lump all these responsibilities on guys just because they have an effective beauty regime that includes two hours a day in the gym.

      I’d be all for a Mr Gay Role Model (or similar) title, where there is a gathering of delegates from around the world who discuss and debate how they think the world can become a better place and legitimate judges look into their past work towards making life for gay people in their country easier. There would be no stage and no audience and no swimsuit section. But I’d hazard a guess that not many of these people would be open to receiving accolade.

  4. And they should be judged on the basis of what they do, not what they say.

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  5. paparazzi says:

    Thank god. I was starting to think I was the only one who finds these preening parodies of gayness to be stomach-turning, but by opening his mouth and allowing his 5 brain-cells to drop out this latest “winner” has said everything about beauty pageants that needs to be said

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Wrong, they should be judged on what they say as well as what they do. They are now public figures and hence subscribe to being viewed in the public and having the public judge them if they go wrong.

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  7. Cole Griffiths says:

    It’s upsetting to think that he is probably going to be a role model to people in our little patriotic nation. As soon as he won, people were very proud – rushing to post his success on Facebook walls and alike. Hopefully this article will educate people about his actual mentality, that which is obviously unfavourable towards progress and acceptance of real people (normal people).

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  8. JaseWGTN says:

    While he’s putting his handbag back in the closet, perhaps he should put his wax/razor/hair removal cream in there too. I find the removal off all the body hair gayer than what he ”perceives” as bad gayisms.

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  9. paparazzi says:

    done my bit to set this story right in as many online mediums as I could:

    http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/mr-gay-world-argue-nz-and-global-lgbts160412

    comments are there to be used 🙂

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  10. I think Andy is missing the point here.

    When most people think gay, they think of glitter loving, make-up wearing, handbag owning, Mardi-Gras attending, jazz hand flinging queens. And, as I see it, the gay community is doing nothing to prevent that stereotype, in fact its ingraining that behaviour/culture in the world’s understanding of what ‘gay’ is.

    I think the sooner we can stop confusing ‘gay’ the behaviour, with ‘gay’ the sexuality, the sooner its going to be accepted by the mainstream and become ‘normal’. That doesn’t mean changing who we are, or conforming to popular culture, it means showing the world that ‘gay’ is normal, and is not defined by a certain behaviour or dress code.

    We love to openly celebrate our difference, but then winge when the world doesn’t see us as the same as them. Being gay is ‘normal’, and Mr Gay World has a valid point……….the sooner we start behaving as if gay is ‘normal’, the sooner it will be ‘normal’.

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    • paparazzi says:

      actually Jason, that’s not what “most people” think at all, at least not in the world I live in

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      • I’m not sure what world you’re living in, but mine is one where our kids are killing themselves because they feel like they are outsiders and don’t ‘fit’.

        Hollywood has started getting good at showcasing gays (e.g. Modern Family/Glee) in everyday situations like going to work 9 to 5, raising a family, hanging out with friends and going to school. I support Mr Gay World’s suggestion of less glittery Mardi-Gras and pictures of the Prime Minister with drag queens at Big Gay Out, and more of gays living the ordinary life we live…….we don’t dress up in glitter everyday, but they are the only images we seem to share with the world, and then wonder why we are seen as different.

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        • paparazzi says:

          you are deluded, or else so busy being a victim that it blocks your vision of reality

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          • I’m one of the ones smart enough to realise that dressing in drag, wearing make up or certain clothes has nothing to do with sexuality….but more your personality. But by continuing to push the celebration of that sort of behaviour as ‘gay’, creates the stereotype that feeds the hatred and intolerence that is killing our teens.

            I’m not saying that intolerence is acceptable, but its easier to built the road to acceptance from both ends…….we have to stop telling people (directly or indirectly) that to be gay you have to behave in a certain way, just as others have to accept that gay is not a lifestyle, but simply only a sexuality.

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            • Well said Jason, I agree with what your saying!

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            • paparazzi says:

              and who is it you feel is “pushing this behaviour” , maybe name me some names? I think what we are really seeing here is your discomfort in your own skin

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              • I’m very comfortable in MY skin, but I’m not comfortable in yours.

                Everyone is entitled to behave and act however they like (its their life)…….be it feminine or a masculine smooth muscle man like Mr Gay World. What I am not comfortable with is people dictating what a gay guy should be….and organising so-called ‘gay’ events that create a ‘gay’ persona that stereotypes all gays and makes it very difficult for those not in the scene to be comfortable with their sexuality for fear of being type-cast as a raving homosexual.

                I’ve been to lots of ‘gay’ events, including Mardi-Gras, and had an absolute blast as I like that sort of thing….but we need to make sure we have a good mix of events and publicity to show the wider public that its not all drag queens, make-up and tiny little undies, and that you can be ‘normal guy’ (as the hetro world defines it) and gay.

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                • paparazzi says:

                  and again I ask you to support your earlier claims:

                  and who is it you feel is “pushing this behaviour” , maybe name me some names?

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                  • paparazzi says:

                    “and organising so-called ‘gay’ events that create a ‘gay’ persona that stereotypes all gays and makes it very difficult for those not in the scene to be comfortable with their sexuality for fear of being type-cast as a raving homosexual”

                    could perhaps read:

                    “and organising so-called ‘straight-acting’ gay events that create a sanitised persona which assimilates all gays into the mainstream and makes it very difficult for those who are flamboyant, effeminate, or not gym-bunnies to be comfortable with their sexuality for fear of being type-cast as a raving homosexual”

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                  • paparazzi says:

                    the deafening silence from Jason continues

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                    • maybe it’s because you’re being a total bitch? He gives well constructed answers to your venom-laced querys and all he gets from his time is your spiteful critism. Why should he waste his breath?

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                    • Jabberflaps says:

                      Exactly!

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    • Fully agree with you Jason, and well made argument.

      Although there’s a need to celebrate what makes us different, this need is becoming less needed in 2012. What we need to focus on is how as a community we can help the youth who are coming out or in most cases really struggling with their sexuality. Gay culture is pretty overwhelming if you’re a kid, it was for me and it took me a while (21) to work out where I fitted in. Till that point I couldn’t comprehend coming out. Andy Derleth is on the right note, perhaps he hasn’t articulated to please everyone, but he has the right intentions.

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      • paparazzi says:

        how very bland and assimilated we can all look forward to being

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        • Jabberflaps says:

          Well you’re just as bland and assimilated as the standard sour grapes, bitchy bitch gays we’ve all come to rely on to make us laugh and entertain us.

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  11. Don’t be hypocrites or be acting ‘normally’ for a “Gay” male by sticking the knife in – because we will just isolate him. Do something constructive.

    Good on him for having a go and speaking his mind.

    How well was he prepared? Well, on the beauty stuff he must have passed muster.

    But on the mind stuff; perhaps he needed to have a bit more education as commentators have suggested.

    Like it or not, he is on the World Stage, and whatever comments he makes will be linked to New Zealand and our scene or whatever. It might be just a beauty pageant, however it is an event which makes it political.

    So, have the rant and rave but get over it .

    Do something constructive and reach out.

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    • paparazzi says:

      He fits every stereotype of a waxed muscle-mary; high on testosterone and low on cranial matter ….. how “image-building” is that?

      In fact, he probably contributes every bit as much to low self-esteem amongst “average kids” (whatever average might be) as bullying does

      The best way we can “reach-out”, as you put it, is to let as many people as possible know that the bulk of the gay community view this sort of contest with as much disdain as the straight community view any of the many heterosexual Barbie contests with

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  12. beauty before brains…

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  13. JaseWGTN says:

    Just saying is all

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyuoUwxCLMs

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  14. Well said, Andy. Someone has to say it

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  15. Geraint Scott says:

    Are you people kidding? I understand your point, but I think you’re just looking for a fight here. I reckon he was obviously just pointing out that the stereotype of every gay men being very feminine is simply not true, and he wants to show people that gay men are just as varied as straight men.

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  16. To be fair to Mr. Derleth, the idea of any ‘gay stereotype’ is to be avoided altogether and that does include the blanket notion that all gay males are ‘effeminate’. It’s not the case that all gay people are either exclusively one thing or the other – in this case, let us take the poles of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ – but rather we each have a unique constellation of traits that makes us individuals.

    Personally, I do not have a problem with men and women adopting social roles that run contrary to gender expectations because those expectations are largely socially constructed and arbitrary. In a similar vein, however, I don’t see an issue with men doing traditionally ‘masculine’ things and women doing ‘feminine’ things if A) they are not pressured into those activities by society and B) it makes them happy.

    The real issue, for me, is the idea of behaviour prescription in and of itself. No-one should have to be anyone other than who they are (so long as they’re not hurting anyone) and the psychology of individual differences shows that gay people are every bit as diverse as their heterosexual counterparts when it comes to personality and temperament. If Mr. Derleth’s comments are taken to mean that he has a problem with the perception of all gay men as ‘effeminate’ in society at large, then I’d have to agree with him – we’re all different; on the other hand, if Mr. Derleth’s comments mean to imply that there is something wrong with men behaving in a ‘womanly’ manner, then I’d be the first to disagree.

    I suppose the points that I am trying to make are: 1. It is perhaps unreasonable to leap from the comment that Derleth wants to displace “the image of us [gay men] running around with handbags” to the conclusion that he “doesn’t want you to express yourselves outside of the rigid and binary gender definitions…” because 2. Denouncing the stereotype does not automatically mean that you denounce the behaviour to which it refers.

    I don’t know about you, but it almost always causes a flash of irritation for me when I hear someone make a statement to the effect of “All people in Group X do Behaviour Y” – that formula just does not hold a complex social world.

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    • Well said.

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    • paparazzi says:

      In the same style as an earlier poster, you are probably being far too generous and trying to read more into his statement than he is capable of intending

      I don’t think there is any “leap” at all in interpreting his simple-minded and bigoted comments in exactly the way that they were expressed

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  17. Stereotypes exist for a reason, kids.

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  18. paparazzi says:

    My god, this was not the first time he has spouted such drivel:

    (from an earlier interview to gayexpress)

    “I’m looking forward to meeting people from all over the world and making new friends. The meaning of the competition is also special – [Mr Gay World] looks for role models and ambassadors from all over the world with good character and inner and outer beauty, to provide young guys and the gay community in general with a sense that it’s not all about parties and drugs, but just about normal people who have good values as well”

    but wait, there’s more!

    “There’s a lady who works with Rainbow Youth who regularly visits schools and educates the students about being gay, gay identity and anti-bullying. I would really, really love to go out with her and show the kids that hey – this is a gay guy and he’s happy and a normal guy, and that being gay is nothing bad or scary.”

    I may as well go out and shoot myself, now!

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  19. one loves it when ones community shows an obvious prejudice towards members because they are a little less than masculine… one wonders whether one should bother reminding those of their communities history and if it wasn’t for us feme types us drag queens modern gay rights would still be floundering in a straight acting closeted gutter…read about Stonewall and shut the fuck up

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    • I’m still waiting for a Muscle Marry organisation to start up and do as much for the community as say this group has

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kv2PoetiQw

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDSMUGqUjww

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      • I also find it remarkably hypocritical of those pointing out the gay suicide stats as a reason for normalising behaviour… the kids that are dying tend to be the feme types not the jocks they are bullied because they are seen as less than human and not male because of their femininity… so basically you are telling the feme kids that the way they are identifying is not okay and that they need to hide their true selves and be seen as normal… Blaming the victim much. You’re worse than their heterosexual tormentors. Sick very very sick.

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  20. I don’t think his comments were intended that way at all, but after reading this article, I can see how people could read them that way.
    Looks like he will be walking on a wire to get a message out without offending a group of people.

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    • paparazzi says:

      or better he just realises the limitations to his talents and sticks to the gym and the hair removal clinic?

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  21. Of course, you could have rung the guy and asked for an interview to clarify his comments before bitch-slapping him, Andy.

    After over a decade of working with the mainstream media in New Zealand, I wouldn’t trust them to quote me correctly or in context if my life depended on it.

    If there’s one thing that’s certain about doing things for this community, as soon as you open your mouth you’re going to offend somebody. I just wish that when someone expressed an opinion, or was successful at something, we didn’t drop a bag of hammers on their head.

    PS. Your “bipolar bunny-rabbit” analogy was offensive and unnecessary.

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    • Aaron and Andy says:

      Bitch slapping? How misogynistic of you, Bipolar.

      As you’re already aware, balance is not required in an opinion piece. Further, I didn’t find it necessary because my issue is about perception, and how that 12-year-old reading about Mr Gay World from Turangi will feel reading comments that in or out of context are glaringly clear.

      The word ‘bipolar’ has a number of meanings, and it is often used to describe people who exhibit two conflicting or opposed opinions. Mix the word with a bunny rabbit, especially the popular image of the Energizer bunny, and you can imagine the metaphor I’m looking for.

      It’s only since the 1950s that the word ‘bipolar’ was used instead of the term ‘manic depressive’, but you already know that.

    • Anonymous says:

      oh yes bipolar bear you are such an important figure the media is engaging with you all the time *yawn*

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  22. shakytown says:

    loving the pic of Mr gay and his bag at dubduddub.cruz.co.nz

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  23. Anonymous says:

    that mr gay world sounds like a fuking asshole

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  24. I feel so validated says:

    “Mr Gay World” seems unable to even manage his own damage-control, without digging the hole even deeper.

    This splendid quote from his latest interview, with South African gay publication, “MamboOnline”

    http://www.mambaonline.com/article.asp?artid=6884

    “Dealing with the media can be a double edged sword. You’ve been slammed for apparently saying in an interview that “masculine” men should be promoted as the gay ideal…”

    “My comment was taken out of context and the article written in a sensationalist style. What I said to the reporter was that there are stereotypes that all gay men only party, all gay men take drugs and all gay men run around with handbags. And I said that while imitating a straight guy who has a problem with gays with my voice and gestures. Our community is as diverse as any other group of people and that is good. What I wanted to make clear was that there are many different facets of LGBT life; you are free to choose to be whoever you want to be, but you don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. I HAVE EFFEMINATE FRIENDS, I HAVE A FRIEND WHO IS A DRAG QUEEN [sic.], I have less-effeminate friends and I love and respect them all”

    Wow! A drag-queen! That’s amazing

    Of course you do have all sorts of friends (outside of the depilatory studio), darling, and I’m feeling so much better about my right to be on this planet, now that I have your blessing

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    • i hate mr gay world andreas the bald bitch says:

      mr gay world sounds like a fucking asshole, fuck him, if i see that bitch out at family I am going to spit in her face and rip her wig off

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      • Sebastian says:

        Oh yeah man, you, a keyboard warrior, talking tough to a computer screen – spitting in the face of a 6’4 german?

        You’re all talk.

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        • Anonymous says:

          shut ur mouth seb you dozey cow

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          • Sebastian says:

            Or what? you’ll insult me over the internet?

            Well, doesn’t someone has their big-boy pants on today. >_>

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        • Anonymous says:

          gay men shouldn’t be bald, they should all have hair product and designer hair cuts, that bald look doesnt go with the stereotypical muscle gay, or the stereotypical camp gay, bald is out and always has been out .

          youre out of fashion and not normal because u are bald mr gay

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          • Sebastian says:

            You’re also an abnormal gay if you don’t listen to Lady Gaga, Shop at JayJays/Hallenstiens or don’t order a side salad when you go to McDonalds.

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  25. Not a fan says:

    I met this Andres guy before he won Mr Gay world, he was nothing but an arrogant twat, what a total doosh he is, seems nothing has changed.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Yo Mr Gay World

    …………………./´¯/)
    ………………..,/¯../
    ………………./…./
    …………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
    ………./’/…/…./……./¨¯\
    ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
    ………\……………..’…../
    ……….”…\………. _.·´
    …………\…………..(
    …………..\………….\…

    UP YOURS!

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