First Published: February 2004
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Mr Gay UK: harmless ironic fun, serious search for a positive role model or just crassly stereotypical? As heats hot up, OutUK's Adrian Gillan asks queers if the next annual boy babe romp should be the last.

MR.GAY UK, ENTRY RULE No. 3: "You must look good." Mainstream beauty pageants fell from favour decades ago. Is Mr Gay UK harmless, ironic fun, immune from political correctness; a serious attempt at finding and celebrating a positive role model, albeit one in no small part defined by looks; or crass and stereotypic just like any other beauty pageant?

Jarrod Batchelor. Photograph by Grant
For me, Mr Gay UK is about being a voice. A voice that sends a message. Whether that message is a speech in a bar, or an interview for the general media or simply making a personal appearance somewhere… he should make a difference, even if that difference is a small one. This is what I intend to do with the time I’ve been given. Bullying is a serious problem for many young people, gay and straight alike. It is an issue that had a huge impact on my life and I hope to help reach those feeling the same as I did – isolated, confused and alone! Hopefully, they will realise as I did that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Jarrod Batchelor, Mr Gay UK 2003
I remember watching Mr Gay UK on Channel 5 in 1998 when Ben Harris the builder won and thinking, 'I like that!' I can't see any problem with objectifying the male form - isn't that what we all do on a Friday night looking around our local pub anyway? The competition itself may seem out of step with the 21st Century mentality but I think it's basically just a bit of fun. As for the rule 'You must look good' - that's presumably a little subjective as certainly none of my ex-boyfriends would win the competition but I've considered them all to be gorgeous.
Ross Jackson, Chair, Gay Business Association
Photograph by Terry George
Female beauty pageants take place in the context of an oppressive sexist culture that devalues women and denies them equal status. They originate from the patriarchal tradition of treating women as sex objects and mere adornments of men, symbolising the second class citizenship of the female sex. That's what makes them dehumanising and wrong. Mr Gay UK is different. It is not predicated on the unequal relationship between the sexes. It is also an in-your-face affirmation of gay sexuality in a society that has traditionally devalued queerness. In this sense, it is political and positive; though less so in a more accepting, less homophobic culture. I don't see Mr Gay UK as some kind of role model. Most beauty contest winners are nothing more than pretty faces. It is light-hearted fun. But perhaps not entirely harmless. Like other beauty contests, Mr Gay UK reinforces a particular idea of what constitutes good, desirable looks. It helps perpetuate the cliché gay images that are standard in most gay magazines and videos. That can be psychologically and emotionally damaging to gay people who cannot measure up to this stereotyped gay ideal.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Well, it's done the lot hasn't it: produced some guys who have been really great role models - fantastic looking, perfect personality, well-adjusted, blisteringly white teeth, like decent music, have great faces and bodies - but then you find out they are happily entwined with a partner and don't shag any more and the entire positive effect is diminished!

It's good harmless fun, a chance to camp it up or look butch on the cat walk and for the audience to work out if the contestants will ever come up with the personality answer that'll actually mean something!

Photograph by Grant
And Mr Gay UK usually draws a bigger audience so there's always more meat to go around and usually pretty fired up and gagging for it after staring at bulging cotton for the evening! But perhaps though there is room for an alternative PC version - let's all vote for Chris Smith and promote really sound role models over 50!
Simon Brooks, Tourism Manager, Newcastle City Council

It's pretty crass. I do think the lesbian 'beauty' pageant is better though, as it is not based on looks but more on how outrageous you are but, even so, it's not for me. I just feel sorry for gay men who feel they have to be a stereotype to be accepted.
Brenda Ellis, Head of Policy, GLAD - Greater London Action on Disability

It may have started off as a Pride thing, but I think Mr Gay UK has just degraded what it's like to be a gay guy now. It's too stereotypical and doesn't provide a role-model for the majority of gay guys, whatever their age. It's just a wank-fantasy, if the guy even looks that good that is!
Liam Larmour, GLYNI - Gay & Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland

I think it's a laugh - a bit of fun and the chance to see some good-looking guys get their kit off! That said, I wonder how the straight world views such a competition, or what little they see of it. And, as with all role-models - just like advertising which always portrays the perfect body - it can give out the wrong message that you have to be fit, good-looking and have a big package to be accepted in a gay community whose members in fact come in all shapes and sizes. Surely it's that diversity that really needs to be celebrated.
Malcolm Rycraft, New Media Editor, Royal Festival Hall

So, the gay community has a frivolous Eurovision-type event once a year that cuts to the chase, is camp, is sexy, is 'out there'. So what?

If people are offended by beauty pageants - and there are more evil and pernicious things to fight against in this world - then I'd remind them we have a lot of ground to make up, for the blank canvas of the dark decades of oppression before queer liberation. So, for Christ's sake, get them cute boys in Speedos and up on a ramp quick!
Alan Wilkinson, architect and queer freedom fighter

Photograph by Terry George
Anything that encourages the showing off of men's bodies is fine by me. And there's no reason why it should be 'ironic' or 'post-modern' or whatever. The beautiful should have to pay for their loveliness by being forced to show themselves off in public!
Greg Woods, Professor of Lesbian & Gay Studies, Nottingham Trent University

If you're interested in entering for the 2004 competition and finding out more, go to Let us know your views of male beauty competitions by emailing


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