On Monday night's All Things Considered newscast, National Public Radio promoted the latest Mr. Gay World pageant, which was apparently made newsworthy since it was based this year in Africa (with black African contestants). Judges were looking for someone who could be a positive LGBT advocate and display their well-dressed and groomed "innate charm and sparkle." As is often the case on NPR, there was zero room for social conservatives.
Jo Ann Downs, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, objected to this pageant being held on Easter Sunday, but NPR didn't find that worth noting. The pro-gay Daily Maverick site reported on Downs:
“I don’t think Christians have shown animosity. Nobody’s picketing outside saying ‘Die homosexuals’... The second point is that Jesus very clearly said I will die for your sins, but sin no more and people are asked to move away from their sins and that’s adultery and fornication and all of that.
"So on Easter Sunday we don’t expect people who are all in adultery to rise up and say okay, we’re going to have a Mr Adultery competition."
The comments prompted deputy minister of science Derek Hanekom to tweet a single word: "ugh". And organisers credited the ACDP with singlehandedly ensuring tickets for Mr Gay World Johannesburg were sold out within days of the party's remarks hitting the headlines.
They couldn't even allow criticism from other gay advocates, like the Associated Press did:
Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the New York-based International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, worries such glitzy contests feed stereotypes that could cement the view, often heard in Africa, that homosexuality is un-African.
"Most of us are of color, poor, don't look like we go to the gym regularly," Johnson said in a telephone interview. "Class does matter. It is poor men who experience the most oppression."
Reporter Anders Kelto began the NPR report like this:
At a golf resort in suburban Johannesburg, men in tiny swimsuits surround a pool. They cheer as a group of competitors races around a grass field to the sounds of "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini."
This is Sports Challenge Day at Mr. Gay World 2012. Mr. Gay World is a five day competition that includes a wide range of events -- fitness tests, quizzes about LGBT rights and, of course, evening wear and swimsuit competitions.
The only "story" here to NPR is that 37 African countries, it is "still illegal just to be gay." The soundbites were all participants and gay advocates:
– Coenie Kokkuk, founder of Mr. Gay South Africa and this year’s pageant organizer
– Wendelius Hametunya, black contestant from Namibia
– Robel Hailu, black contestant from Ethiopia
– Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program of Human Rights Watch in New York
The Mr. Gay World website explains that the winner should be beautiful and project charisma and sparkle:
The delegate chosen to represent his peers on a global stage will not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities but he will also take care in his outward beauty.
The delegate will treat his body as his temple and will be active and outgoing. He will have impeccable grooming standards and has a thorough understanding of what attire is appropriate for each engagement he is to encounter.
The website also reports the cause is more political:
Eric Butter, a philanthropist and a businessman envisions the organization to unite the gay community all over the world in a strong common cause.
In 2008, he founded the Mr. Gay World Organization (MGWO) with the hopes of creating a more positive image for the gay people, particularly the gay men to make a ‘difference’ and be accepted as human beings with equal importance along with straight people. Also, the organization have seen the growing number of AIDS cases in the world, it has committed its existence and gave its full support in fighting against the widespread of this dreaded disease.
Along with this, MGWO seeks to fight discrimination and stigma within the gay men community, empowers and raises the visibility of optimistic gay men as well as breaks barriers created by discriminative individuals and groups.
Also on Monday, NPR's Tell Me More reported on "gay rights" in Liberia with only one side: Tamasin Ford of the leftist Guardian newspaper insisting "something needs to be done....there needs to be some sort of action" on gay rights.