Love Island Australia is smack-bang in the middle of Aussie pop culture at the moment. It’s hard to avoid the show – even if you’re not a fan, you’d be seeing commentary and headlines about it all over the internet as reality TV-obsessed Aussies Tweet and social yarns and hot takes on the guys and girls of the Mallorca villa.
One contestant who’s generated a lot of chat is Justin Lacko. He’s tall, handsome, has ripped abs – not to mention he’s sweet, considerate and funny.
Oh, and he’s pretty campy.
From the get-go, Justin’s playful, theatrical personality was at odds with the rest of the villa. In comparison to the extremely blokey and gruff contestants like Grant and Eden, Justin stands out. He has a camp voice. He’s emotive with his body language. He hams it up when he does impressions as jokes. He’s not a blokey bloke – and people are saying he’s gay because of it.
The thing is, Justin has not identified as gay or bisexual. He’s identified as heterosexual. So why do we feel it’s OK to decide he’s gay and just doesn’t know it/is hiding it?
It’s concerning that in 2018 we are still expecting men to conform to the stereotype of a heterosexual man. You know the stereotype – deep voice. Sit with their legs spread. FOOTY. Hairy. Don’t take much care with their appearance.
We’re becoming so progressive with our attitudes toward women, toward inclusivity and the way we express ourselves as individuals. But a man who is camp? Who looks groomed? He’s gotta be gay, right?
The problem with this attitude is – by joking around or insisting a man who is camp or who looks polished must mean they’re a homosexual is that it perpetuates the toxic masculinity that’s so pervasive in our culture. That toxic masculinity is why men struggle to express emotions. Why many don’t feel it’s OK to cry, especially in front of others. And why men like Justin who don’t have that “blokey” demeanour about them are made to feel like there’s something wrong with them.
The thing is, many of us who do consider ourselves to be progressive may be perpetuating this. In discussions about how much I (lol) crush on Justin, I’ve had numerous friends and acquaintances I consider to be extremely progressive – they’re feminists, they’re inclusive, they’re passionate about LGBTQI+ rights – laugh and say “Justin’s gay, mate”. When I’ve questioned their attitudes, saying he’s just a straight man who is camp, they’ve said “no there’s something about him, he’s gay”.
What we’re saying when we label a camp man who identifies as heterosexual as gay is that straight men are a certain way. They exhibit certain traits and behaviours. Obviously in some ways they do – they enjoy sex with women. Homosexual men enjoy sex with men.
But that’s it! That is it. Homosexual men can and are often blokey – they can be gruff, enjoy plain white bread and sausage sangas for dinner, and only watch footy. Heterosexual men can and often are camp – they can express themselves in a multitude of ways, enjoy RuPaul, use makeup and have all kinds of inflections to their voice.
My point is, it’s ridiculous in this day and age that we still have any kind of expectation as to how someone of a certain sexuality acts or expresses themselves.
Justin could at any point come out as homosexual or bisexual, and that is absolutely fine. But we shouldn’t be deducing his sexuality based on his personality or mannerisms. We shouldn’t tell a man who identifies as heterosexual that ACTUALLY, he’s homosexual because he isn’t blokey enough to be straight.
So what do we do about this toxic attitude? We watch ourselves. Let’s stop making jokes about men “seeming” gay. Let’s stop deciding on someone’s sexual preferences based on their personality, how they present themselves, how they speak.
Let’s give men the freedom to embrace their personality and their mannerisms, and not make them feel like they aren’t allowed to be who they naturally are.Image: Love Island