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However, Sarson says we shouldn’t presume that dating apps have exacerbated camp and femme-shaming within the LGBTQ community. “It’s always existed,” he says, citing the hyper-masculine “Gay Clone or “Castro Clone” look of the ‘70s and ’80s—gay men who dressed and presented alike, typically with handlebar mustaches and tight Levi’s—which he characterizes as partly “a response to what that scene considered to be the ‘too effeminate’ and ‘flamboyant’ nature of the Gay Liberation movement.” This form of reactionary femme-shaming can be traced back to the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which were led by trans women of color, gender-nonconforming folks, and effeminate young men. Flamboyant disco singer Sylvester said in a 1982 interview that he often felt dismissed by gay men who had “gotten all cloned out and down on people being loud, extravagant or different.”

The Gay Clone look may have gone out of fashion, but homophobic slurs that feel inherently femmephobic never have: “sissy,” “nancy,” “nelly,” “fairy,” “faggy.” Even with strides in representation, those words haven’t gone out of fashion. Hell, some gay men in the late ‘90s probably felt that Jack—Sean Hayes’s unabashedly campy character from Will & Grace—was “too stereotypical” because he was really “too femme.”

“I don’t mean to give the masc4masc, femme-hating crowd a pass,” says Ross. “But [I think] many of them may have been raised around people vilifying queer and femme folks. If they weren’t the one getting bullied for ‘acting gay,’ they probably saw where ‘acting gay’ could get you.”

But at the same time, Sarson says we need to address the impact of anti-camp and anti-femme sentiments on younger LGBTQ people who use dating apps. After all, in 2019, downloading Grindr, Scruff, or Jack’d might still be someone’s first contact with the LGBTQ community. The experiences of Nathan, a 22-year-old gay man from Durban, South Africa, illustrate just how damaging these sentiments can be. “I’m not going to say that what I’ve encountered on dating apps drove me to a space where I was suicidal, but it definitely was a contributing factor,” he says. At a low point, Nathan says, he even asked guys on one app “what it was about me that would have to change for them to find me attractive. And all of them said my profile needed to be more manly.”

Sarson says he found that avowedly masc guys tend to underline their own straight-acting credentials simply by dismissing campiness. “Their identity was built on rejecting what it wasn’t rather than coming out and saying what it actually was,” he says. But this doesn’t mean their preferences are easy to break down. “I try to avoid talking about masculinity with strangers online,” says Scott. “I’ve never had any luck educating them in the past.”

Ultimately, both online and IRL, camp and femme-shaming is a nuanced but deeply ingrained strain of internalized homophobia. The more we talk about it, the more we can understand where it stems from and, hopefully, how to combat it. Until then, whenever someone on a dating app asks for a voice note, you have every right to send a clip of Dame Shirley Bassey singing “I Am What I Am.”

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