• Photo for World Mr. Gay Competition Ends In Controversy—And Courage
    Photo Credit: Charl van den Berg

World Mr. Gay Competition Ends In Controversy—And Courage

By L.K. Regan

The Mr. Gay Worldwide 2010 competition in Oslo, Norway has ended, but the discussion surrounding it continues. On the one hand, the South African restaurant manager selected as the winner has a somewhat checkered past. And, the Chinese entrant faces possible retribution when he returns home. With all that drama, the final was pretty great—and we've got video.

Mr. Gay Worldwide 2010 is Charl van den Berg, who is 28 years old, and manages a restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa. Last year, when he won Mr. Gay South Africa, it was discovered that he had made a sexually explicit video. It was available only to subscribers to a particular gay porn website, but this activity would appear to violate the competition's rules, which state an opposition to "any activities in connection with the porn industry."

The Norwegian producer of the Worldwide Mr. Gay pageant in Oslo was quick to reframe Van den Berg's actions, saying that the competition welcomed men who have "found the courage to escape the exploitation in an effort to find a better life." For his part, Van den Berg said, "It's my aim to help break down stereotypes and differing mindsets in the global community and promote oneness and equality for all people by bridging the gap between those mindsets.... It is my understanding that people are people before we are different."

That seems to settle that. But what about the continuing difficulties of the Chinese entry, Xiaodai Muyi? Xiaodai faced considerable obstacles in even reaching the pageant. The Mr. Gay China pageant was supposed to take place in January in Beijing, but a mere hour before the show was set to start, police arrived to cancel it, citing improper permits. But the show must go on—and in late January a group of organizers and pageant competitors secretly met and agreed to send a representative to the final competition in Norway. Enter Xiaodai, who goes by Andrew in English. Xiaodai not only competed in Oslo—he came away with fourth place out of 24 contestants.

Now, however, Xiaodai fears returning to his home in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang region—largely because he is concerned that the publicity surrounding him might affect the AIDS prevention organization he manages. "I'm scared to go back to Urumqi, not for myself but I'm scared that it will impact my organization," he told Agence France-Presse. "If the organization can't continue its work, that will be no good.... It's very possible that will happen." Here's hoping that Xiaodai's courage is rewarded, since he sounds like a modern gay hero.

And for those curious to see the contestants, here's a video of the finals of the competition: