Saturday, 8 October 2011

Camp or kitsch

Is it possible for t-girls to be camp?  It probably sounds unusual but it is one of the many questions that have been playing on my mind for a while.   No, I really don't have too much time on my hands - honest.

A few weeks ago one of my friends, who knows about Rhiannon, said that she thought I was camp.  The thing is that I never ever considered myself camp at all, so to be honest I was a little surprised.  My definition of camp is fairly stereotypical and probably slightly prejudicial if I’m honest.  What I mean is that I wouldn’t consider myself camp because I have a normal type of voice and when I’m not in heels, I don’t mince.  Actually I more lumber really.

So I couldn’t fathom what prompted my friend to make the comment and actually why it jarred so much with me.  But in talking to her, we arrived at an understanding that it was things I talk about that make me sound camp rather than me actually ‘acting’ camp, if that makes sense?  

Anyway, I parked it for a couple of weeks without consciously thinking about it.  But every so often I would mention something or a point would come out in a conversation what would make me think, ‘oooh, that is SO camp’!  But I still dismissed it.

Then, last week I started to listen to a new book.  One of the things you need to know about me is that I read and listen to books a lot.  I drive for many hours each week and I voraciously consume audio books. My tastes are wide and varied – I’ve even owned up to recently discovering a penchant for chick lit.

The book in question is Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway nights.  If, according to Wikipedia, the original definition of camp, in the 1909 Oxford English Dictionary was “ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual”, then Broadway Nights is 100% well and truly camp.  And Mr Rudetsky, who voices the book, is camper than a scout jamboree .   But the thing is, I loved it.  It was fun, sparky, bitchy, laugh out loud funny and, did I mention, very very very camp?

If I like campiness and am happy to revel in it, surely I must be camp?  And then the thought struck.  Camp is a term applied generally to gay men – so is it even possible for t-girls to be camp too?  Partly I guess it depends on how you view your t-ness…  But assuming we aspire to be more feminine than masculine, I tried to recall whether I’d ever heard of women being referred to as camp.  I couldn’t think of a time when I had seen it – it certainly doesn’t seem to happen very often.  Instead of referring to a woman as camp, people seem to say that they are either being retro or kitsch.  

So, girlfriend, that’s where I arrived – and next time I see that friend of mine I’m going to tell them.  They can call me kitsch and I will own that label, but, as fun as it is, I’m rejecting any campiness.   But the question it leaves me with for you is – are you camp or are you kitsch?


  1. Camp or kitsch, I don't have a preference either way. If something's funny, it's funny. Analysis just helps full blogs and newspapers. ;-)

    Maybe it's more acceptable to have camp humour, because the amount of camp jokes - that's jokes that are camp, rather than jokes about camp things, just run and run where I work. Really, it's a British tradition! :-D

    camper than a scout jamboree

    LOL. If I may, I'd like to use that again later :-)

  2. I've nicked it from somewhere else, so absolutely feel free.

    I have been pondering it today - and you may be right, it might be a non-issue. And I agree that, in part, it is the best of British! :o)

    But the more I've thought about it, I have realised why it really jars with me. Many people define camp as someone or something that isn't female, but is copying or parodying femininity - e.g. a gay man who is effeminate.

    And being told you are camp (a parody of femininity) is to a degree underlining that they don't see you as being feminine, but instead that they see you as a man who is copying female traits.

    That conclusion upsets me and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with, or have articulated to myself even the reason why that upsets me. As the transvestite I've always believed myself to be copying women and if I was seen as camp I would think they were spot on correct. However, with something inside of me that increasingly resents my maleness and that sees me more as a girl, being seen as camp highlights the gap between who I am and who I want to be.

    I'm probably over analysing, but honestly, it isn't just to fill my blog up! :o) Thank you for pushing my thinking forward Lynn.

  3. It's each person's take on it, I guess. I suppose I'm looking at it [camp] more from a 70s cheek, 90s knowing-look-to-camera sort of thing.

    I think I can see why it would annoy or upset you, though.

  4. I suppose it depends a bit on how the comment is delivered; only you can judge that. However, such things said in the workplace are usually oil in the wheels of conversation and not meant as a weighty judgement.
    Dressing up is one of life's pleasures - it's very hard to unravel all the reasons why and I'm sure everyone is different. For me the fun is precisely because I am a bloke and can look something like a woman if I try hard. IF it was easy it would be no fun and if I had to do it all the while it would be much, much too much hard work!
    All the best,

  5. It was a completely good natured comment from someone I care about and how is probably one of the most accepting people. She is even lovelier now that she took the blog to heart when writing the message inside my birthday card :-)

    I like your work ethic around looking like a woman, but I'm much lazier and would be much happier if it was easier!!