Gay males make up 42 per cent of all men with eating disorders. That’s ludicrous when it’s estimated that gays make up only 5 per cent of the total male population.
Last week I read an informative Freshly Pressed blog post that got me thinking a lot about gay men, and their body image issues. But mostly, since then, I’ve thought about my body in particular. So I spent the last week looking at myself in the mirror and taking some self-portraits. Mostly in my underwear.
After this last pride, I couldn’t help but notice the plethora of diverse bodies on display at every event I attended. The men brave enough to walk in public sans their shirt adhered to a specific body type: Chiseled bodies, visible abdominal muscles, groomed hair. Those that were less sculpted, kept their shirts on. The world breathed a collective sigh of relief. Everyone knew their place.
Then there was me. You ever watch television and come to the certain reality that none of the actors represent you? I mean, sure they might be gay, and you’re gay, but they look nothing like you. Then you’re told by mainstream media that they’re the type of guys everyone should try to emulate, they’re the epitome of the male specimen and you’ll never measure up.
All the boys, and girls, swoon over them like they’re the second coming. No pun intended.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the way I look, but there’s a standard to appearances that most gay men covet, and if you’re like me, you probably don’t fit into the appropriate category.
When my hair started thinning years ago I was really worried about what other people would think. It’s not even that I minded so much myself, I was okay with the natural change to my body, but I feared the judgment that would come from a relatively shallow society.
If I hadn’t seen someone in a long time, an old friend, or colleague, I would catch their eyes fixated on my hair. If someone was upfront enough to mention my challenged follicles, there would always be someone who pretended that they didn’t notice, or that it wasn’t actually happening. Ummm… I own a mirror, I know what I look like. And I’m okay with it, really, I am.
It’s disappointing how our shallow values run rampant in our culture. These are the things we worry about, when there are more pressing issues to deal with. Eventually I stopped caring about others’ perceptions and just embraced the change. To be frank, I had no choice. I was getting older, and that didn’t mean I was any less handsome or desirable.
But of course there was always someone who would make a disparaging comment about my appearance, usually it came from another gay man. It didn’t matter that they too didn’t fit into the Adonis stereotype. They were only too happy to point out that I didn’t either. Here’s the thing I came to realize: You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.
For instance, if I appeased everyone else’s idea of how I should look then I would buy some Rogaine, or get a costly hair transplant. Really, if these individuals were successful in making me feel insecure, then I would take steps to correct the “problem” so they wouldn’t ridicule me any further. But that wouldn’t change anything. Then of course, they’d notice that my hair was miraculously lush and full again, so their focus would simply turn to the fact that I took corrective measures to make them happy. Either way, no-win!
Problem is nothing is going to satisfy them. They’re shallow people who will criticize you for naturally getting older, and for trying to reverse the process in an effort to stop their judgment. We must start challenging individuals who hold these beliefs.
This is why people get plastic surgery, because they’ve been made to feel bad about their looks from a callous public who think it’s their right to judge others on something as superficial as looks.
Gay blogs and pundits are only too happy to post photographs of hot men, and to ask that their readers rate them from who is the most to least attractive. Comment boards are saturated with remarks like, “He’s so ugly, stop going to the gym.” To the mundane, and trite, “I wouldn’t fuck him.” Umm… I don’t think he offered.
The malice demonstrated in magazines that target the gay male demographic are similar to female driven magazines that consistently tell women all over the world that they’re imperfect.
A few years ago, while I was at gay pride, a man on the street stopped, looked me up and down and then called me fat. Yep, he called me fat. Now at the age of 35 I’m five foot nine and weigh one hundred and sixty pounds. I think that’s just fine for my age.
I run four times a week and lift weights. But I also enjoy beer and eating out with friends. My body is both soft and muscular. I could go further to achieve those six-pack abs in an attempt to be “perfect” but I’m happy with how I look. I think I am my very own brand of sexiness.
So while I was lying around in my underwear on one lazy, hot, humid day, I took a photograph of myself. I’ve never done that before. Not once in my life had I ever photographed the entire length of my body — at least not to share with others!
Already I can feel the criticism. Some don’t care, others have many opinions and some can’t believe I would post this at all! But the experience, of a camera taking my photograph, in just my underwear was liberating.
Sure I could spend more time at they gym in an effort to look like the standard gay guy, but I prefer moderation. Some time for myself, and others, and pets, and so on. So many gay guys will try to convince you that their obsession with body image has everything to do with health. But, as I’ve written before, these are the same individuals who on weekends drink copious amounts of alcohol, do drugs, sleep around and so on. Obviously they’re not too concerned with health, but rather vanity.
There are those who will look at my photograph and consider me something — and none of it good. At this age I really have no appreciation for shallow people, I don’t. I’m over them, have been for some time. There is nothing attractive about them.
Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if we stopped judging people on all this superficial criteria? Why is it so impossible for us to allow people to love their bodies just the way they are? Not everyone wants to starve themselves, or spend hours at the gym to look like a model on the cover of a magazine. They want to be accepted for exactly who they are: Perfect.
No matter how long we live there’s always going to be someone who will unfairly judge us for how we look. The idea that our society tries to fight aging, as though it’s possible, through purchasing expensive cosmetics full of poison that have been cruelly tested on animals, is an indication of how messed up our priorities are.
As we age, our hair will thin, our bodies will sag, our skin will wrinkle and even our voices will change. There is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s NORMAL.
We really need to spend more time with ourselves, naked in the mirror to appreciate how beautiful we are, and how gorgeous our bodies are. There is no one standard of beauty, it can be many things, skinny, fat, whatever it is.
But first we need to stop letting judgment affect how we view ourselves. Don’t listen to someone who says you are unhealthy because you’re fat. Tell them that your health is none of their fucking business.
Tell a gay man that to deem someone unfuckable because they have a receding hairline, or a flat ass, is stupid. Tell him that he’s actually afraid and more insecure than the people he’s so critical of.
Tell a straight man who judges all women against a hollywood female archetype to go fuck himself. Really, do it!
Most importantly though, we need to stop criticizing other people’s appearances too. We have to stop contributing to all this self-hate. Stop buying into all this stupidity that corporations have told us is FACT when none of it is. It’s been designed to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we’ll buy their products to fix something that isn’t broken: Ourselves.
Here’s one fact we should all begin recognizing more thoroughly: We’re all going to get old. It’s the part of life we all need to accept and learn how to be okay with. Because it is okay.
Oh yeah, I liked the first photograph so much that I took another one!