I’m waiting to meet a queer man who has zero body image issues. A guy who 100% loves his body from head to toe, and embraces all his physical flaws and limitations. He’s completely fine with the fact that he will never have a six pack, an ass that rivals Kim Kardashian’s, a jawline like Liam Hemsworth, or cheekbones like Benedict Cumberbatch.
I’m waiting to speak to a gay man who read a piece online about learning to love his body, and then suddenly, he did. He wore a Speedo to the beach, embraced his love handles, and as if by magic, realized his flaws don’t make him less attractive, they make him… him. Leaving him no choice but to embrace them!
Now I’m all for the body positivity movement, but I don’t think vague, feel-good axioms are enough to help queer men struggling with body image issues. Screaming, “I’m beautiful and worthy of love” from the highest rooftop isn’t going to change diddly-squat.
We’re simply too embedded in the gay beauty culture. A culture that idolizes a certain bodily aesthetic: white, masculine, muscles, and so on. It teaches us that our value as a person (or at least a lot of it) is derived from how we look. This means we aren’t deserving of love or a healthy relationship if we don’t present a certain way. Or conversely, some of us think we are worthy of love, but will never find it, since we’re competing against men who look like Greek gods.
And while that may sound ridiculous, it does seem like a number of gay men actually have obtained the perfect body. I was in Provincetown last summer at a pool party on the 4th of July, and I was in pretty decent shape. But honestly, I was one of the handful of men there who didn’t have a six pack. I was in shock.
I was also recently visiting my family in LA. All it took was going out to one gay club in West Hollywood to make me feel terrible about my body. Even in Boston, where I live now, I go out and see, in abundance, men who look like Adonis.
So these men really do exist, and it seems like they’re all over the damn place. What’s more, they’re getting a lot more attention and love prospects than the rest of us (or so it seems).
This is why someone preaching, “You need to learn to love your body,” isn’t going to transform that person into someone who actually does.
That’s not to say we should give up and become a slave to the gym, beauty products, and our physical insecurities. I simply think it means we need to change how we approach our relationship with our body.
Here’s what I’ve done regarding my body image issues.
I’ve embraced that I have them, and no longer feel an ounce of remorse. I’ve realized that I’m not one of those queer men who’s going to learn to love his body fully. There will be days, lots of them, where I pinch my body fat and find myself gross. There will be days I get anxious because I can’t make it to the gym, and will immediately spiral into a negative feedback loop of, “I’m going to lose muscle, get fat, and nobody will love me.” There will be days where I stand in front of the mirror and point out every single thing I hate about my body.
And that’s okay.
Ironically, in embracing my insecurities, I’ve at least been able to get over the judgment and resentment I harbor towards myself for acting “shallowly” or obsessing over something minuscule. I no longer think something is wrong with me for not being able to embrace my body. I’ve simply acknowledged that I drank a little too much of the gay Kool-Aid. Because of this, I’m never going to have the healthiest relationship with my body.
Is this ideal? Absolutely not. But is it okay? Yes, it is. And at this point in my life, I can’t hope for a complete transformation in how I view my body, but I will gleefully take this form of harm reduction. Any bit helps.
With that said, I’m off. I need to make a protein shake and head to the gym.