Like you, we want to look our very best when we leave the house or take off our clothes. There alway seems to be some Pride celebration, party, event or vacation that’s forcing us to put in those extra hours at the gym. And of course, there is summer, when we must fit into tight t-shirts and even tighter swim suits. For our community, the quest to look perfect seems to be never ending.
It is a well known fact that gay males are much more conscience about our weight, size and appearance than straight guys. As Out.com reports: “Compared to straight men (5%), men who identify as gay (15%) are three times more likely to have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. A recent study found that 45% of gay men are dissatisfied with their muscularity, and are also more likely to have experienced “objectification,” “surveillance,” “appearance-based social comparison,” and “pressure from the media to be attractive” than our straight counterparts.”
There is a simple explanation for this; we are fed a constant diet of beauty and perfection all of our lives. Many try to down play our “maleness”, but being gay means that a huge portion of our personality and socialization is based on how we look as men. We are men who love men. Contrary to popular opinion, we, for the most part, look for the strongest physical features that signify virility and masculinity. This means muscles, tight abs, tree trunk legs, a bubble but, and of course…a big dick. From social media and porn to hook-up apps and even fitness magazines we are drowned in images of male perfection. Perfection we want, but also want to be. And this can lead to the major mental health issue of body dysmorphia.
As defined by the Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) Foundation, muscle dysmorphia disorder (MDD) is a type of body dysmorphia marked by feeling insufficiently muscular or lean, when that is often far from the case. It’s more than simply narcissism run rampant. Sometimes referred to as “bigorexia,” “Adonis complex,” or “reverse anorexia,” MDD is characterized by “excessive time and over-exertion in weightlifting to increase muscle mass”; “disordered eating, using special diets or excessive protein supplements”; “compulsive comparing and checking of one’s physique”; and “significant distress or mood swings.” According to the nonprofit, Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders (ANRED), almost everyone with MDD also suffers from depression.
What’s worse is that most of this isn’t just in your head. Body judgment and fat shaming is a huge portion of our homo culture. “NO FATS” is so common to read and hear that most ignore it, if they notice it at all. Two studies detail what we do to our brothers and what they do to us regarding our size and shape.
- The first study found that out of 215 gay men, age 18 to 78, over one third of them had directly experienced anti-fat bias, even though most of them were not overweight using common body mass index guidelines. These men also reported that the most common form of anti-fat bias they received was from potential romantic partners, which was associated with several types of body image disturbance.
- The second study compared the expectations of anti-fat bias among gay and straight college men. These ‘mos and bros rated the likelihood of certain outcomes if they saw an overweight man hit on an attractive target. Basically, if they saw a fat guy hitting on someone out of his league, what would they expect to happen:
Gay men reported greater likelihood that the overweight man would be blatantly ignored, treated rudely, or mocked behind his back if he approached an attractive potential romantic partner.
Now, we see this all the time at the club, gym or even beach. On one side are the guys that look like they just walked off the cover of a magazine. And on the other are all the ones that don’t. We are not all treated equally. What’s concerning, is that most of our expectations are based on lies i.e.Photoshop. From strict workout routines and crash diets, hours sweating off excess water weight, and enemas, guys on magazines are literally in the business of looking great. You, on the other hand, are in the business of being an accountant or office manager. Porn stars are paid to look perfect, to help fuel your jerk-off fantasies. You are paid to do someone’s taxes. And when all else fails, a Photoshop expert comes in to smooth away those extra inches, tighten that tummy and even fill out those hard to achieve calf muscles. You, have Quickbooks and a spreadsheet.
A good first step is to stop believing what you see on dating profiles, Instagram and other social media outlets as the norm or average look for a grown man. Those people have, and use the same techniques and technology as the pros. Some of them have never looked as good as they do on the day that 200th, “natural” selfie was taken, and won’t ever again.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t try to achieve your healthy goals. But, this should be within reason and applicable to your body type and age. Being realistic about what you see, what you have and what you want is the key to happiness. If you find that you want to lose some extra pounds, please consult a proper physician before making any large changes to your diet or fitness routine. If you believe that you may have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, seek a trained professional that has a strong history in treating gay males with this disorder.
And most of all, stop the shaming and stigma. Life as a gay man is hard enough without constantly being judged by your brothers. As my grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say…shut the hell up!”