Health: Gay Body Fascism
Pick up any gay magazine or any A&F catalogue. Odds are you’ll find 95 percent of the men shown are beautiful beyond imagining. Each day we are badgered and bothered with billboards, Facebook ads and in print of men with rigorously developed bodies. Prescribing bodies to fit a mold of eating before or after certain times, shakes of unnatural concoctions and pills of every imaginable variety to bulk us up and make us work harder just to look “normal” puts a bad taste in my mouth. But developing bodies fit to grace the cover of Men’s Health magazine is beyond reach of most men. For many gay men, especially college aged men; the stigma to attain the perfect body seems like a challenge worth endeavoring. But should our bodies matter?
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to develop a better body for health benefits or to maintain a healthy lifestyle, many young gay men see a beautiful body and succumb to doubting their attractiveness and sexual desirability in mainstream gay culture. This “gay body fascism” has become the way of thinking while producing a skewed sense of what it means to be gay. After visiting many cities all over America, I encounter many young gay men who would make the perfect boyfriend to someone someday yet comment about their bodies and fall into a “compare and despair” attitude. We’ve all been in situations which we doubt our attractiveness. Fact of the matter, it is too easy to look at yourself in the mirror and say “God, I wish this part of me could improve! Because if I don’t, I will never find the man of my dreams!” I do not suggest that we stop reading magazines, but we need to be aware that we are looking at models- a very select group of men who sole vocation is their appearance and who have the added assistance of great lighting and make-up artists.
As a product of body fascism, we label ourselves out of fear and a sense of isolation. I remember packing on the “gay 15” (more like the “gay 30” ) as a teen, the extra pounds of pudge one puts on which momentarily pauses any young queer’s budding sense of sexuality. I internalized the notion I could never get the college jock, the cute bicyclist or the geeky nerd types I pined for because of my undermined confidence and body consciousness. Compounded with conflicting notions that being gay meant to be chiseled, toned and have not an ounce of fat on my body, I was chasing the elusive dragon towards perfection. While I lost the weight gradually through high school and earlier in college, I never lost the psychological weight and damage from those teen years. I carry those pounds almost every social event I go and they fluctuate immensely depending on the jeans.
I find this sentiment presciently clear for many gay men who have endured the strife and walked through the fire to reclaim their bodies. I find commonality and confidence with these men and the uniting line between all of us is that we cultivated the internal qualities which set us apart. We read books, picked up hobbies, watched movies with friends and cultivated meaningful relationships with other gay men to reify the sentiment of knowing we are not defined by our bodies and at the deepest level knew what it means to be gay.
We are more than our bodies. Mainstream gay culture is starving to hear approval and validation yet atrophy the internal characteristics which make us profoundly interesting and resiliently confident individuals. We need to look less to muscle gods and trust more in our desires, visions and political organizing and the future of what is desirable remains for all of us to determine.
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