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Gay body image: Why we hate ourselves

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Toned abs, mountainous biceps and a tabletop ass; what do these qualities all have in common, you might ask? Well, they are the triforce of the picture-perfect gay male.

In today’s society, body image has become more of an issue and affects the mental health of many gay men. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, while gay men only make up five percent of the male population, 42 percent of males with eating disorders identify as gay. NEDA also reported that internalized negative messages and beliefs about oneself, due to sexual orientation and the inability to meet body image ideals within some LGBTQ+ cultural contexts, have been attributed to high rates of eating disorders amongst gay males.

It is not easy to have a positive self-image as a gay male among the ridiculous standards imposed by the gay community. Grindr, the most popular gay dating and hookup app, allows users to list their body type preferences. It is a common occurrence to see “no fats, no femmes” written in users bios on Grindr. Many gay men on Grindr will try to make their profile pictures appear more masculine to get more messages from people on the app.

It is disgusting and saddening to see that the gay community has given a voice to such degrading and body-negative mindsets. This is hypocrisy, because if the gay community was going to create an all inclusive space, then gay dating culture should not make body image the main focus.

A guy that I was on a date with told me that I appeared more masculine in my profile picture, implying that I was too femme. This made me feel that I was not good enough to meet his standards. I could not help but take on that prejudice as a reflection of my own self worth. After a dose of common sense, I blocked this crusty man from my life and gained a valuable insight about the gay community.

Gay men are hurt from growing up in a heteronormative society. Many of us try to fit in by trying to pass as straight, while also coming to terms with our own sexuality. We have developed a hyper sense of self awareness because we have tried to fit in to avoid being discriminated by our own communities and families.

This is where low self-esteem, poor body image and high rates of eating disorders in the gay community arise. We have been conditioned to hate ourselves and not embrace our femininity and features that don't hold to masculine standards.

According to PsychologyToday, potential factors that may interact with an LGBT person's predisposition for developing an eating disorder include being bullied and being impacted by stress due to discrimination.

If you are naturally more feminine as a gay male, then you’re screwed growing up, because you’re labeled as a sissy and get bullied off the bat. There is no hiding, and you are left to be judged and ridiculed by those who do not even know who you are as a person, but evaluate you on your appearance.

These stresses and pains manifest in a poor self-esteem and body image, while causing more gay people to bully their own kind due to self-hatred. My dear mother, RuPaul, explained it perfectly on Twitter, saying that, “the oppressed take on the characteristics of their oppressors.” Many gay men have been taught to hate their sexuality and strive to embrace masculinity because it is what is expected of them by gender norms in society.

Even if a gay man comes from a progressive background that does not enforce gender norms, the effects of toxic masculinity still permeate.

The Guardian found in a study that 92 percent of gay men think effeminate gay men are still made fun of in the mainstream media. And 68 percent of them said they’ve been on the receiving end of homophobic abuse that has specifically ridiculed their femininity.

It is time for a wake up call, gay people. Let’s love each other for who we are and not look down and shame fellow gay people for being themselves. It is shocking that we would give ourselves such a hard time for being feminine or not having a stereotypical perfect masculine body, since the outside world already does that to our community.

While masculine features can be attractive, this should not mean that feminine men or any man who does not have a six-pack should be shamed for it — nor should they be told that they are undeserving of love.

We all deserve to love ourselves in this short life we live; there is no room for self-doubt and self-hatred. So to my fellow gays, please love yourselves and your gay siblings, because we are all that we got.

This is the opinion of Alex Myers, a junior French and philosophy major from Edmond, Oklahoma. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan email comments to jlee@theloyolan.com.

To see this article in the context of a larger feature about the queer experience at LMU, visit laloyolan.com/special_issues/queer_lions/.

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