In the gay world, being fierce is celebrated; being hot, worshipped. There are varying definitions of hotness, so let’s focus on a prominent generalization: muscular dudes in tank tops (the irony is not lost upon me as I quickly close my drawer of tank tops and race to the gym).
I hesitated to write this blog post because I’ve received some backlash in the past. Some have said, “It’s easy for you to say that because of the way you look” or “I don’t believe you because you obviously care about your appearance.” I can understand the doubt: here is this seemingly fit dude telling people that it’s okay to be different shapes and sizes. Confuse me? I’m fairly open about my own insecurities and the amount of vanity that motivates me (and all of us). I’m also very open about how much I enjoy healthy habits, not for physical appearance or social acceptance but for my anxiety, energy, and mood management. So while there may be backlash or disbelief, I’m going to keep doing me and talk about body positivity because I believe it and I live it.
Vanity is so difficult to shed and as a result, the language around body image used by the gay male community is hard to swallow (oops). It’s body-shaming and we do it to ourselves and each other. Yes, sometimes it can be playful (for the wonderfully facetious people who can pull off sarcasm). But most of the time, it is language with negative undertones that target weight and body image. We may use it innocuously and without that intention.
If we could collectively acknowledge the bad behaviors and language we use, I think we could build a more positive community and reduce negative speak. Here are 4 body-shaming things gay men should stop saying:
- “I’m on a diet #CruiseBody”
- unhealthy message it sends: “dieting is the only way to lose weight.” Studies repeatedly show that restrictive dieting does not yield long lasting weight loss results. Plus, it perpetuates bad extreme behaviors of starvation and food fear. Stop with the hashtags!
- “I can eat again!”
- unhealthy message it sends: “eating less is a badge of honor.” No, you didn’t win the Pulitzer or run a marathon. There is no glory to be earned for those who restrict themselves the longest before they binge. You cut carbs for 30 days and worked out 3 times a day. Congratulations, you had a terrible month!
- “I don’t want to be a twink”
- unhealthy message it sends: “if you’re a thin twink, you’re unattractive or undesirable.” I don’t care if I’m a twink, a bear, or a jock. I’ll be the best damn twink, bear or jock I can be if that’s just how my body is going to be. There’s room for everyone.
- “God, I’m so fat…” (with a skinny selfie on social media)
- unhealthy messages it sends: “Fat is ugly” and “Give me all the compliments.” People have real body disorders and this behavior above does not fall into the same category. If you want attention, then by all means, do you, boo! Just don’t ask for attention or phish for compliments under the guise of a body issue. And, fat is not ugly or bad. It’s normal and we all have it. Good health doesn’t have a specific look.
I’m not sure if social media has facilitated this behavior and language more than before (or simply exposed it), but this isn’t exclusive to the gay community. It’s everywhere and everyone participates to some capacity. I’m guilty of posting selfies too! I’m going to work on being clear and consistent with my language around body celebration and positivity vs body glorification or shaming.
Let’s change the conversation, friends!
Thomas Ngo, RD