Why I Develop Body Issues As A Gay Man
I have an ectomorph body type, defined by a “delicate” frame with small shoulders and a flat chest. Gaining weight can be challenging since I have a fast metabolism, another common trait of this body type.
Although this sounds like a dream for those who put on weight simply by smelling cheese and chocolate, body issues are still something I’ve dealt with, exacerbated by images of white male models and what the perfect gay guy should look like. Imagine dealing with how conscious I was of my lean frame and sexual racism within the community as well.
There was a short period of time when I would stuff myself with junk food in hopes of putting on weight. Ice cream, chips, chocolates, McDonald’s. Sounds extreme but 42% of male eating disorder sufferers identify as gay. These days, I eat wisely, swim and hit the gym regularly. But how did I end up being self-conscious and questioning why I wasn’t part of the stereotype?
White male archetype
When I was younger, I would buy clothes and wonder why they didn’t fit me the way that they did on models. How did a supposedly fitted shirt in my size still hang loosely on my body while it accentuated every curves of the white model? Why did trousers that make some white guy’s posterior extra perky made my look like runaway pancakes? You get the point.
It took years for me to finally realise that the white cisgender men archetype I often saw in media was something I could never become in terms of body type. But when that’s all you’ve been spoon-fed, you don’t question the lack of diversity but rather see yourself as the problem.
The Asian culture is one where health and food seem to go hand in hand and I’m not talking about choosing healthy options but rather the amount you eat. There’s been countless occasions when relatives would comment that I was too skinny and ask if I’ve been eating at all. “Yes, Aunt May. I eat twice as much you do and I’m still a healthy size 0. What size are you again?” That usually shuts them up.
Jokes aside, family come from a place of care than malice when they ask about your weight but not every person who receives such comments is able to grasp that. Ignorance on the family’s part can lead some people to suffer from body dysmorphia and for a while, I was a victim of that.
Gay men put a lot of effort into working out as the gay community places increased attention and priority on physical attraction. Go to the clubs and check out the shirtless guys or log onto Grindr or Instagram and look at the sculpted torsos and perky butts that flood one’s profile.
Don’t get me wrong – a nice-looking body would be great. I mean, who doesn’t want one if it’s supposedly going to make you more acceptable and well-liked? The problem is achieving a physique just so it’s Grindr or Instagram-approved and still not being satisfied. There isn’t a correlation between having a banging body and living a healthy, happy life, I’ve learnt.
Finding the good in social media
Sure, stereotypes are constantly being perpetuated on social media – and it can be difficult separating aspirations from constant comparisons – but the less represented has found a way to become more visible and vocal through platforms like Instagram.
I’ve connected with many who have gone through similar body image issues and are using their voice to tell their stories and challenge the archetype. It’s inspiring and empowering to know that you’re not alone.
Being married to a guy who appreciates my physique definitely helped to alleviate any body issues but ultimately, I’ve understood that self-love and self-worth don’t come from having a typical muscular body. More importantly, I’ve learnt that I was never the problem, just like many who have gone through or experiencing similar disorders.