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Posted By Sage     January 19, 2016     973 views     2 likes     0 comments
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Body consciousness has always plagued the gay male community (and perhaps female too, but I wouldn't know.) Gay men are men just the same and just like our heteroxexual peers, are innately geared to lust first and think later (if at all)--though it may be argued doubly so for men who are also gay be...  more
Body consciousness has always plagued the gay male community (and perhaps female too, but I wouldn't know.) Gay men are men just the same and just like our heteroxexual peers, are innately geared to lust first and think later (if at all)--though it may be argued doubly so for men who are also gay because it takes two of us shallow, surface beauty driven beasts to tango. I know in our own household my husband is constantly preoccupied with his barely distinguishable paunch, while the reason it took us all of 10 years to get together was because I was so typically shallow. The two of us gawk together at guys far hotter than we and imagine what we would do with them if we got them into our beds--which we both know would never happen (not least, we conveniently overlook, because these Adonises would never have us.) And we joke back and forth about whether the other will still be hot for us when we're no longer so pretty: a joke we seem to make more and more often as the years progress. This is why it moved me so much to see all the recent posts online regarding body consciousness, both inside the gay male community and outside of it. 

Just a couple of weeks ago as 2015 was wrapping up, published an essay by Jerry Plaza called: "The Trouble With Being Average Looking in the Gay Community" which bemoaned...well, exactly that. He asks how an average looking gay guy is supposed to meet someone when we've all been conditioned to seek some unattainable ideal. It's not an unpredictable essay but it's no less genuine or insightful because of it: its call-to-action no less imperative. Plaza asks us to take a look at ourselves: not at our bodies in the mirror, but at our beliefs, assumptions, and--yes, I'll name it--prejudices that hepls to perpetuate the humiliating catch-22 of a ritual that Plaza, and the vast majority of people not gifted with supermodel looks, suffers every time he goes out for a good time. The essay offers no solutions, but its author does present an honest, vulnerable portrait of an all-too-common affliction impacting us all, whether personally and directly or not. The comments below the essay are also worth a read, some as elucidating as the essay itself. 

Coincidentally on the same date that Plaza's essay was published, another, similar essay was also published on this one about body consciousness among large gay men (aka "bears".) In its title, writer Matthew Rodriguez poses the grim question: "Does It Get Better for Gay Guys Who Happen to Be Overweight?" Then he proceeds to share his inspiration for the piece: staring at his phone contemplating taking the next step in his latest sexting escapade by snapping and sharing a pic of him bare-shirted--bear belly and all. This prompted Rodriguez to inquire of other plus-sized gay men about, as he describes: "dating, sexting, and the bear community." What follows is several mid-to-large size men in their mid-to-late 20s and 30s describing their own personal struggles being overwight and gay. While unavoidably disheartening to see so many beautiful men struggle with the same feelings of rejection, isolation, and humiliation, the far more prevalent similarities in their experiences show others currently facing such issues in their lives that they're not alone, as suggest a solution may be achievable if broached not on an individual but a group level.

It's too easy to write these complaints as crises of confidence, but the brazen cruelty these men have all faced, based explicitly on their appearance, is not coming from within. That's external factors, which means it's up to all of us to change and influence them: that is, to change them in ourselves and influence them in others. Shaming others is shameful behavior for all of us as gay men, as queers, and as human beings. Each one of us knows deeply how it feels to be judged--and shunned--because of something intrinsic to our beings. So why must we perpetuate this shaming--this discrimination--and transfer it onto precisely the ones with whom we should be empathizing and who we should be embracing? 

Sure, when it comes to hooking up we may be biologically impelled toward "shallow", surface level attractions, and changing that is as impossible as changing our sexuality itself. No one is saying to defy your phermones. But may I at least offer this observation?

Might it be that the reason so many relationships fail (and gay male relationships perhaps the top among them) is because they start and stop at this surface-level, pheromone-based, sexual attraction? Could it be that if we're looking for something "real" or "more" from our romantic encounters and relationships then we have to look deeper to find that something "real" or "more" in the people we have them with?

Attraction is a vast and multi-faceted force. It comes from many different sources, all but one of which take time to reveal themselves. And it feeds on itself, which is to say that discovering additional attractive elements of a person bolsters the attractiveness of the other elements too. Meaning: the more you get to know someone, and the more you like what you're getting to know about them, the more attractive they become to you--including on a sexual level.

An insane number of single people--men in particular, and gay men perhaps most of all--are cheating themsleves of the sex, love, and relationships they yearn for because they're letting the first impressions from down below determine the total desirabilty, value, and even compatibility of each prospective partner. If you've ever had the experience of finally scoring with one of those hot numbers you lusted after then you know better than anyone: when the lights turn back on, the hotness often fades to black.

Now for some proactive inspiration, check out these positive images of body confidence in Now Toronto's Love Your Body issue, among the featured models: a pregnant woman, a wheelchair-bound athlete, and two transgender women.

How has body consciousness impacted your life?


Image attribution:

Gay Bear Berlin: By BASWIM (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons