We live in a progressive society, it’s true, but we also live in a society that would need a hell of a lot of progression to come anywhere near to perfect. We impart painful stereotypes on one another passing them around frivolously without any thought to the negative repercussions that will surely follow. Throughout history and today as well women have dealt with the painful reality that we are held to a higher physical standard than men this is a widespread and highly talked about issue. However, I think a very pressing issue that is not talked about or recognized quite so much but none the less is very real and deserves some attention, is the issues that gay men face with body image. There is a trend of positive reinforcement that says it’s okay to be gay. And, well that’s fantastic but the underlying implication in a society filled with skinny jeans and half naked party boys with perfectly smooth sculpted chests is that it’s not okay to be gay and fat or gay and hairy or even gay and average. You’d better be fabulous and look that way too if you want celebration in this society and that fact is a shame that shouldn’t be swept under a rug of denial. Gay men come in all shapes and sizes just like any other type of person. There is no cutting room with a slim cookie cutter and a giant bottle of glitter producing the perfect gay image with a sprinkle of glitter to top things off but the way society acts you’d think there should be and it’s just as damaging as holding women up to a supermodel standard.
Body shaming is real. Gay men are held to a standard that says they must look and act a certain way to live up to societal expectations. Just do a simple google images search with the words ‘gay man’ what comes up? The first 20 images are of perfectly sculpted men in various states of undress. They all look like they rub themselves down with baby oil every morning, own nothing but sexy underwear, go to the gym religiously, and have no other goal in life than to look like fabulous eye candy that should be intertwined with a stripper pole in some sweaty glittery night club in West Hollywood. There is so much wrong with this. These kinds of perceptions lead to real problems in the gay community; eating disorders, depression, self-mutilation, even suicide. The national eating disorders webpage shows that one study conducted reveals that gay males were 7 times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males. And then with all the self-doubt the media forces on gay men there’s the shame that comes from the lack of acceptance from family members, coworkers, and the general public. Ever heard that insult tossed around, ‘that’s so gay’ those are painful words when in fact you are so gay.
With all these pressures looming out there eating disorders are not the only evil giants tromping through the village. Gay men also fall prey to addiction. There are studies that prove that gay men are significantly more likely to have used marijuana, stimulants, sedatives, cocaine and party drugs than the general population of men. Alcohol is a big problem as gay men age too. It isn’t hard to see the connection, a lot of the things that gay men have to endure can lead to drug and alcohol use easily.
All gay people living in this society deal with astigmatism that leaves us feeling like we are banished to the lower ranks of society. We are second class citizens always having to prove ourselves as worthy to walk among the masses. It takes an irreparable emotional toll to be a gay man in America. The stereotypes say you’ve got to look like Adonis and have a
sense of humor like you just stepped off the set of Will and Grace. You’ve got to hide your love life, you’ve got to endure derogatory remarks put out there carelessly not caring if they cut you down. From a completely serious standpoint something needs to be said, something needs to be done. These images and expectations are leaving too many emotionally damaged humans, too many drug addicted humans and too many humans fallen victim to suicide. That google search with the key term ‘gay man’ should yield the same results as a search that simply says ‘man’ but instead it’s all oily chiseled bodies and revealing thongs. And what images does the search for ‘man’ yield? Well there’s one thing for absolute certain every one of the first twenty images is a fully clothed completely serious image of a man.