I like my body It's been a long time coming, with plenty of effort and experience, but finally, in my late thirties, I feel good when I look in the mirror.
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I find myself attractive, and that is fairly new to me. I struggled with my body image my entire life -- mostly because I didn't like my body, starting from a very young age. As you can imagine, being a fat, painfully gay kid in the s, there was no shortage of sadness and tragedy in my life. I was raised in Woodbridge, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, which, for those who don't know, was seen as the Canadian equivalent of the Jersey Shore.
You can imagine how narrow and rigid ideals of bodies and masculinity could be and what this could mean to someone who didn't fit in. I was used to getting teased a lot and being left out, so I felt right at home when I entered the Toronto gay scene in my late teens in the s. Spoiler alert!
There is a hierarchy of attractiveness in the gay community. And as gay men, our experiences with other gay men are influenced by where we rank in this hierarchy. It is very easy for us to measure ourselves, those who we desire and those who desire us against the same ideals of attractiveness. Though there are many who experience attractions outside of the norm, I am sure you will agree that the young, white, lean, muscular, cisgender non-trans body is overrepresented and celebrated in contemporary media and gay culture, and therefore accepted as most attractive.
This, unfortunately, is completely homophobic and misogynistic. This idealized body is anchored in heteropatriarchy. Meaning the "ideal man" is represented in an image of the straight man, who is incidentally athletic and muscular. This man is not "feminine," but he is "masculine" in the traditional sense.
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Traditionally, "effeminate" behaviour is a characteristic that ranks very low in the attractiveness hierarchy. And though most men are not at the top, we continue to celebrate it. Think Grindr, Scruff, gay dating sites, gay TV, gay ads and all porn, for instance. So when I got to Toronto, I quickly discovered that where I ranked and where I wanted to rank were two different places. I crushed on guys who were "out of my league. I saw others get attention while I was ignored or rejected. I felt bad about my body, which was mostly fat, with little or no visible muscle.
My face was pretty and my mannerisms were soft, leaving me pretty low in the hierarchy. So I took action. Not at first -- at first I took drugs. Lots of drugs, partying every weekend Wednesday to Sunday and eventually Monday and Tuesday, too.
It's easy to say I think I partied so much because it numbed my experience as the guy at the bottom, but I was also really happy to be having fun, partying. We need to understand how normative ideals of bodies and masculinities are harmful to everyone! I did, however, eventually get motivated to change my body and self, essentially. As my body began changing, I was finally getting attention I had always longed for.
I was no longer invisible. Diaz said that this lack of visibility of husky gay men has had an immediate mental impact on him, a person whose weight has fluctuated throughout the years. While the date went well enough in person, when he went back home, the man messaged him with a simple offer: If you need a fitness instructor, let me know. Diaz is currently in a relationship where he says his partner loves him at his current size. But during his single years, the bars were often unwelcoming to people of his size, he said.
Diaz also said he's found refuge in the bear scene. But when he does enter mainstream spaces, he often has to arm himself with his own personal mantra. His secret? He learned about his body as a straight man: He dated women until he was There was a pervading culture of slim body worship that turned him off. Now, it's not the elephant in the room anymore. So I really felt like I was being made love to for who I was entirely and for more than just my sexual organs.
To really make love to someone is to enjoy every single inch of them. Raul Quintero spoke to me about what happens when the search for that feeling of being appreciated for your size can go to extremes. Quintero spent a few months in gainer and feeder culture, where men worship men with big bellies, and some go to extremes to gain weight. Quintero has seen videos of men eating lard and funneling gallons of milk into their partners' guts — because of a sexual attraction to bellies.
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He met men who brought him to restaurants just to share in the experience of watching him eat. With one man, Quintero made a list of restaurants where he wanted to eat in Los Angeles and his date would bring him there and watch him eat. Even within that world, Quintero said, there was pressure to look a certain way and he had been turned down for not being large enough. Comments from his family members, even his own mother, who is a fitness instructor, fueled this fear.
This led to a fear of being fat in childhood. Even that his name rhymed with "fat" was a lot for Johnson to handle as a child. Though Johnson said he would later find sexual partners who appreciated him for his size, it was still a fraught experience. His own problems with his weight didn't allow him to enjoy the experiences. Though Johnson describes himself as "bear adjacent," he credits experiences in the New York City bear community with a better body self-image.
I wasn't just an erotic object. Johnson said that, for a while, he refused to go into bars that weren't size-friendly. He'd only go to gay bars where he knew he wouldn't be the biggest person in the room, so that his tendency to compare his size with others wouldn't hinder him from having a good time.
I Am A Fat, Gay Man - And I Finally Love My Body
They're not thinking about me. They're thinking about themselves, so I guess, you know, it took me a while, and now I can go to any gay bar and not really care. Yes, each story is unique. Physical weight is not always the problem — sometimes, it's the mental weight that accompanies it.
That's the anxiety that I felt the day I got the request for a shirtless selfie. In the end, the man who received the text loved it — a lot. So whatever bundle of insecurities that flared up in my stomach was quelled for the moment.
And to get there, I only have one thing to shed — shame. Editor's note: Some people have chosen to withhold their full names to speak freely. Tumblr To find out more, I spoke to other gay men of size about dating, sexting and the bear community. Copy link. By Mathew Rodriguez.
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