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I’m Gay and Not Proud: Here’s Why.

R. A.

Trigger Warning: Discussions of eating disorders, body dysmorphia and grooming.

In high school, I struggled to find a safe space. The ‘Pride Club’, which purported to be inclusive, consisted of a friend group that excluded people who were not part of it. I dodged the infamous f-slurs daily and laughed along to pretend as though it wasn’t affecting me. I distinctly remember chatting with my principal in her office one afternoon when I’d finally had enough. I expressed that it was eating me up on the inside, yet she mentioned that people were immovable rocks and “profoundly indoctrinated or entrenched.” According to her, I needed to learn how to act “proactively” and to “be the bigger person.”

I felt unsupported, transparent, and impotent. And as fate would have it, I met someone who I identified with, someone who offered me comfort. Against my own instincts and better judgement, I shifted my pain onto someone I felt could help me. He told me all the things I wanted to hear to get through to him. He slowly began to assert his control over me. He appeased me. I ignored the small signs and red flags because I felt indebted to him. I dismissed the sexual comments and questions, thinking that it was normal because he was just a man. Part of me still feels as though it was my fault for walking into the situation as vulnerable as I was. And wouldn't you know, I got out of it even worse than I came in.

The pandemic granted me the safe space to sit alone with my thoughts and discover who I truly was. I finally accepted that I was gay. My biggest regret was telling everyone the traditional way and, frankly, the only examples I had seen were in Love, Simon and those cringey hidden camera YouTube videos of teens coming out to their parents. Just thinking of it causes my stomach to churn, droplets of sweat to crystalize on my forehead, and my body to tremble violently. It was only after that I realised that life in the closet was much more appealing. I regret relinquishing myself to the evils of heteronormativity by coming out because, honestly, it is nothing special.

I continued to experience hardship and would embark on absurdly large binge-eating episodes. I was quickly losing sight of who I was and felt detached from the body I was living in. At each annual checkup, the family physician viciously circled the coordinates on the graph to emphasise the weight gain and show how above the “normal” BMI curve I had gotten. It didn’t help that my “for you page” was littered with gay couples who mostly shared one thing in common: their leanness.

So, I took matters into my own hands and began “intermittent fasting” for 36 hours, consuming barely enough calories to get by. I felt dizzy every time I got up and my body was cannibalising itself. It was working. I trimmed off over 75 pounds throughout three and a half months and received praise by the time I began my last year of high school. Everyone was telling me how much better I looked, how handsome and slim I’d gotten. The praise was as uplifting as it was crushing, yet it only fuelled me to continue the dangerous behaviour.

Body dysmorphia and eating disorders run rampant in the gay community. The saying is prevalent: “Straight skinny, but fat gay.” Thinness in the heterosexual realm is perceived differently than it is in the gay community. I attribute this to the hyper-sexualization of gay men and the creation of unrealistic ideals that must be met at all costs. It seems as though we do not have any choice but to achieve the chiselled jawline, toned muscles, flat abdomen, defined obliques and thighs, all the while remaining abnormally thin. There is even a term coined for the idealization and yearning for the male body stereotype: The Adonis Complex. Some gay men will do anything to achieve that body: they are willing to starve a little longer to keep their eye on the prize as if it's a contest. I’ve experienced how exclusive the community can be and how quickly people can body shame one another. It’s virtually impossible to find comfort and belonging in a community when you are maliciously dismissed by a look up and down.

Five minutes on Grindr will imprint on you a lasting image of the ideal body type among gay men. Such dating apps are toxic and degrading; you get funnelled into categories based on your physical attributes, and one minor detail can shuffle you into a swipe on the right or the left. Gay men work relentlessly to perfect their bodies to wield them as entrance fees for gay hookup culture. A friend taught me how easy it was to swipe people based on their flaws: look at his boobs, look at his stomach, his thighs are too thick, and his face is too fat. As I stood next to him, I knew this dating lesson was a mistake. I began to spiral and reflect on the fact that I could never be perfect in that particular aspect of my life, a realisation which was quite humbling and discouraging.

I’ve internalised these struggles, and, as a result, have developed shitty relationships with food. I’ve become hyper-focused on my weight, have skipped meals, and run on the treadmill to not feel guilty for that slice of cake. I shame myself for taking a sip of water throughout the day because I know I won’t weigh the same when I get back home. I cancel coffee dates or restaurant dinners with friends when I can’t see the caloric counts. I abuse “diet pills” to control my weight and feel less guilty when I stray from the strict regimen. It was ruining my life and I was losing control. As opposed as I was to the ideal gay male body type, I too, was obsessed with my own body. I still am.

It’s difficult to accept the fact that I’ve deprived myself of basic nutrients in exchange for love. It’s also difficult to continue living in this empty shell, completely devoid of nourishment and abundance. One cannot believe the cliché “someone will love you for who you are” because admittedly, it’s just not true, or at least not in the gay community. I’m not against gay hookup culture; I think that it is fine to engage in sexual activity between two consenting individuals. The problem goes further than hookup culture; I am against the unsupportive attitude that is displayed toward the gays who don’t achieve the ideal body type. More broadly, I am against the exclusion of those who stray from the “norm.” The goal is not to antagonise or vilify those who maintain and achieve the ideal body type; most have succumbed to external pressures which have left them with no other option. These past few years, I’ve transformed my envy and contempt for them into compassion. Most of all, I’ve accepted that I will never fit into the ideal gay male body type, because, frankly, it is unrealistic.

Still think these are all my observations? A study published in 2022 demonstrated that homosexuals were significantly more likely to portray unhappiness with their weight and further desired leanness as opposed to heterosexual men. This caused gay men to be at increased risk of developing an eating disorder. A Dalhousie University research showed that the unfair social expectations of the gay community to achieve the ideal male body type are linked to depression and anxiety. Another study conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association revealed a huge discrepancy, finding that, while gay men constitute roughly 5% of the entire population, they compose 42% of the men who suffer from eating disorders.

You may think that I’ve overshared. And you’re right. You may also think that it is contrived to say we’ve all been in the same boat. I agree; we’ve gone through separate tribulations and have our own stories. My goal in sharing my personal experiences was not to reinforce the harmful stereotypes the gay community is afflicted by. Rather, I find comfort in knowing that through sharing these personal experiences, at least one person might be able to identify and feel less alone. I also am trying to spread the message that is oftentimes unspoken: the gay community is predisposed to perpetuating unsupportive and dismissive attitudes towards one another. We are a community, so let’s start acting like one.



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