The hardest part of being gay isn’t the bigotry or the institutionalized discrimination; it’s not dealing with the endless questions from ignorant people, or repeating the coming out process over and over. Don’t get me wrong, those things are incredibly frustrating, but they come with the territory. When you come out you know there’s a very good chance that you’ll have to put up with that type of bullshit, so you mentally prepare yourself for it and develop the tough skin needed to survive as an oft persecuted minority. What I’ve discovered unfortunately is that it’s not always the majority that makes things difficult, sometimes the worst things are self-inflicted.
I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem; I spend far too much time in front of my mirror pointing out all of my flaws, and I’ve focused a lot of mental energy on wishing I looked different. When I came out I had no idea that those insecurities would just be exacerbated by the LGBTQ+ community; I thought as a gay man I’d only have to deal with bigoted straight people, not a superficial culture that worships the sculpted and rejects anyone that doesn’t fit that mold.
Okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic; gay culture is not an evil thing. The truth though is that gay culture is notoriously beauty obsessed and encourages unrealistic body standards. I mean we’ve all heard the jokes about gays not eating carbs, and I’ve seen enough Grindr profiles to know that being fit will get you a lot further than being average or out of shape. To be blunt, fat people aren’t seen as desirable in the gay community, and if they are embraced it’s only as part of subculture or fetish. Gay culture is like the Hogwarts from Hell; skinny guys are sorted into twink, lean guys with body hair are deemed otters, and larger men are labeled as bears. People are so obsessed with ending up in one group or another that they’ll try to modify their body to better fit the mold, or become delusional about how they actually look.
I’ll be honest and admit that it sometimes feels good to fit into a box; it makes you feel like you belong. I know that in the past I prided myself on being “twinky” because it meant I was skinny and acceptable by mainstream standards, but what I learned is that when you categorize yourself you ultimately end up comparing yourself to everyone in that box. When I did that I suddenly realized I wasn’t as skinny as other gay guys, and I became incredibly self-conscious. I knew how fat guys in the gay community were treated and I was afraid that if I put on weight that I’d be treated the same way, and I became obsessed with being skinny as a result. I started exercising religiously and put food restrictions on myself, all so that I’d be seen as valuable by a group of people I never even wanted to sleep with. Instead of determining my own self worth, I let gay culture do it for me.
While LGBTQ+ representation in media has certainly increased, it is important to note that media really only spotlights a very specific type of gay, and it is important to note that because we in turn prescribe to that standard and subconsciously believe that is how we all should be. Not all gay men are white, overachieving, designer obsessed gym rats; there is nothing wrong with being that kind of gay, but there is also nothing wrong with being a chubby, cosplay loving gay guy. People should be healthy and feel good about how they look, but they shouldn’t be so focused on their appearance that they stop caring about everything else. You shouldn’t spend your whole life worried that you aren’t successfully fitting into the box you want to be a part of. There is so much more to life than looking good and while being physically attractive may get you far in life, it will never be what gets you to the place you truly want to be. Spending your life trying to fit into a box will never be a life well spent.
This summer I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the LGBTQ+ community and Grindr. I mean I watch “I Am Cait” and spend more than half of my day on RuPaul’s Drag Race Reddit, but besides that my days have been pretty hetero. Stepping away from gay things has helped me figure out what my personal goals are without subconsciously wondering if they are aligned with how I should be as a gay person. It’s nice to live your life without giving a shit about what other people expect of you; it’s nice to determine your self worth and successes on your own, and it’s nice to not think about sex (like ever). I may not be in the best shape of my life and I may have a pretty heinous haircut right now, but at least I’m not crammed into a tiny box.