Alex Blaze

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 11, 2007 4:10 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: body image, coming out of the closet, National Coming Out Day, weight

And I mean everyone.

Including those boys here who don't feel comfortable in a skin tight Madonna T-shirt, whether or not you're anything like a virgin.

Including those boys here who think they could never wear shorts. It could be 110 degrees outside, and you're just going to stay in, aren't you?

Including those boys here who don't think they're welcome at the local gay watering hole because no one's going to choose them to appear shirtless on the cover of Out magazine.

Including those boys here who'll visit the LGBT center in a few months, when they've lost those last 15 pounds.

Including those boys here who would just plain prefer not to keep a photo on Manhunt or if they could, but instead they find that one where they're wearing a floppy sweater and looking up at the camera so their necks look thinner, and maybe a big smile can cover their chins?

I'm just talking to the boys on this one (I realize that this is a problem for women, definitely, but I can't authentically speak to any of those experiences). I'm starting this conversation, because coming out in straight society is hard enough. But with the image of "what gay is" expanding from every corner nowadays, every corner except the one that accepts people who aren't traditionally beautiful thin, we need to take on this idea that "gay" violently means "thin".

We have a problem, folks, and we're forcing our sisters and brothers back into the closet over it.

According to the International Journal of Eating Disorders, over 15% of gay and bisexual men have, at some time in their lives, suffered from an eating disorder. Let's think about that. 15%. That's about one in six. Think of your five best girlfriends and you, and one of you has skipped meals, thrown up after one, or binge-ate to the point that it was a diagnosable disorder.

That's a problem.

But why post about this on National Coming Out Day?

My weight has fluctuated a lot over the last several years. I was skinny when I ran four miles and ate one meal a day. I was bigger when I sat around at home more and over ate. But one thing was constant: when I felt bad about my body, I did not want to hang out with gay men. If a friend who I was going to visit called me up and told me a boy would be joining us, I'd think of an excuse. I mean, I know how judgmental I can be, so do I really want to embarrass myself like that?

Chris over at My Gay Life posted this about a month ago:

I have been reflecting on why every time I consider going out to a bar or another place to meet other gay guys for some reason or other I end up not going. I have realized that this is because I am not happy with myself. I do not like my looks right now and I don’t want to go out and have a miserable time because I cannot find anyone interested in dancing or chatting with me.

When we're too scared to hit the local gay scene, when we fear that we won't be accepted if we're associating with gay people, when we stay at home and give up or defer our chances at companionship and happiness, we're effectively closeted. And isn't the closet supposed to be the main thing that we're fighting against?

We can pass the blame around, to the mainstream media, to the gaystream media, to all the boys out there. I don't really know whose fault it is, and this isn't about assigning blame. Somehow or another, we've gotten the impression that in order to be properly gay, in order to be an edgy radical faerie or a suit-and-tie establishment queer, to be Ms. Fashion-too-Good-for-Gucci or Mr. Abercrombie & Fitch Straight-Actor, to be worthy of a date with that cute boy who likes sweaters too much at work or to be worthy of having a good time in the sack with that one hung dude on, we have to be thin. Not hot, not well-dressed, not cute. Just thin.

If I had a solution, I'd post it here. I hate saying that we need to talk about this and leaving it at that, but that seems to be where we are. The mass media images aren't going to change if the only reason I'll even notice a gay-themed movie at Blockbuster is if there's a hot, shirtless guy on the box, if gaystream publishers know that they'll sell twice as many magazines if they just hire a muscled-out model to grace the cover, who cares what the articles say, and if entire, very profitable blogs can be devoted to just posting a boy pic once a week.

Maybe all we can do is try to establish a narrative that makes it unacceptable to bash other boys behind their backs over their weight or valorizes at least talking to people you might not find physically attractive at first. I'm open to suggestions.

But what we definitely can't do is continue on this self-destructive path. We can be our own worst enemy at times.

As for me, I'm fine with where I am now, and that's probably why I'm OK with writing this post. If I put on some weight I'll probably stop being able to even talk about my weight issues, since I get this strange idea that if I don't mention them, then maybe they don't exist.

We're all mad here, aren't we?

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I'm not trying to minimize what you had to say, Alex, but I'm definitely thin - and I'm also not "traditionally beautiful" either...

I don't think thin = beautiful. But not being overweight helps to present a more healthful appearance... Among women that can = virile baby maker in a rather subconscious way or for gay men it can = not HIV+. I can't speak for the straight women - and what I said is probably off base since I'm not a woman - but I do honestly think that part of the whole trend among gay men to be all into fitness, etc is a simple backlash against the days not too long ago when the basic public look for queers was flaming queen or dying AIDS patient. I dunno. I'm rambling.

I liked your post. It got me to thinking.

I hope it didn't come across as thin=beautiful. I'm just sayin' that being not traditionally beautiful and thin is different from being cute or whatever and fat in this society. Fat is picked out for special attention.

I don't think that this has much to do with HIV, b/c I'm sure there were beauty standards before then, as evidenced by old-skool porn and stuff. And I thought the image of s.o. w/ AIDS was bone skinny anyway...

And you're totally hot, Bil. I'd so do you. :)