As a contemporary gay man, there are rarely any occasions to be jealous of the heterosexual male. Being of the queer persuasion typically allows for less fuss over who we are supposed to be in society and more celebration of who we truly are as individuals. As the counter-culture to mainstream society, we are usually not subjected the norms that tend to burden the hetero population into believing that they should be something that they are not.
But as the image of the ideal gay man continues to be branded in modern media, there may just be a reason for gay men to envy their heterosexual peers. Straight guys don’t have an unrealistic expectation of looking like an underwear model, gay men do.
Whether you are a gay man killing yourself to be a centerfold or you are bitching about how all gay men shouldn’t have to be, its irrefutable that there is an unrealistic expectation of what gay guys should look like. And as our muscles get bigger and our hairlines get fuller, our self-image continues to shrink and shrink.
The obsession with the perfect body has created an unhealthy displacement of values that can have long lasting negative effects on impressionable gay youth. In urban gyms across America, young gays with bloated muscles, bulging veins and waterless waists walk around as if they are gods among mere mortals. The scrawny boys nearly break their bones on the bench press and the overweight men sweat in anger while these model specimens prance around in barely anything and rub it in. This is a sad scene to watch, especially since the most muscled of these young gays are most likely the unhealthiest of all.
According to a new study in the Journal of Pediatrics, gay and bisexual men are more than five times more likely to use anabolic-androgenic steroids. The study also reported that steroid use is related to body image issues over the need for athletic performance enhancement. There is a clear disparity among homo and hetero males in the way they seek affirmation of their physical selves, even if it was to the detriment of their own physical and psychological health.
The worst kept secret among the fitness elite is that it is nearly impossible to look like a superhero without the use of pharmaceutical help. Whether it is extreme as underground steroids or as legal as prescribed hormones, the truth is that men do not naturally look like they have rocks under their skin. Even the abuse of over-the-counter supplements such as pre-workout supplements like Jack3d and estrogen blockers can pose serious threats to your health as you begin to sculpt and tone.
It doesn’t matter whether you have had them prescribed or not, the abuse of testosterone therapies and hormone boosters can have severe health side effects all for the sake of the perfect abs and bigger lifts.
And the abuse doesn’t stop there. Many of the body beautiful that I know personally opt for illegal forms of inebriation in lieu of high calorie cocktails. Party drugs such as GHB, ketamine and molly are popular among these muscle bunnies because they can dance the night away without worrying about any extra bloating the next day.
But pointing out the glaring hypocrisy of drug use to these chemical hard bodies only encourages their superiority complex. Many juicers believe that those who question steroid use simply don’t understand how to control it properly and are foolish about the reality of our bodies. Most serious users consider themselves dime store doctors. They may not have gone to medical school (or even passed biology), but they often claim to know more about the body than you ever will.
Just last week, my friend Jerry (not his real name) told me the story of how his friend returned from a trip they had taken together feeling slightly under the weather. He was seemingly healthy, extremely handsome and the epitome of jacked. He had come down with the flu, but with his fit appearance and young age, there was no need to be scared. However, only days later, the young man had passed away. According to Jerry, his friend’s heart had been weakened by steroid use and was not strong enough to withstand the virus. This was the second death of this nature among Jerry’s friends. Although these men may have looked impenetrable from the outside, the use and abuse of anabolic agents had weakened the strength that really matters; the strength of their organs.
Our distorted idea of sexy is actually an image that encourages unhealthy behaviors for the sake of vanity. Too many young men who are functioning with perfectly healthy bodies are willingly compromising their liver, kidneys and heart among other body parts for the gratification of the swimsuit elite. So how do we breakthrough the perception of physical health to show the reality of harming our bodies for the sake of beauty?
The tendency for our gay male youth to self-objectify in order to achieve love and acceptance among their peers is a massive set back for the gay rights movement. We cannot allow young gay men to see the position of an underwear model or porn star equal to or above a position that values intellect and effects positive change for our community and our nation.
It is crucial that we learn the difference between being healthy and looking like a poster child for protein shakes. There is nothing wrong with striving to improve your external image, but not if its at the detriment to your internal organs. In order for gay men to flourish, we must teach our youth to value health, intellect and individualism over our ability to stop traffic in a tank top.