Scroll To Top

The Gay Community Still Has Body Image Issues

The Gay Community Still Has Body Image Issues

The Gay Community Still Has Body Image Issues

The 4th of July has come and gone, and I hate my body now more than ever.


The 4th of July has come and gone, and just like every other Independence Day that’s passed before, my self-esteem has plummeted. This time though, I'm prepared. This time, I gave myself six weeks to look like the gay Adonises that populate the beaches. I gave myself six weeks to have have cut abs, big quads leading up to a round, meaty ass, and biceps the size of mountains. (Feel free to call me shallow, but can you seriously blame me?) Yet again, despite planking ten minutes daily, hitting the gym five days a week, and cutting out carbs, sweets, and fats, I failed.  

Like every other gay/bi man I’ve ever met, I too have some pretty bad body image issues. I definitely have muscle dysmorphia, and so too does my boyfriend. No matter how many times we tell each other we look muscular and attractive, we just don’t believe it. There are a number of days a week where I look in the mirror, pinch my stomach, and feel like a hot pile of lard. Decreasing weight or reps on the bench is enough to ruin my day, and not gaining weight when I’m bulking is enough to make me cry.

I think it’s safe to say, many queer men (myself very much included) are unhealthily obsessed with the male form. It makes complete sense. When you go to a Pride parade, it honestly seems like every single guy there has washboard abs and a nice juicy ass. Their obliques cave in so you can see that sexy hipbone (what I like to call the penis bone) leading down to what could only be the prettiest cock you’ve ever seen. When you look on the internet, all you see are these gorgeous men with the bodies of Greek Gods. And these guys are somehow real! Like actually real men you see out. How do they exist? How is that guy at Fire Island not Photoshopped?

It honestly seems like tall, muscular, gay men are a dime a dozen. And where does that even leave the rest of us? I’m not even talking about plus-sized gay men. I’m not even going to pretend I understand what it’s like being a curvier man in the gay world. I’m talking about people like myself: average men with average bodies. The men who take care of themselves, go to the gym as frequently as they can, do their best to eat healthily, but still have a stomach. You know, because humans naturally have stomachs.   

What about the gay men who have full time jobs, working 60-hour work weeks, who don’t have the time to hit the gym for an hour and a half every single day? What about all the other gay men out there who can’t afford to buy all the supplements, protein, meats, and veggies needed to become an Adonis? What about the gay men who don’t want to take steroids, because they fear destroying their body and brain?

And then, what about the men who actually do look like Adonis, but still, still, look at themselves in the mirror and think they’re fat, gross, and unloveable? That’s another thing that’s seldom discussed. We assume the muscular gay men are happy with their bodies, but (many of them) are not. I have a number of friends who do have the perfect body — that unattainable body, and still, they look in at themselves in the mirrors and can only see the parts of themselves they loathe. As gay men, no matter how far we come or how good we look, we never seem to be satisfied. As psychologist Matthew Dempsey recently discussed in a video, instead of striving for excellence, we strive for perfection. Alas, perfection, doesn’t actually exist, especially the way we conceptualize it.

So again, I’ll ask: Where does that leave the rest of gay men?  

It leaves us hating our bodies, which turns into hating ourselves. It leads us to feeling inadequate and insecure. It leads us fearing talking to other men and getting jealous of other men, instead of basking in their glory and feeling proud of their success. Instead of supporting one another, we bring each other down. Instead of loving one another, we hate ourselves.

I’m not even going to pretend I have a solution to the body image problems that plague the gay community. This is something I’ve struggled with for many years, and if I had any clue on how to fix the issue of body dysmorphia among us, I would be preaching it from the mountain tops.

Yes, of course, I can say learn to love your body and accept that you have only one. Petition LGBTQ+ mags/sites to post more pictures of real men. (Although, not to defend them, if we stopped clicking on them, they would stop posting pictures like this.) Push legislation to crack down on steroids distribution, so they’re not as easily accessible. But all of these things are so much easier said than done. And while I can self-affirm, “YASSS, my body is sacred and beautiful” over and over again, my insecurities run too deep. In a culture that idolizes the male form, especially the muscular male form, me shouting “I’m beautiful” isn’t going to fix squat. 

Nevertheless, I’ve discovered some tips to help me get through the day. To help me accept my body just a tad bit more, before I drive myself nuts. Who knows? Maybe these things can help you too.

1. Eat when you’re hungry

This one seems like an obvious no-brainer, right? Unfortunately for some, it's not that obvious. Things DO taste as good as skinny feels. (Sorry, Kate Moss, but you’re wrong.) Things taste a lot better. So don’t get frustrated and decide you’re going to have a quick fix by rapidly cutting down your caloric intake. First of all, you’ll feel terrible. Second, it’s unsustainable and you’ll put back all the weight immediately once you start eating regularly again.

2. Tell your friends to remind you that you look good unsolicited

I know there’s an irony in soliciting unsolicited compliments from your friends about your physique, but having a friend say (and genuinely mean) “Wow, your shoulders are looking broad and muscular,” is sometimes enough to pull you out a depressive body funk.

3. Know you’re more than your body

After ranting about how these empty adages aren’t helpful, I’m a little wary to put an adage like this on the helpful list, but hear me out. A part of knowing you’re more than your body, is understanding that other people are NOT more than their body. Those people will probably not want to date or sleep with you. I don’t think it’s offensive to say that there are many shallow men in the gay community. Instead of trying to bed one of them “in spite” of our looks, ignore them. They’re shallow and doing they’re own thing. You don’t need their approval. If you get rejected by a gay man with an average body because of your personality, then yes, definitely be upset. That’s what’s really shitty. Being rejected by a beefy hunk on Grindr who doesn’t respond because you got some love handles is not.

This might not be the most profound insight, but it’s better than anything else I’ve seen out there. And if you’re looking to feel good about yourself, you're going to have to start small. Decades of pushing a limited, unattainable physique is going to take more than a few articles to help you overcome.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

author avatar

Zachary Zane

Zachary Zane is a writer, YouTube influencer, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, dating, relationships, and identity politics. Check out his YouTube channel here.

Zachary Zane is a writer, YouTube influencer, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, dating, relationships, and identity politics. Check out his YouTube channel here.