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Considering Steroids When You're a Queer Man with Body Dysmorphia

Considering Steroids When You're a Queer Man with Body Dysmorphia

Considering Steroids When You're a Queer Man with Body Dysmorphia
ZacharyZane_

Photo: Shutterstock

A few things you should know about me before I tell you my story. First, I’m 24 and a gym rat. I have been for about two years. In that time, I’ve gained 20 pounds of muscle.  I go to they gym five days a week and stick to a strict workout, diet, and supplement schedule. I bulk during the winters and cut during the summer. Second, I was hit by a car while biking five months ago and I wasn’t able to work out for a long period of time. Even now, I can’t do any serious lower body lifts, just stretches and aerobic exercises. Third, I have some body image issues -- like many men in the queer community.

When I wasn’t able to workout my body changed for the worse. I lost muscle and gained fat. I grew insecure of my appearance. My physical therapist, who had been optimistic the whole time, told me that he’s not sure when my knees will heal completely. I’ve done all my exercises and stretching, and while that’s helped, I’m still in pain daily.

That’s when I looked into starting steroids. I began asking men at the gym who I suspected were using steroids if they were, and every person I thought used, was indeed juicing. They were surprisingly candid about their use, and explained how long, why, and their physical/emotional response to taking steroids. That’s when I realized steroid use is fairly ubiquitous in the gay/bi male community. It’s seldom discussed, but all of those ridiculously muscular hunks on Fire Island who don’t look real -- aren’t real (or rather, natural). Even many of the men who look natural, aren't natural. My goal isn’t to shame them. That’s the last thing I want to do. After going through everything, I can say I fully understand the desire to take steroids. I also understand the risks. But it’s important to note that the look that’s often idealized in mainstream gay media -- the white Adonis with abs of steel and the perfect bubble butt -- doesn’t actually exist without drugs. It’s physically not obtainable for the vast majority of men. 

So I spoke with my primary care physician, my therapist, my physical therapist, and other doctors about going on a steroid cycle (3 months). Not surprisingly, the male physicians were more supportive of my choice once I explained to them my reasons for going on steroids: I’d like to keep my lower body strong. I can’t work out as hard as I would like because I spend most my time at the gym stretching for my knees. I’m feeling insecure. This isn’t a long-term plan. I just want to do one cycle, and by the end of the cycle, my knees should be better and I can go back to my regular workout regime. Lastly, and most importantly, I’m living in Provincetown this summer, and would like to “fit in” among the other shirtless and jacked men in Ptown. They understood. The female physicians were more wary, citing more health risks, primarily acne (something I already struggle with) and mood swings. That said, if I still decided to go on steroids, to let them know, so they can treat me accordingly. I thanked them, told them I had done my research, and made my decision. They respected my choice. 

Everything was in order for me to start steroids. I got the name of a “legitimate” doctor through a trusted source, who would monitor me as I take them. I told my partners that I plan on starting March 1st; they too, were supportive of my decision. I let them know in case I experience any roid rage, mood switches, or become horny all the time.

I was excited for the first time in a while at the prospect of getting back into shape.

The last people I told were my two older brothers, with whom I'm very close. Two days later, a week before I planned on taking steroids, I got a faux-intervention. They sat me down and told me they would respect my decision, but they really want me to reconsider using, and not for the physical health ramifications, but the psychological ones.

I’m neither transitioning nor a professional athlete/bodybuilder, which would require that I take steroids for my emotional well being or profession. I’m a young queer man who’s insecure with how I look and feel helpless with my injury.

“What’s the best case scenario?” They asked. I told them. I look great; I feel confident for the summer. I’m stronger, and my knees get better after the summer. I have few, if any side effects, and I only take them once.

“What happens when you stop taking them?” I need to be careful tapering off, but I will lose most of the muscle I gained.

“So why would you not take them again?” I had no answer. I know me. If that happened, I would take them again. I wouldn't be able to lose all that weight and go back to original self.  

We then went over the worst case scenarios, which were, obviously, not great, especially with long-term use.

I was finally able to come to the conclusion I wasn’t taking steroids for the right reasons. It would only make my body image issues worse. I’d become dependent. I’d focus even more on my weight and appearance. Taking steroids would be a temporary and poor fix, not a real solution. And that so called “confidence” I’d gain from taking them would be fleeting, or even non-existent. Nothing will ever be big enough for me. Besides, I want to be accepting of my body, like I’m accepting of others’ bodies. I’m not sure why it’s so much easier to be accepting of others’ bodies, yet so critical of own own, but that’s how it goes. 

As queer men, we live in a community filled with beautiful men who work out all the damn time and look fabulous. God freaking bless them, and I don’t mean that sarcastically. But being overweight, “fem”, or a POC can make you feel like an outsider in a world dominated by buff white guys. It can make you feel not date-able or worthy of attention from other men. Steroid use isn’t attacking the root of the issue. At least for queer men like myself, it’s not. As a community, we need to re-asses the cultural norms of beauty. This obsession with appearance isn’t healthy for us, and it leads to dangerous drugs, obsessions, risky behavior, and even mental illness.

I’m slowly learning to love myself for my appearance. Flaws (which most people don’t see except for me) and all. I’ve stopped jokingly calling myself “straight skinny, but gay fat.”

Of course, be healthy, be active, but let’s not be obsessive. Let’s not kill ourselves for a socially constructed form of beauty that is physically unattainable. We’re better than that. Come on men, we got this.

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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.