Problems with body image is a huge issue that the gay community contends with. Gay men have many sub-groups that are used to classify them, many of which are based on body image alone. Although understandable, this can be harmful because it creates mindless thinking about how people should socially be grouped. It also promotes making friends based on superficial characteristics, before those characteristics that would promote intimacy in friendships and relationships. Furthermore, body image issues for gay men can lead to a sense of loneliness and frustration that can leave gay men wandering through their lives without being aware of the source of their frustration.
Gay men deal with discrimination in many ways that are out of our control. So it is understandable that gay men take something that they are presumably in control of, such as their body image, and use that as a way of showing a certain level of “success”. However, success, at its best, is something that is intrinsic. Thus, for many gay men, there is an issue of body dissatisfaction and poor body image, rather than identifying true sources of building on our self-esteem. As a gay-affirming therapist who has worked with many gay men over the years, I have seen how damaging this can be for individuals and the community. The frustration of a lack of intimacy can spiral into something that is out of control, and wrongly placed onto body image issues, rather than its true source, which is that you might not be creating your own individual definition of success.
Unfortunately, phone applications and online sites marketed to gay men amplify this problem. Through marketing the images of people, and even creating separate applications for various “types” of gay men, the idea of intimacy can get lost in a sea of labels. This misses the mark on what creates true intimacy. True relationships are not always easy, and identifying what physically looks good to you, or what you physically identify with is easy.
To combat body image issues in yourself and in our community, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone of having a visual type of friend or partner. True intimacy does not come from a look. It doesn’t come from detesting a look either. Attraction itself is something that just happens, but that does not mean that your thinking has to stop there. You can reach out to people from other groups, and benefit from this in several ways. You can learn about yourself, find new, meaningful, and lasting friendships, and build on your self-esteem as a result. If you refuse to do this, you are not only likely going to increase your body dissatisfaction and amplify your poor body image, but you are also feeding into the body image issues of the gay community as a whole.