With 2012 upon us, I’ve been pondering the state of hunger. Not so much “feeding those who go without food,” including the homeless—although check out Grind Out Hunger and Danny Keith and see some stellar activism happening in that realm—but more so about boys and men whose deep internal hunger pangs for self-acceptance often reveal themselves in the form of an eating disorder or a body image disorder.
The latter is especially true within the gay men’s community, where you often find a bevy of gay men devoting much of their livelihood to look physically “acceptable” among their gay comrades. In more concentrated gay areas, like West Hollywood, or San Francisco’s Castro District, and, really, much of Palm Springs, gay men are known to head to the gym six to seven times a week, diving into grueling workouts to acquire that perfect bod, one that often mirrors an advertising image found in publications like Out, The Advocate, or any Abercrombie & Fitch marquee.
Much like American women, who have endured an onslaught of media images insisting they must look and be a certain way, and aspire to a certain ideal, men—gay men especially—are on the receiving end of similar ideals. Basically … that unless they’re buffed and scrubbed up, there is something wrong with them.
I wrote about some of this in the book I co-authored, “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches” and have since found myself exploring my own insecurities about my body and what I think I should look like. (Imagine my shock when it finally sunk in that I had spent a good portion of my life feeling “fat” and “inferior” physically and that true happiness was only a bigger bicep and thinner waistline away!)
So, I began to wonder: in the quest to look great, does one ever truly arrive?
No. On the surface, perhaps. But the internal angst continues.
The majority of men I spoke with or interviewed while doing research for the book—and these blog posts and other health stories—admitted that their pang to always look better far out-weighed any true happiness inside. Alarming but a fascinating reality that exists—and one that isn’t really being discussed much. (See also America The Beautiful 2—great doc that touches on the matter.)
Think about it: how often have your gay comrades come together and talked about such internal truths?
Not too long ago, I appeared on David Perry’s television show in San Francisco to discuss some of the issues facing gay men. But before diving into the video segment below, I’ll leave you with this stat: The N.A.M.E.D. (National Association For Men With Eating Disorders) website notes an Alliance for Eating Disorders report that says, ”Eating disorders currently affect approximately 25 million Americans, in which 25 percent are men.” (“Men” technically being “males” or “boys and men.”) Bottom line: an estimated 6.25 million males have eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
My goal in 2012 is to speak about eating disorders and body image disorders to/with groups of gay men. Stay tuned for more on that in the coming month. In the meantime, take note of my interview below: