The Skinny on Gay Men and Body Image: Part One

Posted: June 15, 2011 in Body Image Disorder, Eating Disorders, Gay Men
Tags: , , , , ,

The booksigning for “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!” the book I cowrote with Dr. Maria Rago, was a success last night at San Francisco’s Books Inc. A good crowd turned out and I was jazzed that I could get the word about the book, its message about body image, obsession with thinness, eating disorders and more.

But something happened about three-quarters of the way in. The energy in the room shifted. I was reading from the chapter dubbed “Shut Up, About Excluding Guys.” At first I thought I was reading too fast but then it sunk in: Perhaps the group was intrigued by what we had written in this chapter—that, when it comes to discussions about body image and eating disorders, men, especially gay men, are rarely brought to the table.


Where's the (emotional) beef? Gay men and body image—can we talk?

I thought about all this, too, when, days earlier, I was walking around San Francisco’s Castro district putting up fliers for the book event. Don’t get me wrong—I love me some handsome—but even though I’ve grown accustomed to how much body-building and working out are now a staple in gay culture, I was still surprised by how many men were buff, sporting the body beautiful.

What was this? The Mr. Gay Universe Pageant?

This all came to mind as I read from the book, discussing Kenny and Juan, two gay men including in our book who have battled with their own body image issues. The silence in room suddenly commanded my attention. I looked up and spotted a tall man standing in the back. He appeared as if he’d just left work and he seemed to be listening intently. I found another man seated in the center of the crowd. I didn’t know if he was gay, or what really brought him out to the book talk, but his eyes said it all: “I get it.”

Later that evening, a friend who had been at the booksigning forwarded me an article he found on Gawker dubbed: “The Real Reason Why Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.”

Brilliant, I thought—finally, we’re beginning to talk about this stuff.

And we need to keep talking about—gay and bisexual men are more prone to develop body image issues or eating disorders than straight men.

I can’t help but think of the super trooper of a man who launched N.A.M.E.D., The National Association of Men with Eating Disorders. It’s a delicious hotline and resource directory that points men—both gay and straight—to individuals or treatment centers that can help guide them though their experiences with body image and eating disorders.

In the meantime, Gay Pride month ventures forth. Waving a rainbow flag is divine. Celebrating diversity is necessary. But, I propose we’re hungry for more meaty discussions—something beyond all the underwear parties taking place at local bars.

  1. Javan H. says:

    I watched the documentary “The Adonis Factor” last night and was really captivated. The things mentioned were things that I already knew about, but to hear people actually talk about it, all of it was very cathartic. I’m at work right now and just typed my own blog about gay men and body image problems: I’m not sure if I could say I have an eating disorder–I don’t think I do–but I am basically trying to have it all ways: gaining weight and not putting on fat while staying lean and slender, though it’s not logically possible.

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