How do queer men navigate body issues?
Chet got in touch with us to share his experience of grappling with body issues.
When you were growing up, how did you feel about your body?
It was confusing. I remember being told as a child that the ‘ideal’ male body was one in which a man’s shoulders were ten inches bigger than his waist. For me, as a runner from youth, I realised there was no way I was ever going to achieve that ideal. This was amplified when I was able to get porn, and I realised that I wasn’t built like the actors.
This wasn’t a good time for a closeted young gay man. This lack of a good feeling about my body was one of several unhealthy self-issues that plagued me for a long time.
How do you feel that your sexuality has influenced the way that you perceive your body?
Being gay has been a big factor. First, there were the porn stars of the 80s and 90s – that what I wanted to look like. I also wanted to look like Greg Louganis.
I was impatient with my body. I had many episodes of striving for the external appearance of health via self-destructive things. My fitness goals now influence my perception of my body.
What steps have you taken to try and achieve the physique that you aspire to?
I aspire to an aquathlon body – suited to swimming and running.
In my 20s and 30s I took many name-brand supplements with and without ephedra, before it was banned in 2004. Also, I exercised to the point of addiction, which resulted in multiple leg injuries. I tried some fad-dieting, and I was strangely happy to get ill if that state would decrease my appetite.
The worst thing I did was several years of laxative abuse – I frequently took as many at six laxative pills a day, for months on end. Fortunately, this insanity has ended.
I’ve been a paying member of a well-conceived health program for over three years. I get weekly help on finding my own path through diet and exercise. Life is now a lot better. While I do want to get to that runner’s body, I realise that it’s a slow process, and I’m enjoying the path – even with its ups and downs.
In terms of other guys, what sort of physiques turn you on?
The physiques of other men I find most attractive are taller than me – 6’2” or over – muscular, and 30-40 pounds heavier than me.
As you get older, are you getting more comfortable or confident with your body?
I’m getting both more comfortable and confident as a I approach my body-mind ideal. There are some non-negotiable points – a low-sugar, low-carb, low-cholesterol diet and a fair amount of exercise. That’s what I need to maintain in order to keep myself together. These points are now fairly well integrated into my life – there is an amazing amount of peace and life-clarity that comes from having myself together, even if not perfectly so.