Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Body Image, take III – Popular culture and the effect on gay teens and body image (a guest post)

After seeing the follow-up post about body image issues that not only girls, but guys have, it got me thinking about something. Sure, straight guys have these messages coming from society that they need to have these sculpted Adonis-esque bodies, but it becomes even more difficult for gay teens, especially gay and bisexual males who have to deal with additional pressure coming from what is supposed to be an open and accepting community.
One thing I did to come to terms with my orientation was to read books from the library about guys like me who were also dealing with liking other guys. Sure enough, I read my way through Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, some Brent Hartinger, and some other stories along the way. It was then that I noticed something: I had never come across a book directed toward LGBT teenagers where the main character dealt with their weight or body image. How was I, as someone who has dealt with weight a majority of his life, supposed to identify with characters who were not representing me?
And it’s not just limited to books. Look at your TV and see how gays are represented there. Off the top of my head, there at least 3 gay characters on TV who do not fit the standards that gays put upon themselves: Max Blum from Happy Endings, Cameron Tucker from Modern Family, and Dave Karofsky from Glee. And the rest of them either are average, like Mitchell Pritchett from Modern Family, or are very fit physically like Danny Mahealani from MTV’s Teen Wolf.
Some of this focus on body image comes from, yep you guessed it, childhood and what kids are exposed to at a young age. In their book The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession, a great read for those of you interested in males dealing with body image, authors Harrison G. Pope Jr. and Katharine A. Phillips mention how even the body shape of action figures have been supersized, citing a difference in G.I. Joe toy from the 60s to a toy from the same brand now, as seen in the image of the three action figures. Now if you ask me, G.I. Joe over there has really been packing the protein and possibly some steroids. 

 In a post for Hommemaker, Orlando Soria writes, “Gays . . . live in a warped bubble where we are freaks if we don’t somehow magically look like underwear models.” As a gay teen, I have pressure coming not just from American society that I need to drop my excess pounds and have a healthy weight, but because I’m also gay, I should be in the gym nearly every single day so I can be musclebound. And why is there so much emphasis on having a muscular physique in gay culture that teens are picking up? Brian Moyler of Gawker writes that the main reason is fear of being alone and rejected by others. Additionally, a 2012 study conducted in England revealed that 48% of the males surveyed who identified as gay or bisexual said they would be willing to shorten their life by a year in exchange for the “perfect body.” Even more shocking was that 10% of those men would shorten their lives by a decade for that perfect body at that moment.

There’s an additional component involved in this about how within gay culture there are numerous subcultures that revolve around a guy having a certain look, and despite the fact that the LGBT community says it’s all about being together supporting each other, many of us will attempt to make ourselves fit into these groups so we won’t be, just like Brian Moyler said, alone.
So what can we do to fix these issues? Be body positive. This reminds me of something Tina Fey wrote in her book Bossypants; she wrote down a list of the features of herself that she loved and wouldn’t want to change. I’m not saying you need write yourself a list of what you like about yourself (if that helps do it), but to be comfortable with how you look. And if you aren’t and decide that you want to make some positive changes in your lifestyle, do it because you want to and not because you think that if you do you’ll find acceptance. I leave you with a quote from the fabulous RuPaul. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”

GI Joe image taken from http://www.iamhuntergatherer.com/a-real-american-hero/, another interesting post on male body image.

I’m Cristian, or Alejandro, Martinez (either one is fine by me) and I am currently a Youth Services Volunteer at the Glendale Public Library in Glendale, Arizona and have been for about six years. I’m also a college student majoring in psychology with an eventual goal to be a Youth and Teen Librarian, and if that doesn’t work out, I would love to combine my love of books and cooking to own a bookstore/bakery. You can find me either at https://www.facebook.com/SaveGPL, the library advocacy page I administrate, or at my personal Tumblr blog http://kripkeskumquat.tumblr.com/. You can also follow me on Twitter, @CriAleMar.


  1. Fantastic! we should all be happy with the bodies we have, and not feel like less of a person for not measuring up to some artificial construct. As a disabled geek gamer, I could fit all of the overweight nerd steroetypes that are out there. I do not. As zombie said in Wreck it Ralph, “”Zangief saying, labels not make you happy. Good, bad, uhgh! You must love you.”

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