It Puts The Lotion On It’s Skin…

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Bear with me, as this will be a long road…

I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite, albeit chilling, movies, Silence of the Lambs. In it, the villain, James Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill, battles with the issue of seeing himself differently than the rest of the world does. He spends the majority of the movie stalking and killing overweight women in the attempts to make his one “woman suit.” He did this to change his outward appearance to align with how he saw himself internally. The point I am making is that most of us feel uncomfortable in our own skins, at some point. We spend our lives trying to change it in varying ways, good and bad. Society perpetuates the myth of what a person should look, feel, or be and then turns around and tells us that we should comfortable with who and what we are.

This is a hard post to write, how can I sit here and tell you to be positive about yourself when I, myself, and not very positive about my body. I do feel that every soul is beautiful in it’s own way and that each body is beautiful. That is great and all, but that doesn’t speak to those that feel as if they were born in the wrong body. It wouldn’t be fair of me to speak about the transgender issues of it, not being transgender. So, primarily I will be focusing about body issues We have seen an increase in body positivity promotion for women, more plus sized models are entering the industry. Clothing lines are realizing that women of all sizes buy their merchandise. These are all good step, even if they are small steps. Body positivity with men has also started being pushed forward. I can say that I feel this is sometimes underserved, but often times media focusing on men first.

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Being a larger gay male, I am reminded daily how body image is thrust into our faces. The ideal gay male is perceived as lean to muscular, young, fair-haired, perfect teeth, abs for the gods, and cake for days. Realistically, that is probably closer to 1% of the gay male population. Most days I wake up with an ok feeling about my body even able to lapse into a few moments of not feeling repulsive. I also am somewhat of an opportunistic nudist, what that means is few people know that side of me and I only take advantage of it when I know that no one is around or possibly would drop in on me. Recently, on a hot, humid summer day, I sent the better art of the day sans clothing. I have to admit; it is always a bit freeing when you can remove the restricted confines of clothing. I went about my cleaning chores, listening to music, and even lounging watching TV and just enjoying not wearing clothes.

That was all fine and great until I happen to be in the bathroom sweeping and catch a side glance in the mirror of myself. Then my mind starts working and all I see is the negatives. I want to hide and swaddle myself in some draping fabric that hides everything that I do not like, I romanticize about my younger days and that I was smaller than I am now, which isn’t entirely truth. I also look at myself and think how much weight I have gained in the last two years, until I look back on pictures from then and realize that it hasn’t been that much. This only makes me feel worse. Why isn’t it that I can’t look at myself with love and acceptance?

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We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards that change every decade. From the late 1890s to the modern era, body image of men and women have went up and down. From curvy being desirable, thin and trim, taking its place, back to curvy, and only to be replaced with waif like images for women and absurd body proportions for men. This leads to fad dieting and surgery to try to correct these changing patterns, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the mental health issues this can cause. I could sit here saying that we all should get over it and just accept ourselves as we are and love our bodies, but that wouldn’t be truthful.  Logically, I agree with it, though.

Each of bodies is beautiful and unique in their own way. They are amazing creations that should be celebrated and worshipped. But we don’t get that luxury because daily we are beat down with what others perceive we should look like. It isn’t us that need to change; it is the minds of others that need to change. They need to understand that we are beautiful. They should be working with us in that acceptance and celebration. It is they that should learn the love of who we are and instead of telling us we aren’t good enough.

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Since it is others that have forced this ill-conceived mindset of beauty, it is also up to them to change how they view the world. Granted, that is as much a hard sell as it is to say that we should ignore what other people think of us and love ourselves. We also have to realize that this ideal of perfection isn’t something that is completely attainable. I say we, when in fact I am also trying to make myself realize that very thing. I am 45, my body doesn’t bounce back that way it did when I was 15 or even 25. I can go through the regiments that many Hollywood stars do to make themselves appear more youthful and slim, but those also can be just as dangerous for the body. I know there are more important changes I need to make than whether I wear a size 30 in jeans or a medium shirt.

Things that have helped me in my acceptance are being nude more often. Sitting or standing in front of a mirror and just trying to look at myself without the lens of judgment, without saying or thinking anything It’s hard, some of the hardest thing you may ever do. The first few minutes are always us given ourselves scathing looks of judgment and scrutinizing what we see for the flaws we think we have. Focusing on something that stands out to us because we notice it every day. It is hard to shut your mind off and just take in what you see without judgment. I know that trying to quiet my mind and just be is VERY difficult. There are many things, physically, that I am self conscious over.

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American isn’t exactly the land of body acceptance either. The majority still passes judgment on those who frequent naturist resorts. They are perceived as perverts and as a den of sexual deviance. We are taught not to see the pulchritude of the naked body and to judge anyone who prefers to not be clothed. I’m not suggesting that you run out and join a nudist colony to help, because they can be just as bad. You can see ads of them promoting body positivity, but the people in the ads don’t reflect everyone, while often times their memberships are closer to the reality of life. They show beautiful late 20s to early 40s nude people with lean physiques, but you often hear members complain that the average nudist is 50+ and not the perfect body. We as the, general public, wouldn’t ever get to see that as we would probably not sign up because we don’t match the advertisements of the resorts.

How do we learn to be less harmful to ourselves? It is hard with how society reflects on beauty and attraction. There are not shortcuts to get there and I can’t tell you how to be more accepting of yourself, hell I cannot be more accepting of myself. But each day I try to love myself a little more I try to look beyond the things I cannot change and hold myself to my standards and not those imposed upon me. I fail, A LOT, but I pick myself up and try to carry on another day, another battle won no matter how small. My only hope is that you do the same.

 

“You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

–Excerpt for “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

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Holiday Woes…

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I have mentioned in a previous post about a lesson my first boyfriend taught me, that as LGBTQ we have this amazing ability to choose our own family. That lesson is very important this time of year as the holidays approach. Many of us, especially our younger LGBTQ brothers and sisters, do not have their biological families for whatever reason. That is hard to get past and leaves lasting scars. It is to you and them that I say, do not be afraid to reach out to your community and become a family for someone who may need it.

Those of us who consider ourselves activists or advocate, in any way, talk about how visibility is important to acceptance of LGBTQ people. So let’s look at a staggering fact, it is reported that 34,000 people commit suicide each year, with LGBTQ people being four times as likely to commit suicide. Let that sink in, 34,000people. In three short years, that number would rise to just over 100,000 people. To put that into another perspective, my hometown is about 40,000 people, so that would mean that almost everyone in that town would disappear each year. 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt suicide each year. The population of Cleveland, Ohio is 385,525 people, so almost twice the number of people in Cleveland attempt suicide each year. Combine those numbers with drug addiction and you quickly see the impact this has on our community. Looking for more information on this, check out DrugRehab.com for some of their substance abuse relating suicide statistics.

The Trevor Project  has some scary facts as well.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24
  • In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely t have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

These are only a few statistics from their page and ones that really point towards familiar issues. Psychology Today stated that “5,000 LGBTQ youth now take their lives each year with the number believed to be significantly higher if deliberate auto accidents and other precipitated events are counted.” There has been correlation noted that as more laws were passed to create protection to our LGBTQ people, that these numbers started to lower.

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Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

This is why family and a solid foundation are necessary for our community. Depression affects an estimated 17 million people in the US and a higher proportion being in the LGBTQ communities.  Holidays can be even rougher, as it is typically a time of togetherness. This creates a huge strain on those that are ostracized from their families for whatever reason. LGBTQ youth that have been kicked out of their homes may not know what services are available to them and end up on the street. This only adds to the feelings of being alone and thrown away. These feelings are not indicative of LGBTQ teens, many older LGBTQ people are also faced with feelings of isolation or not belonging for reason such as family loss, loss of relationship, or even feelings of rejection and lack of acceptance by the larger LGBTQ community

The holidays are when we, as LGBTQ people, should make an effort to spend more time around people and organizations that can help mitigate the levels of feeling isolated and rejected. Take a look at local LGBTQ organizations that put on  holiday events in your area that can help ease the stress of being alone or separated from family this time of year. Here in Cleveland, Ohio you can check the calendar at the LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland and see what they have going on. If you see someone that may be in need of some interaction, please reach out to him or her. You may never know the kind of impact you may have on that person.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you haven’t come out or may be introducing a new partner, this time of year can also increase the amount of stress and separation you are feeling. Returning to an environment where you are forced to hide a part of yourself because you are afraid of how your family will react can be very difficult. Being born and raised in a southern household with a father who carried many forms of prejudice, it is something I am all too familiar with. Constantly having to give extra thought to mannerisms or word choice because I may be judged is very stressful. My partner worrying about how he may be accepted and me being on guard over what may be said creates a toxic environment that tends to breed more problems. Many Thanksgiving dinners were fraught with worry the dreaded question of “are you seeing anyone?” or “when are you gonna bring a nice girl home?”

Interaction with people and events doesn’t always mean someone isn’t depressed. Going to holiday parties can lead to or further enable substance abuse as a means of a coping mechanism. This can give someone the appearance of being ok when in fact they are not. I am not here to educate you in watching for signs of substance abuse as a means of coping with depression, only to point out that it is one. So when you are inviting people to partake of social situations this time of year, make sure they are always just a party. If you are inviting someone to an event that may not be a part of your normal group, be sure to look out for them. If you are looking for events to attend, look for social gatherings as well as hitting your local bar. Keeps it varied and creates a closer sense of connection.

We get to choose our family as LGBTQ people, so we should make those choices carefully. Make sure we are surrounding ourselves with a community that fosters love and support. The holidays are about being with family and what better way to celebrate that with those very people who understand the struggles we face daily. Let’s use our scars as badges of healing and reach out to those who may not have a family to turn to.

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