Barely Body Beautiful

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Disclaimer, this is a hard post for me to do.  I make no apologies for it, as it is a means of self-acceptance and growth. If you have strong feelings over it, then it has achieved its purpose for both of us. Hopefully, you will grow as I am trying to. Thank being said, let’s proceed.

My last post has got me thinking about self-image a lot. A friend shared his story of how his acceptance came to him, we are both about the same age and I wondered why my experiences are so much different. I fully understand that our journeys are ours and based on the choices we make, the cultural ideals that are forced upon us, preconceptions we develop based on our understanding, and so many more. As we build up walls to protect ourselves, we don’t think about tearing them down. We let others place constraints on us and we never outgrow them. The question, really, is why?

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When I was born, I was a skinny kid. I had a lot of allergies and I never really put on a lot of weight. I remember going to the doctor a lot, mainly for all the allergy tests, but there were other things. I was put on medication to help me put on weight and remember taking iron pills. At some point, it worked, I started putting on weight. Most of me growing up was being a chubby kid. I remember getting picked on and being called so many things. Fat was among them, a lot of weirdo, and even many that called me faggot. I knew early that I liked guys more than I did girls, but I also learned to hide it. It was already bad enough kids calling kids faggot when they didn’t understand the term, but if they knew I like guys it would be added torture. I never picked on kids for being overweight, after all my sister and I grew up with a mother who was larger. She taught us that all people were beautiful, but I never really learned that it applied to me. By graduation I was a large guy and I hated it. Throw that in with the fact that my hair was unruly, and I still had a “bucky beaver” overbite, I truly hated being noticed. I was much more comfortable hiding. Because I was trying to fit in, I dated And my preference was usually larger women. I am sure there are psychologists that would love analyzing what that meant. I joined a fraternity and decided that I hated how I looked. I started starving myself and when I ate is was usually ramen noodles or just macaroni and cheese. I cut my hair short and walked almost everywhere I needed to go, especially to and from work. And it worked, I lost a lot of weight.

When I left college, I was down to almost a size 34 waist and could wear large t-shirts, keep in mind I am 6’4, so being skinny wouldn’t be the best look for me. I was content. I came out fully when I left college and was pretty popular with other men, finally. None of this ever changed the fact that I still hated how I looked. I hated being in any state of undress in front of people. The only time my walls every came down was during sex. I could get lost in my own head and the pleasures two people could cause, that I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. The moment it was over I was up and immediately getting dressed. I have worked a lot to try and change that and have made small progresses. I can now be shirtless around people I am completely comfortable with, if I am home alone, I have no fears of being nude. But I still dislike how I look. I don’t share full body pictures with anyone, so this post is a HUGE undertaking. But putting it up is a step in the right direction. I am scared of how people will react and comments I may get, but this is for my personal growth. It has to be done.

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The Bear Community was going to be a place I thought I felt comfortable. After all, statistics say that the Bear Community makes up 14 to 22% of the gay male population, so I felt they would be accepting. The subculture started to rise because of a large number of gay men who did not fit the stereotypical gay mold; skinny, perfect hair, hairless chest in many cases, often overly flamboyant like a twink. But after being around the Bear community for a while, I learned that there was much discrimination amongst them as well. There is a group that I hung out with in Virginia and was THE Bear Community. I went to a few of their dinners and when they had events at the bars. Many of an underwear party was visited and they were always fun. What I started to realize was the segregation among them. The so called “muscle bear” types often didn’t associate with those that were more of the “chub” type. The ones who claimed to be “hyper-masculine” did not talk to those that showed any effeminate traits. I would hear the hushed tones of “He isn’t a ‘real bear’.” After going to many of their events, one of the council members approached me and asked me if I had thought about joining and if I did, I needed to come to their Bear Run because the sex parties were off the chain. When I declined to come to the run, he said it was probably good since I wasn’t a “Real Bear” either. I was good enough to be asked to come, but because I turned it down now, I am not good enough. It was then that I decided I wouldn’t be a part of the Bear Community. Even now I see the Bear Community rife with discrimination, minorities are often not tolerated at events, unless you show up to the sex parties you are often not considered a part of the group. If you aren’t butch enough, you don’t get to be in their little group. It’s too much, it is hard enough being myself with all of the negativity I feel towards my own image, I don’t need the added weight, pardon the pun.

Five years ago, I took pics around the time I was getting ready to turn 41. I wanted to see what I looked like shirtless and you can see two of them here. There are pictures from this year that are much less clothes. I have put on weight since they were taking five years ago, and shame fills me. Why should I be filled with shame, I didn’t do anything wrong. I only ate and got older, both of which are things I cannot prevent. It is even worse when I see pictures of myself, that other have taken. It is true that photographs show us everything that we do not see, mostly about ourselves. Each time I see one, there is a new thing that I hate about them. You would think that with age I would start to care less about what people think, the truth is as I get older, I surround myself by fewer people so as not to get judged.

We are told from childhood that we shouldn’t care what others think, there will be someone who loves us for who we are. I met one once who did not care of my imperfections, he loved me for my heart and soul, as I loved him. Since his departure, my walls have become thicker, my mask more painted to hide away from others. I am tired of waiting for this “someone” that may be out there. I must start loving what I have and realizing that is the medicine or magic I need. Each of us are truly beautiful and amazing creatures. That is the lesson we need to learn, not waiting for someone to validate us. I have a million imperfections, but they do not make me less of who I am. I cannot wave a magic wand and make it all disappear and suddenly we can be how we want to be and be loved for it. Just know, if you are reading this, you are not alone in your dark thoughts. You have the strength to endure the torment others put on you and there are people who will stand by you, remember to ask for help when you need it. You may be surprised how many are going through the same issues that you are and simply do not show it.

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Heteronormativity of LGBTQ People

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The very core of who we are is implanted into us during our childhood. Sure, you may argue that education causes us to look out who we are, decide what is good/bad about it, and make needed changes to evolve, but keep in mind how we define those very structures is based on our upbringing, the very way our parents raised us. For LGBTQ youth, we grow up in a familial culture that doesn’t understand our very differences. Our parents teach us what they, in turn, learned from their parents. It is a perpetuated cycle of heteronormativity and most cases it’s so ingrained into us that we do not see it as anything else other than how we are raised. We are taught that we should be looking for someone of the opposite sex to get to know, settle down, marry, have kids, and start the whole cycle again. Our parents weren’t taught there was a difference, at least in a positive light, so it is seen as the only way to be and anything else is an aberration.

 

What is heteronormativity, Merriam Webster says this : heteronormative adj – of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really speak to the very nature of heteronormativity. The Medium.com goes further with a definition from other scholarly sources that says:

Ranging from organizational to interpersonal spheres, the presumptions that there are only two sexes; that it is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for people of different sexes to be attracted to one another; that these attractions may be publicly displayed and celebrated; that social institutions such as marriage and the family are appropriately organized around different-sex pairings; that same-sex couples are (if not ‘deviant’) a ‘variation on’ or an ‘alternative to’ the heterosexual couple. Heteronormativity refers, in sum, to the myriad ways in which heterosexuality is produced as a natural, unproblematic, taken-for-granted, ordinary phenomenon.

One could argue then that this definition is very close to what most would perceive as homophobia and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Homophobia is more like the sibling of heteronormativity but louder and in your face. Heteronormativity is the more day to day, subtle process that are so pervasive to our culture and much more akin to colonialism. Essentially it is the basic form of sexual expression and the very foundations on which societies are built. It states that the only normal expression is that of a man and a woman and anything else is deviant or less than normal.

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This can be seen by the laws of the communities all of us belong to, when you see countries that punish homosexuality by violent acts, jailing, or the extreme being killing. It only reinforces that heterosexuality is the only acceptable course of life. These are unacceptable and downright inhumane, and you think this can’t happen in our country because of laws that have started passing in the last fifty years. You are right in that assumption; however, it still exists here, and it done much more subtly. Sure, it can be argued that LGBTQ people are the minority and that as such the majorities mindset shouldn’t have to change to placate such a small group. The problem is this very mindset goes beyond affecting only LGBTQ people. Also, we have to realize that not challenging this social injustice is just morally ambivalent to the status of society and wanting to create and environment where everyone is treated equally and fairly.

The very nature of heteronormativity implies the fact that a relationship is based on a ‘masculine’ and a ‘feminine’ person, as such it teaches that the men are the providers and women are the child bearers. Basically, stating that men are the top of the structure and create what is considered normal or acceptable. It creates the power struggle that allows men to believe they are the control in the situation and allowed to subjugate those below his status. It goes further to create standards of what is perceived as the sexual male and female, from how they talk, how they stand, or how they dress. It does not allow for any deviation on those standards. It only allows for a sexual desire between the male of female sex and that only those who physically appear as men can be attracted to those who physically appear as women.

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So how has this affected the LGBTQ people? It pervades our very culture and has shaped it over time, whether we want to admit it or not. For gay men it has colored our sexual proclivities. Tops and bottoms, femme and butch are a good representation of it. We have shaped our ideas of how sex should be based on ideas that were taught to us by our parents, school, and environment we have grown up with and lesbians have much the same basis. It has also created the mindset lesbians and gays cannot be friends, old mindset but still happens today. It has given us the ability to persecute drag queens and our transgender brothers and sisters. It is also the very reason why many of us view bisexuals with such disdain. We were taught that sexual attraction can only fit an either-or situation, that anything outside of that isn’t right and should be judged.

 

There are still plenty gay men who believe that you can only be a top or a bottom. I can’t count how many times I have heard the phrase that versatile means a bottom in denial. Or if they say they are top versatile that they are pretending to be something they aren’t. It is a restatement of a masculine and a feminine role and that it cannot be anything other than that. They are the same ones who argue this is my preference and just how I am, when it is more of the fact that it is what has been taught to us since we were kids. As LGBTQ people, we fight against the molds that society places upon us, to show we are what we are and not a mistake. We fight for our differences while at the same time maintaining outdated modalities that shouldn’t apply to us.

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It goes further when you hear things like ‘straight acting’ or ‘masculine’ gay male, as if they very nature of someone who isn’t a perceived idea of what it is to be male is offensive. Why is feminine deemed unworthy of affection or desire? Heterosexism typically implies that being feminine is below being masculine and therefore subpar. Again, we follow a precept of a group that we try our hardest to distance ourselves from while at the same time cow tailing to that very same group for acceptance and justification in our equality. It is the very reason we strive for marriage equality, we feel it would give us the feeling of being normal and just like the happy married straight couple who deserves all the benefits that’s comes with being a married couple.

A challenge for you; Google the word couple and look at the images that populate. At least 90% of the images returned will be of heterosexual white couples. Out of the first page of results, you may see ten images that are LGBTQ and out of the ten one is of a transgender couple. It is a proof that the majority believes that marriage is about heterosexual couples and most focus on white heterosexual couples. Don’t believe me? Watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to The Dress” and count how many minority couples are on the show. This shows the mindset of the general populace and one that we need to actively work on changing.

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