Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
In general, the gay male society idolizes the idea of the ‘underwear model type’ body image so much that a majority of the gay community is overtly conscious about their body, which studies have proven. It is the primary reason why many folks from the gay community have low self-esteem.
There are many who suffer from body dysmorphia and every day, they live with the feeling that they are not good enough to be loved and desired by anyone. This sense of rejection, by people from their own community, indeed takes a toll on their state of well being, as this community is anyhow marginalised by default, by the mainstream.
It’s almost like becoming a fringe within a fringe. Please note that I am not against the idea of a chiseled body. As they say, your body is your temple, and it’s your absolute choice to maintain it the way you want. My sole concern is with the stereotyped gay body image which is promoted by the media.
This whole notion of the ‘ideal’ body image is pushed so much that it becomes almost incumbent to fit into that specific body type.
The classification (which I feel is absolutely not needed) based on one’s sex position, and then stereotyping a body image for each role is just bizarre.
If one is a top, one should be ‘muscular’ and ‘hung’. If one is a bottom, one needs to be ‘smooth’ and ‘slim (read: anorexic). The stereotypical body image of gay couples, as promoted by the media, is highly skewed. In their imagination, one has to always be ‘tall’ and ‘burly,’ and is portrayed as the top. And, the other one, being the ‘fair’ and ‘slim’ guy is stereotyped as being the bottom.
Why are the fat, dark, non-muscular gay men often forgotten in this type-casting? Let’s be clear that obesity is also because of one’s metabolism or because of hormones. It also could be the side effect of medicines (like anti-depressants, mood stimulants, and more).
No matter what you do, possibly in certain cases, you might never fit into ‘that’ body stereotype which, unfortunately, the gay community tends to celebrate. There can be a hairy muscular guy who wants to be the bottom, and a slim non-hairy guy who wants to top. And, there can be folks who are versatile.
We need to be respectful of people’s choices without trying to map the idea of a stereotyped body image. One’s self-worth doesn’t deserve to be shattered due to these reasons.
The gay community not only needs to fight against the heteronormative stereotypes to be accepted, but, also should learn to embrace and celebrate the diversity that exists internally within the community.
Top, bottom, versatile, dark, fair, slim, fat, hunk, femme, side, muscular, non-muscular, toned, hairy, non-hairy, chubby, the list is huge.
It’s better to scrap this crooked nomenclature and see everyone as humans, that’s it. When we seek acceptance from the mainstream heteronormative society, we must also try to embrace our own community, rather than trying to classify people into silos based on their body type and a sexual role which, if not stopped, will eventually refute the ultimate utopian idea of true inclusion.
PS: It’s definitely an absolutely personal choice of whom you want to love or lust after. The expectation is not to change your criteria of whom you want to be with on a personal front. The sole prerogative is just to avoid any kind of propaganda which creates such stereotypes in general, and to be respectful of all, for who they are and what they are, without hurting or demeaning anyone.