Why then, do we not see this diversity and beauty being reflected in gay media, and in media aimed at our community?
Let me start by saying I have nothing against the guys that adorn gay magazine covers or that are featured in ads aimed at gay men. These guys look great and I’m sure they work hard for it. I am a 100% believer in gays supporting gays, so I’m not aiming any criticism or negativity towards them. Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it and all the more power to you!
My concern is that we’re not being presented with a wider selection of guys in our media. The images of men that are portrayed and glorified are alarming in their narrow depiction of what male beauty is. Sure, tall, fit, young 20 something’s are great to look at. But why are they the only thing we’re looking at? Why is gay media so narrowly focused on defining only one, or a very select few, types of males beauty?
I understand that sex sells and is needed to make a profit. But there are many different types of sex – and sexualities. It would be great to see this diversity reflected in the images that are presented. It may be assumed that only young, white, buff guys sell magazines, but have we been given chance a chance to prove otherwise? By not being exposed to a variety of guys of different ages, races and body types, we’re not being given the opportunity to develop a broader appreciation and understanding of beauty. Who knows, a magazine cover with a 40 year old guy, with a shirt on and a great smile, might just turn into a best seller yet!
Gay media also has a role to play in fostering a sense of community. One way to develop a connection to each other is through seeing positive representations of various sections of our community. If for instance, Asian men are portrayed in a positive and strong light, would stereotypes of Asian effeminacy fade? I’m not suggesting a few images would eliminate racism or stereotypes. That’s obviously too simplistic. But could it be the start of a gradual, incremental cultural change in perception?
It’s also important to be mindful of the message that is being sent to younger, and perhaps more impressionable gay men. Just like the women’s beauty industry cleverly manipulates women into believing they’re never beautiful/attractive/sexy enough (unless they buy their products of course), is there a chance we are doing this to the next generation of gay men? Surely we don’t want to go down the road of body dysmorphia and self esteem issues. It would be great to see images of men that don’t have six packs and bulging biceps, and are slightly more, well, realistic looking. We need to be telling (and showing) everyone that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
All I’m asking is that we acknowledge and embrace that we are all beautiful. Each and every one of us. And if we saw a wider selection of men in gay media, more people would start to believe and accept it. Maybe more gay men would give themselves permission to be kinder to themselves.