By Ian Howley @IanHowley


EDITOR'S LETTER #146

Have you met our model this issue? His name is Matt. He’s from Cornwall, is tall, built, handsome and speaks with an adorable Cornish accent. In my short time talking to Matt on the FS shoot he came across as a lovely guy who just happens to be unbelievably attractive. 

The reason I asked Matt to model for the body image issue was because when we went through the results of the ‘Big Gay Body Image Survey’ what we found was that if you were to take all the top answers to ‘what do you look for most in a guy?’ Matt’s features came out on top – tall, muscles, facial hair, hairy, etc. This is why we used him. This is what gay men told us what they want to see.

Of course we could have got a model who has a bit of a belly and made him look all sad and angry that he doesn't have a six pack, but that would have been tokenistic, and I feel, wrong for us to do. 

Do you think it's only 'fat', 'overweight' or 'skinny' guys who has body image issues? Look at Matt. Do you think he’s happy with his body? I don’t know the answer to this, because I never thought to ask him, but wouldn’t you be? I know I would. 

During the shoot I asked Matt to eat some crisps so we had a shot to go with any stats to do with food. Matt’s face turned a little but he did it. After he ate the crisps he muttered the words ‘I feel guilty eating them’. I thought to myself, there’s not a pick on you, you can probably eat whatever you want and it doesn’t matter. But there he was, in a split second, feeling guilty about eating a handful of crisps. 

If there was one thing we learned from doing this issue it’s that everyone has a body image issue and there is no one-quick-fix way to solve it. 

Everyone knows that being gay can be difficult at times. There’s a spotlight on us and every flaw we have is magnified at a higher level than the straight community. So when it comes to body image it’s only natural that it’s going to be a big issue for us. 

I recently had a Twitter conversation with a doctor who thought body shaming was a good thing. He believed that the NHS is under a strain from obese people draining the system and anything that helps people to lose weight is a good thing – including body shaming. And I’m sure there are many out there that would agree with him. But not me.

I think body shaming is actually quite harmful. Here’s why. You may shame someone into losing weight but if you don’t ‘fix’ the reason they became fat in the first place you are just papering over the cracks. Recent research shows that the vast majority of people who lose a lot of weight tend to put it back on and in many cases become bigger than they were. This is because they never tackled the issue that made them ‘fat’ in the first place. And that’s what’s wrong with the gay community. 

I believe we are a community who like to paper over the cracks and don’t tackle our issues head on. 

I told the doctor that I believe that there would be more value in focusing on increasing gay men’s self-esteem rather than pointing them to a gym. I said this because if you can create confident people then you have a better chance of creating a gay community that values themselves and their health – including mental health, sexual health and body image. I believe that if young gay men were given the tools to become well-rounded adults we would not be seeing many of the problems that affect the gay community today. 

There’s a reason why we drink more, smoke more, do more drugs, and taker greater sexual risks. When people value themselves they feel empowered to make better choices. When gay men don’t value themselves they are less likely to care about their health and looks. 

And this leads me to our new issue. It’s about body image (duh) and the pressures the gay community put on ourselves to look ‘flawless’. I have no idea what the outcome of this issue will be but if we can get people to think about their bodies, self-esteem and being OK with not looking ‘flawless’ then we may become a healthier community for it.  

Until next time,

Ian Howley, Editor
@IanHowley