I’m in my early 30s and living in Miami Beach. It’s already May and “Hot Gay Summer” is approaching like a speeding train, but I don’t feel like my body is anywhere close to where it needs to be.
“Hot Gay Summer” for me means going to the various beach and pool parties, outdoor concerts, dance parties and Prides, and then traveling to P-town for the 4th of July. All my friends have bodies that are close to perfection, and I don’t want to stand out or be judged by them.
My whole summer depends upon looking a certain way. It’s been a stressful time with work, and it’s been harder to get back on a regular workout schedule after the pandemic. I’m starting to panic. What should I do?
Dear Summertime Sadness,
Grinding in a sea of perfect, sweaty torsos on a hot summer night is a gay image as old as time. However, it’s also one that can require a lot of work, stress, and pressure that we put upon ourselves to meet certain standards and expectations.
If you watched the recent Abercrombie & Fitch doc on Netflix, there are standards of beauty put out into the world that are exclusionary and nearly impossible to reach, making everyone else either want to be them, or feel bad about themselves that they aren’t.
Here’s the thing about this unspoken “rule” that you have to be ripped and hot to fit in with a certain group: almost everyone trying to meet those standards feels exactly the way you do.
I meet with gay clients every week who feel insecure, less than, and not good enough because of the way they look, or even what race they are, because they are still allowing themselves to be ruled by outdated notions of perfection that have followed gay men since the dawn of time. The standard is an illusion. There is no actual expectation written somewhere in the Gay Bible. It’s up to each of us to define and create a sense of self-worth and acceptance for ourselves, and not give in to the culture.
Unfortunately, much of what was illustrated in the Abercrombie and Fitch doc is still alive today in gay culture. Without knowing too many details about your personal life and activities, I wonder if finding some other friends outside this particular friend group, who are connecting on things other than hookups, validation, or being attractive might be healthier for you. Not all gay men hold themselves to those standards, and if the “whole summer depends on how you look”, isn’t that setting yourself up for a cruel, cruel summer?
Starting this month, re-calibrate the standards you hold yourself to, and don’t give your power away to the unattainable. Your body is not your only “currency”. How you fall prey to or reject gay standards has a direct affect on your mental health. Talking through this with an expert gay therapist can be really helpful as well. It may be time to turn down the heat on hot gay summer, and find a way to be cool for the summer instead.
Jake Myers the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space , the first LGBTQ owned and operated national platform for teletherapy. He has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy, and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both California and Florida.
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