Body talk

‘You’re too skinny’: Body-shaming in the gay community works both ways

A recent survey conducted by Attitude magazine found that nearly half of gay men (49%) said they were “unhappy” with their bodies and an additional 10% said they were “very unhappy” with their bodies. Meanwhile, 84% said they felt extreme pressure to maintain a good body.

But body image issues and body shaming doesn’t just affect larger guys who may fall under the “overweight” category. It can be just as challenging for skinnier guys who are “underweight.” A writer at Gay Star News details his experiences with “skinny-shaming” as a 23-year-old, 5’8, 114-pound gay man.

“Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see this skinny runt covered in tattoos and piercings with very little muscle,” he writes. “Narrow wrists and ankles, thin body and, when I lift my arms, I can see my ribcage sometimes. My brother calls me things like pipe cleaner, snowflake and magic wand.”

Related: How this husky guy overcame his body image issues and learned to embrace his size

The man explains that he’s tried everything to put on weight, but his “turbo charged metabolism” makes it nearly impossible.

“People have asked me to my face if I have an eating disorder,” he explains. “Once on a blind date, the guy I was on a date with asked me if I was anorexic. He said I looked like I hadn’t eaten in days.”

But the criticism doesn’t just come from strangers. The man also hears it from his family and friends.

“My friends used to say I was like Cassie from Skins: I’m thin, was blond and looked like I never ate,” he writes. “People continue to make remarks about my weight, even my own family. … My parents often tell me that I’m too skinny and that I don’t eat enough.”

Ultimately, he says, body-shaming “needs to stop.”

“Body shaming is wrong: whether you’re big or thin,” he says. “We should be encouraged to embrace ourselves.”

He continues: “I am slowly getting more comfortable in my own skin again but like I said, I have those rare moments of doubt and discomfort.”

Related: Guys Confess Their Struggles With Body Image. Anything Sound Familiar?

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25 Comments

  • David

    “It can be just as challenging for skinnier guys who are ‘underweight.'”

    No.

    “It can also be tough for …” would have been correct. “Skinny guys always experience …” again would have been valid. But no it is not just as challenging for skinny guys. You give me a photo of this skinny guy with tattoos, with his shirt off and I’ll post it on Grindr and get several hits right away from guys who want to have sex with him. I’ll take this skinny bugger to almost any clothing shop and I’ll find him nice jeans that make him look good that don’t cost an arm and a leg. You put his brother in the room and have him call him pipe cleaner and I’ll just say once, maybe twice, “Hey man, I don’t think you realize that when you say stuff about him like that, it hurts. Please stop.” And then it’ll be done.

    I’m not saying this guy hasn’t felt bad. But no, if you’re skinny there are so many things that you take for granted. Am I saying it’s impossible to find guys to fool around with? No there’s a small minority of guys who either prefer big guys or who just don’t care either way. (And a lot of the guys who prefer big guys are smoking hot) But it’s really hard to find someone who likes both my body and my personality (super easy to find straight people who comment about how I’m such a great person and they’re confused as to why I’m single, because lots of fat straight guys have girl friends).

    Like is it as bad as someone who might have a little bit of belly fat? Sure. But there’s a reason why bear culture came to be. And its’ because bigger guys experience wholesale rejection from a significant chunk of the gay “community”. And that’s not at all what this author has experienced.

    • BigG

      Amen brother.

    • Rakkaus

      Who are you to be taking away from this guy’s experiences and trying to win the Oppression Olympics over him? Skinny guys face body-shaming just as much as fatties, you don’t have the right to dismiss his shared life experience just because you think you have it harder.

    • Random

      What makes you such an authority on the experiences of skinny people?

      And as you mention, large guys have bear culture whereas there’s no equivalent for skinny guys unless they’re happy – and young enough – to embrace the ‘twink’ label.

      I actually think the skinny phobia amongst gay men is partly related to a fear of HIV/AIDS, which is particularly unpleasant and pernicious type of prejudice to deal with.

      Sorry, but as bad you think your lot is, there’s others who have it just as tough as you.

    • SeijnSei

      I’ve never been overweight but I have been skinny all of my life. It is definitely equally challenging based on what I’ve observed and discussed amongst my friends in my own life. My bigger, thicker, heavier friends do not have the same issues I have and they definitely have more active dating lives then I do. None of them are morbidly obese but its definitely an easier life for a gay man who isn’t a stick figure. Someone specifically looking for that is the exception not the rule

  • IDoNotHaveToAgreeWithYou

    Yep sure does. And I don’t think there are any skinny chasers.

  • ingyaom

    If someone is anorexic or bulimic or purging or starving himself, etc., then that is definitely a problem, and hopefully people around him will care enough to try to help. But if, as we can assume in the writer’s case, he’s really just a healthy, skinny guy, then that’s fine. There is a difference, though, and it doesn’t hurt to check.

  • Skip

    Skinny chaser right here– piercings? tats? Wanna hang out, have coffee?

  • Hermes

    To me – there is no such thing as too thin as long as the person is healthy. I think many others feel the same. Piercings are also fine. Tats I’m strange about, but thin I love. I’ve been partnered a long time – but I love thin/skinny. I do know some gay men only want muscle bunnies, but while toned is ok to me, muscled is not. I would much rather have skinny than muscled. To be fair though, I’d rather have muscled than fat, but not by much.

    Kind thoughts.

    • SumSay

      You could argue the same for fat men. There are extremes on both sides. Underweight individuals have their health issues due to weight as well. Too thin is bad and you should have a problem with that. A little under or a little over makes sense, but too much IS too much.

  • natosio

    …Skinny body-shaming is not exclusive to the gay community. At 5’10”, weighing 125 lbs., I was initially rejected for health insurance—I guess they assumed I had some pre-existent wasting disease or was hopelessly anorexic. But after 6 months of a fattier diet than usual, complete with butter, crème fraîche, and gallons of whole milk, I gained over 10 lbs. and was welcomed with open arms to the same healthcare provider.

    I must say, that kind of experience doesn’t do much for one’s self-image.

  • He BGB

    There is somebody for everyone I always heard.

  • JaredMacBride

    Lots of body types are healthy. A 5’8″ 114 pound 23 year old is not healthy. That’s not body shaming, that’s a fact.

    • Notright

      boom

  • NateOcean

    Fat vs Skinny.

    My guess is that skinny guy doesn’t add 50-lbs to his grindr profile to make it more appealing.

  • Bradsman

    I’ve always been attracted to skinny guys. You’d have to be scary thin to get criticized in the Gay world. Who is that gay comedian who does the bit about going to the doctor, who told him he was underweight and the comedian was like” wow, thanks. That’s so sweet of you” The joke wouldn’t work with a fat comic.

  • Will L

    Not everybody will find a person’s build attractive. Some go for thin, some medium and some heavy.

    I would be inclined to listen to the parents. If people consistently tell you that you are too thin or too heavy (or too anything), consult with your physician. Perhaps it isn’t just an attraction-thing.

  • Jack Meoff

    I have to admit that if I see very skinny guy on a hook up app I assume it is the result of long term drug use and not eating because of loss of appetite due to drugs and also spending all your money on drugs instead if food. I know it is unfair to assume because it is not always the case but with the prevalence of drug use within the gay community and the passive acceptance of this behaviour by the community at large it is a fair assumption because it is often true.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      Yes – there are exceptions but that’s a natural, automatic first impression.

  • Brian

    God, I am getting sick of having body positive articles shoved down my throat. Yes, we should not make fun of, or judge people because of their size. No, it’s never going to stop because it’s part of human nature. This “conversation” has been going on for how long, and what’s really changed? A plus size model once made it into Vogue? People are always going to be racist, sexist, sizeist, homophobic, and every other phobe and ist you can think of. Do we really have to spend the rest of our lives getting lectured every time we log onto the internet?

  • Notright

    I’m sorry but I’m not sure I buy that skinny guys have it just as hard. I see skinny guys showing off their bodies like they accomplished something all the time. I especially see skinny guys feeling like they’re entitled to be taken care of just because they are skinny. I’m not saying skinny guys are top of the food chain. That honor goes to the muscular young men but I’m not sympathetic to skinny guys complaining that they don’t get quite as much attention as muscular guys either.

    I mean come on when’s the last time you’ve seen “No skinnies” on grindr?

  • Heywood Jablowme

    As others say here, there is an automatic deep-seated fear that an extremely skinny guy might have a rare case of untreatable disease or more likely, just be a drug addict. Gay male drug addicts are not exactly uncommon.

    When I see a guy covered in tattoos and piercings, um… my FIRST impression is going to be something like:

    – he has an IQ under 70, and/or
    – he doesn’t give a sh*t about his long-term job prospects.

    Both of which are dating turn-offs for a lot of us. Oh I wouldn’t SAY anything, I won’t “body shame” verbally (because of course, people with tattoos are born that way, they can’t help it, lol… I suppose that’s next with these ridiculous articles).

  • stranger2myself

    As skinny guy all my life I can tell you people – it’s the same situation as being overweight in gay community. Since I don’t fit in normal standard weight gap people assume I’m twink, bottom and that I’m feminine. It’s very far from truth.
    No matter what I would do – like to eating more than 260lbs bf I won’t gain weight. I accepted it. I use it as advantage. I have very high stamina in bed. I don’t get tired easily. I can wear fancy clothes. Until one day in my middle thirties my metabolism will slow down and I’ll hit perfect weight. We all have our struggles. But please don’t think you are anyhow special if you’re overweight. Just accept it and find someone who will love you and your body. Like I did.

  • Lvng1Tor

    I always got more crap from straight people for being too skinny than I did from gay men. I never had a problem getting laid (and topping) muscle boys when I was, what is known now as, a twink. This is not a gay problem, it’s a human problem. Stop labeling things as exclusive to the lgbtq community when they are not.

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