Image woven into fabric of gay life

The gay community uses physical appearance as an identification tag, as does society as a whole.

The gay community uses physical appearance as an identification tag, as does society as a whole.

When a community has been “labeled from birth” – or classifies its members by sexual identity from the moment they come out – image is seemingly everything.Matt-Petrillo

For me, when it comes to meeting men, other guys almost never make the first move.

As I watch nearly everyone at Woody’s talking to or dancing with someone, I ask myself, “Why has no one come up to me to dance? I’m tall with an athletic body and awkwardly cute smile.”

Yet people will look right past me as if I’m not there.

Though body issues are no doubt “an everyone thing,” as Josh Fernandez said in the Sept. 16 edition of his QChat column, it remains a prominent and prevalent issue in the gay community. Image has become the foundation of gay identity because it sets us apart from heterosexual males, but it has simultaneously developed into a destructive representation of subcategories in the gay community. 

First, there’s the best-known kind of gay male: the twink. The “twig” Fernandez mentioned is one of many collegiate males with little or no body hair, who has a naïvely young, pre-pubescent appearance and exhibits famously hyper-feminine mannerisms. People typically take one look at this type of gay male and think, “He’s gay.”

But the truth is, the twig image doesn’t embody the look of every gay, and it’d be incorrect to assume all twinky-looking males can be characterized by only these physical attributes.

The same goes for those belonging to another subgroup, bears, masculine, hairy, heavyset gay males.
It’s sad to say that these and other subcategories define gays based on image alone, leading to misconceptions about our actual personalities.

Body image might hold as a foundation for the gay community, but it manipulates one’s human dignity into shameless vanity. 

When I look back and try to think about why guys don’t approach me, I can name a million possibilities – my stiffness, my awkwardness, my physical appearance in general. But in the end, guys expect me to come up to them simply because I appear more masculine. When they find out who I am, though, they realize I am more passive than I may look. 

There’s nothing wrong with the “Josh package,” but I wouldn’t argue that anything is wrong with society or images, either.

People need to have standards to aim for but should stop obsessing over meeting them. No matter what corner of the world you’re in, there will be people who try to make others feel inferior to them, and gay culture is especially judgmental.

My point is: If you’re looking for a guy to look past your insecurities and see you for who you are, then dancing to Lady Gaga in a darkly-lit room of mostly drunk gays isn’t the best way to do so. I’m not saying you should never go to Woody’s. But no one can expect to be hit on every place he goes.

Many gays grew up thinking they were an abnormal part of society, and just appearing to belong means they can.

I encourage you to go up to guys yourselves and make the first move because you may be surprised to find the person was just as nervous to come up to you. 

Society can use physical appearance as the best way to measure a person, but it’s unrealistic. Without any true depth, a person’s shallowness can consume his true image, and eventually, there comes a point when people cannot rely solely on looks.

Video by Matt Petrillo


Matt Petrillo can be reached at

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