“I like you Freddie. Call me when you like yourself,” Jim Hutton told Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
That line stung. I knew why, but I put it away for the rest of the movie while I sobbed over the renewed wound of losing an entire generation to AIDS— I really know how to pick the most emotional movies on flights.
The journey to my self-worth has been long and arduous, but I’m picking away at letting my light shine.
So then fast forward to a recent trip— I was doing the walk around when I caught my reflection in a window to the terminal. That little voice inside my head, the one always babbling, said for the first time in a really long time, “I like the way I look.” I did not expect this, because this voice rarely says anything nice to me. But there I was, twirling around the plane in a mix of emotions, a small grin and tearing up over the confidence and dapper feeling that is ever elusive.
Not too long after that epiphany, NBC News published this article with the headline, “Are sexy gay Instagram accounts fueling disordered eating?” It goes into detail of Thirst Traps leading the masses to alter their eating habits in order to obtain a body similar to that of the accounts (a thirst trap is an account that mostly posts shirtless/revealing photos, highlighting one’s taut physique, and you are “trapped” there from gawking so much).
Months ago, I stopped following accounts like this, because, although I didn’t have an eating disorder, it was causing me to compare myself to nearly unattainable Adonis-like bodies. Having always had an issue with my body image, it was out of self-care that I focused more on health instead of image.
And for a long time, I scoffed at thirst traps. I called them vapid, cliquey, and exclusive— but I’ve changed my narrative. While some of these guys are certainly not the nicest or most welcoming for people of my body type, they, too, harbor the trauma that is being gay in the modern world. Specifically, white gay men are higher on the privilege pole than most other minorities, and they do an amazing job at masking their pain under the guise of professional success, creating a fanciful image of their lives. Underneath all that, though, is still the brokenness and confusion of being queer in this age. Sometimes, Thirst Traps are posting to thwart their own insecurities; it might take them as much courage to post a shirtless picture as it does for me, even though their body fat is way less than mine. They might be more accepted, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult for them.
That’s a tough pill to swallow, because it’s easy to be mad at them for their shortcomings. It’s easy to accuse them of being pompous and egotistic, but all that does is reflect on us for assuming that their path is trouble-free. What’s even more difficult is to embrace and love your body the way it is, exactly in this moment no questions asked, unconditionally. Society tells us otherwise, because there’s always something we could do to improve ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, of course there is— but it’s not at all urgent.
At the end of the day, the infighting amongst our queer family over who looks better is petty at best. I call on our community to put down our arms and find a bit more compassion— mostly because our battles are not suited with each other, but against the onslaught of disparities of our QPOC (Queer Person of Color) family members and trans* family. If we could get past the fat shaming and build each other up, we would be poised to use our privilege for the entire breadth of the queer community.
In that moment where I saw myself in the window, it didn’t fix the years of stress and stigma I’ve put on myself. I don’t even necessarily feel that great about myself today; this is not a linear journey, and there are certainly ups and downs. But it was a glimpse of what I have found to be capable in myself— satisfied and comfortable in my own skin.