All Politics is Loco: Size matters
By Sean Kosofsky
Originally printed 12/07/2006 (Issue 1449 - Between The Lines News)
Heather MacAllister didn't set me free, but she did loosen the shackles. In the few short years I knew her, she changed my life. She was fat, she was proud of it and she permanently transformed my attitudes about my own body. Until then, I had never connected my own personal hell to the suicide, shame and size oppression going on in our society.
I have struggled with body image my entire life. I remember being terrified of gym class, even in middle school. "Shirts vs. skins" were the most terrifying words to me. Even at 12 years old - though I wasn't fat at all - I hated my body. I thought I was awkward and didn't want anyone to see me shirtless. I still have the same neurotic fear of what others think about my body but I am willing to talk about it now - and more people should.
I have always been opposed to small dick jokes and fat jokes, because attacking someone's body is the lowest thing you can do. I know what it is like to cry because you think your body is gross. I know how paralyzing it is to not leave the house for a fun night at the club, because every shirt you try on shows your love handles. It's the same reason I avoid beaches like the plague. No beach - no reason to take my shirt off.
The worst part is that I have a double standard. Fat jokes make me furious, and I take great pride in preaching the gospel of size acceptance and celebrating all body types. At the same time, I can't even bring myself to accept an invitation to a pool party because I fear people there might make the same jokes about me that they do about other "fat" people.
Heather seemed furious with me once for telling her I thought I was fat. It was a surreal moment that probably frustrated her frequently. Here was this guy who was clearly not fat throwing a pity party, when the real oppression was hoisted on authentically fat people. Was I oppressed based on my size and shape, if I was the only one doing the oppressing? It sure felt like it. Heather fought for all of us, but I think there's a legion of men and women just like me quietly enduring the pain, sucking in our guts 24/7 - terrified that our clothes or the way we're sitting will destroy the phony facade of thinness we've created. It may be illogical, or even sick, but the pain of hating my body seems just as bad as not fitting the seats at a movie theater.
A sea of images flood our magazines, Web sites, and clubs telling gay men the only desirable body type is lean, masculine, smooth-chested and boyish. Although gay male porn and fantasy archetypes are filled with these fairy tale men, I find myself equally attracted to men with a little meat on their bones. I have been told by numerous men over the years that the reason they were attracted to me is because I was "thicker" and that they found that masculine. In fact, I have discovered that tons of my gay male friends are drawn to guys like that, yet so many of us are running away from our own bodies. We have been doing it since we were young and it has caused many of us to do unhealthy things in the pursuit of fitting into a tight club shirt or feeling like we look better naked.
It makes me very sad to think of all the missed opportunities - people who won't dance because they think they look silly, or who are afraid to have sex, or the loneliness that comes when every personal ad tells you not to bother.
I was afraid to write this column, but Heather taught me that to break the silence we must be willing to share and lead. Our community needs the courage to discuss body image issues. Doing so will save lives, help stop drug abuse and liberate people from their insecurities. I dedicate this column to Heather, because she let the sunshine reach my path so I could see more clearly. Simply by knowing her and being a modest recipient of her activism I have fewer tears and fewer fears.Sean Kosofsky is 6 feet tall, 30 years old and weighs 210 pounds, and doesn't care if you know!
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