As a community, queer people face an awful lot of challenges which, I am sure, many of us are all too aware of. Depending on where you live in the world, our very nature can be reason enough to arrest us, imprison us, abuse us, and oppress us. Basically, we don’t have to go far to find criticism.
Judgment, however, does not always come from outside of the community. We have plenty of it within our own ranks. I can’t speak for the discrimination faced by genders, sexualities and races other than my own, but what I can talk about is the unrealistic beauty standards which pervade through society and through the LGBTQ+ community.
I am, among other things, a fairly large chap. I have never been slim or athletic, I have always carried what we might call, euphemistically, some extra fluff. I am perfectly aware of why, and I know that it is not good for my health.
Society at large is not overly fond of fat people. Movies, media, advertisements, magazines, they all idolise bodies that are slim, toned, and muscular, and skin that is perfect, unblemished, and often mostly hairless. Images of models and celebrities that fit these descriptions are everywhere, bombarding us with what we should look like and making us doubt our natural beauty.
This dynamic can be seen throughout society but is particularly noticeable in the LGBTQ+ community. Why that might be the case is a complex matter steeped in history and is not a topic for this article. The effects of this unwelcome state of affairs, however, are very much worth talking about.
In the gay community, physical looks matter. That’s not to say that all queer people are shallow or vain. That is not even remotely true. But the community, the very structure of it, does seem to favour certain aesthetic traits over others. The problem with this is that such favoured characteristics easily become requirements to ‘fit in’, to become ‘desirable’. Wanting to be part of something, a community. To be accepted is a common desire for all people, but it’s particularly valued by those who are shunned by society at large.
I have sat in gay bars and watched as people, normally good and kind people, I’m sure, looked me up and down with a look that resembles disgust. I have been on dating apps where people have matched with me just to tell me how repulsive I am. I don’t tell you this to garner sympathy, only to illustrate the issue as best I can from my own experiences. The norms of our community don’t allow for being fat and gay. The standards of beauty that we have built up around us simply don’t allow fat and beautiful to coexist.
Everyone suffers the standards
The thing is, it’s not just those of us who don’t fit the ideal who suffer because of these unreachable standards. The pressure on people to be ‘desirable’ affects all of us, even those who meet the standards. Principles of beauty like the ones we currently have are incredibly damaging to society as a whole. Regardless of how people actually look, feelings of inadequacy and lacking self-confidence are rife.
Being fat, or indeed being anything that does not conform to norms of beauty, does not make us ugly. It does not reduce our value as a person, nor does it mean we will never be loved, no matter how much the world might make you think that.
Beauty is not defined by size or shape. Beauty is, frankly, undefinable. It exists only in the eye of the beholder.