I wonder how much the universality of unrealistically portrayed gay male bodies harms us gay men on a deeply personal level.

I never had a firmer handle on how bad the problem was until I started trying to illustrate fiction and nonfiction pieces with photographs of gay men.

I use stock images and I subscribe to a couple of pay services. The first problem I note is that finding images of queer people at all is very difficult, including pictures of gay men.

But when I can find images, they are often (or maybe even usually) portraying unrealistically thin and muscular men who don’t look much at all like people I actually know.

Just to illustrate, I was looking for a photograph last night for a novel chapter. I wanted an image of two young men kissing under a starry night sky.

Forget about it. I found thousands (literally) of photos of young men and women couples embracing under the stars, but almost none at all of same-sex male couples.

When I did find a couple photos, they were hyper-sexualized and featured young men with impossible, almost stylized gym bodies. I couldn’t use them because they have nothing to do with the story I’m writing.

I had to change course and go with a different theme for a photo. And I think this is the message that we’re all getting. That our bodies are either impossible in their perfection or that we don’t exist.

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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