During our time inside, I thought it would be fun to do a photo shoot. What started out as taking pictures of the sweet oddities in my apartment quickly turned into a photo shoot for me and my partner. We “styled” each other and sat joyously for an hour posing in front of my iPhone.
I told Kory, my partner, “Don’t look at any of the photos until we are finished.” Of course, while setting up for a second look/location, I sneaked-a-peek of a shot I was hoping would come out well. I quickly scrolled through my camera roll to find the particular shot. And, there he was.
My partner calls him The Demon, and his only job is self-destruction. Mostly he lives inside of me but sometimes he will make himself known to my closest companions and (embarrassingly) come out in public. His voice is different from mine. His demeanor is reckless and volcanic. He is scary. He is also...me.
Well, as I stumbled upon this picture The Demon leapt into action. Maybe he had been sitting there for the past hour waiting to pounce. I don’t know. All I know is that when I saw this particular photo he leapt forward and started screeching like metal across concrete “you fat fucking faaagggooooottt.”
When this happens, I have two options: 1) push past the voice and try to continue with daily life (which pisses the demon off more, usually resulting in the unwanted public appearance) or 2) literally shut down completely. On this day, I chose the latter. For about an hour and a half I curled up in the fetal position and tried to bargain with the demon “I’m sorry. I will do more push ups,” “I will stop eating after 8pm,” “I will try intermittent fasting,” or the common, really scary thought “I will starve myself.” Anything to not be what the demon says I am. Anything to avoid being a fat faggot.
Suddenly in bed, for the first time ever, the voice of a 30 year old man, my voice, came to play. It asked “HOW? How did we get here? How did you let The Demon win these battles for so long?” And so I took the time to dive deep into my history, which I will share with you now:
I remember sitting in a Doctor’s office when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old and being told by the Medical Professional that I had excessive breast tissue for a young boy and ultimately one day I would need to have it surgically removed. I repeat: at 8 years old I was told that I had breasts and they were so bad that one day, I would need them removed by means of surgery.
When I was in high school, another Doctor (fucking christ!) told me that I wasn’t overweight but I needed to do more crunches because my stomach was my “problem area” and I needed to fix it.
Later on in High School I had a boyfriend. He was closeted, straight-passing and physically fit (all the things I wanted to be), and because our relationship had to remain a secret and because I already felt unworthy of his good looks, I thought that he was the love of my life and that this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. In reality he was fighting his own (very dark) demons and needed me just as much as I wanted him. He did not treat me very well in the relationship and left me with scars that I am not sure will ever heal.
He was a year older than me and left for college while we were still dating. He (obviously) started to sleep with someone else and attempted to leave me in the dust. I was not ready to give up that easy, so I asked for reasons as to why he was leaving me and instead of sitting with me and comforting me through an inevitable transition he told me (knowing the story I have shared above) “Well, he has a better chest than you. What did you expect?”
As opposed to thinking he was the biggest DICK that God had ever gayed, I believed in his reasoning and for the first time in my life I starved myself. Aggressively. I ran 5 miles a day. I ate nothing. I did push ups in any free moment and lost 12 lbs in about 2 weeks. He didn’t come back to me. Shocker.
During my own freshman year of college I fell into partying (my only truly freeing outlet. I thought musical theater school would allow me to be myself, but learning how to fit one's gay ass into classic, predominantly heteronormative stories is NOT IT. I digress.) Anyway, this one night while partying a Senior stumbled up to me, took my hand and led me into a bedroom. He was hammered. So was I, but he was cute AF and I wanted him badly. In the fully lit room he pushed me onto the bed and started to sloppily make-out with me. We made out for a good few minutes, getting closer and more excited. Suddenly and abruptly he pulled away. Through glassy eyes he mustered up an educational tone “You know Andrew, you’d be the perfect fuck if you had a better body.” With that, he got up and left the room.
The next day, I couldn’t get out of bed. I don’t know why. The day after that when I failed to make it to breakfast my friends checked on me. I told them what happened. And almost suddenly (as with most gossip in theatre school) everyone knew what happened. While I was lying in bed mere hours after the news got out, I got a phone call. It was the Senior. “Oh good,” I thought. “He can apologize. I can have closure and not feel so gross. It was only the alcohol.”
Instead of an apology, I was told that I had blacked out and dreamed that it happened because he would never do something like that. End of call.
Two years later, I’m standing half naked in a shower in a hostel, in Madrid, Spain. A frat boy from Notre Dame is sitting on a toilet across from the shower-- watching me. We had been hanging out all night with a group of Americans who happened to be staying in the same place. The night took a wild turn when the ND beefcake (who had been talking about girls all evening) grabbed my ass while we were walking home and proceeded to (that really charming thing you see in most rom coms) bump me gently off-balance with his shoulder; getting just close enough to silently tell me that I was wanted.
We got back to the hostel. We drank more. We fell into our separate bunks. Just as I was dozing off, he was hovering over me “meet me in the bathroom in 5 minutes.”
I glided in the dark past other sleeping students. My heart was pounding (clearly I have a thing for secrecy) as I made my way down the hall to the bathroom. I turned the door handle and there he was. Pale, shirtless and nervous. Silently, I went in for the kiss. But instead of being met with passion, he pulled away. “I need to see your body first.”
“What?” I wondered. “Take off your shirt,” he said. I did. He stepped back and sat on the toilet. “Show me,” he said. And I did. Like some warped, queer Cinderella I took a step back into the standing shower and spun a couple of times thinking this was all a game. When I stopped, he looked troubled. “It’s not very good, you know?” My body? He was talking about my body. And then I committed the ultimate sin.
“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry.” I apologized for my own flesh. Perhaps this was the moment The Demon was born, the first time that I agreed and thought to myself, “He’s right. I’m not worth it.” Dazed and confused, I went back in for a kiss and was met with resistance. After an awkward minute he simply stopped, walked away and said “I can’t do it.”
It has become clear that through these events I have been programmed to believe that my body has a direct correlation to my worthiness. And since I still carry around fleshy pectorals and soft love handles, I think I am ultimately unlovable.
The biggest mind fuck of it all is that even when I do receive love (and I am so blessed to have lots of it), I am constantly reasoning that this love must be fake. It is some hoax that will also drop out from under me at any moment because me and my body are unworthy of gay adoration.
I must note that these personal moments are minuscule compared to the remarks that most women face on a daily basis from suitors, lovers and the media but I thought it was time to share my story and shed some light on how dark the gay community can be. It has severely harmed my emotional well being on many occasions.
I truly think of myself as less than because I don’t have a six pack. That statement is absurd. But in the gay community, it is rote.
I am finding my own way into self confidence and desperately trying to believe my partner when he tells me (on a daily basis) that I am beautiful (he’s the cream of the crop, ladies).
The demon won the battle yesterday, but here I am acknowledging the loss and armoring up for a war that I will ultimately win.