Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

Being Overweight in the Gay Community: Why It’s Not a Bad Thing

by Ryan Shea

For as long as I can remember I have been fat. Not adorable baby fat, but also not My 600-lb Life fat, or people who are actually in shape that think they’re fat after eating a sandwich that had tons of calories in it. Just fat.

It didn’t help that I had a mother who was a respected chef & caterer out in Long Island. There was always delicious food at the table, even if it was leftovers from the soiree she just took care of, which was a great thing for my mouth but ultimately a bad thing for my waist, according to societal standards.

Oh, and I knew from a very early age that I was gay. Perhaps it was me watching that LL Cool J video for “Doin’ It” too many times where the image of him puckering his lips has left a long impression on me all this time later but I understood who I was.

So fat and gay. Not exactly the best combination to have when the former has gotten kids picked on for decades while the latter at that time (think late 90’s/early 2000’s) could’ve ended up with me getting bullied even further.
I felt screwed in the worst way possible during those particularly important transitional years as both factors made me feel like I didn’t belong. The funniest part was that I was never really teased for either (I was outed in 2000 and chose to embrace myself). This all played into my own insecurities which I will bring up later on in this story as the relation is uncanny when it comes to being fat in the gay community.

My college years were spent in New England where I chose to attend school in a city that had a large gay presence compared to my conservative upbringing in Long Island. It was here that I had my first, well everything, and that acceptance I felt continued as the community around me embraced me for who I was, size 38 pants and all.

Then I went home to New York and began building my presence in The Big Apple. It was here that the insecurities flared more than they ever had before. I immersed myself in the party and bar scene which was littered with unbelievably gorgeous dudes who were in the kind of shape that I could never dream of being in.

I looked and compared myself to them to the point where I had a hard time going out anymore because I never felt like I could live up to that kind of beauty. There was also the problem of me wanting to pursue anything with these guys, which I didn’t even bother with because I thought my weight would obstruct their vision from seeing what a great person I actually am.
As the years went by, my thoughts on this changed. Perhaps it’s a whole “with age comes wisdom” thing, but you hit a wall with this stuff at some point where you realize that none of that matters. The gay community can be tough to navigate because of weight and many other issues but ultimately you are going home to yourself and not them.

Meaning that the first step in any of this, regardless if you’re 18 or 80, is to love yourself before you expect anyone to love you for who you truly are. RuPaul says it every week on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and we all say “Amen” afterwards, but there’s weight to his words if you really take in what he’s trying to say.

Here’s the thing: a lot of the insecurity and anxiety you feel in this community isn’t coming from them, it’s coming from yourself. If you want to approach someone, do it! If they aren’t keen on responding, then screw them. We are all equal in this community and should be treated as such. But if someone wants to be rude or cruel to you for whatever the reason upon first meeting, then they aren’t a person you really want to have in your life to begin with.

Focus on the glass half full. Find friends, boyfriends, hook ups, who make your life that much better. It took me almost 15 years to pick up those important quarters and leave behind the pennies that were worthless to me in the long run.

Bottom line is this: you are enough no matter who you are. Thanks for coming to my Ryan Talk.

About the Author:

Ryan Shea is an established writer who has contributed thought-provoking pieces for many different industries. He has worked for major publications including Newsday, Hollywood Life, Instinct Magazine and The Ladders.

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Matthew's Place

Matthew's Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org