Sex Ed(itorial): The ideal gay body

Fatphobia and white supremacy in the queer community

Courtesy Image Diego Sanchez

Young, white, skinny: the twink has become the paradigm of the gay experience.

Typically characterized by a slim body, somewhat muscular but not too much, no body hair, a young appearance, and a feminine lilt, the twink has been commodified and set as the standard in the gay community.

The veneration and fetishization of twinks come at the expense of other bodies that do not fit the mold. So what does it mean for queer men who don’t have this body type?

Historically, gay men as a community have formed tribes—such as twinks, bears, otters and many others. This is to provide a quick gloss of how an individual will be as a romantic partner. 

The twink, along with a certain body, is also associated with a set of behaviours. He is supposed to be an effeminate bottom, emasculated and passive. On a dating or hookup app, self-identifying as a twink gives other users an idea of what they are going to get, but is constraining to that very image of the white skinny body.

Yet, the need for queer men to have a certain body to be a desirable romantic partner exists as a reflection of larger societal norms surrounding what we ought to find attractive. 

The fat body, for instance, has become moralized and encoded with various assumptions of character. We assume a fat person is lazy, gluttonous and selfish. As these associations come to be signified by the fat body, to be attracted to someone with that sort of body becomes deviant or taboo, as to desire the fat body sends the message to others that you too are associated with these traits.

In the gay community, it has become a fixture to put in dating app profiles the phrase “no chubs” or “only into fit” to discourage messages from fat men. The twink, though not the only body that gay men strive for, tends to embody the most prevalent desires which are sought after by other men. 

Prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) symptoms is extremely high for gay men, with an article in the journal Body Image citing as high as 49.3 per cent of male sexual minority study participants experiencing symptoms of BDD.

Being skinny and chiseled, along with the need to advertise oneself on queer dating apps, have pressured gay men into developing a critical position towards their bodies to the level of pathology.

The twink’s proximity to whiteness is also worrying. Queer men of colour feel alienated by the prevalence of solely white images of queerness. As racialized bodies are not the default white body, race takes precedence over any sort of self-association with a tribe. Along with the demonization of the fat body, the racialized body exists in a similar state, either exoticized or denigrated.  

We must advocate for more realistic and inclusive body standards for queer men. Ultimately, these problems surrounding the ideal body in the queer community stem from our societal perception of fat bodies as undesirable and unworthy of recognition writ large, not just within LGBTQ+ spaces alone. 

As queer men, already forced to question our sexuality constantly, it is a shame that we continue to perpetuate heteronormative and colonial beauty standards. We must continue to question why we place certain bodies above others.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 12, published March 19, 2024.