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JUST A FRIEND

I'm what some call: "straight skinny, but gay fat"


That's the trouble with body image, especially in the gay male community. The GMC, as I'm going to call it, is filled with these backhanded compliments; the price you pay for admission. Since joining the GMC, I have found these interactions interesting. Not the face to face interactions, so much; It was in the virtual world of swipes, likes, and woofs that the GMC came to life.


When I was a young, naive, single gay, I found myself in this virtual worlds of Grindr, Scruff, Tinder, and the like. I thought that it would be a good way for me to get to know other gay men in my area; to make friends that were like me. I was in for a rude awakening. While advertised as a place where gay men can meet and make friends with other gay men, turned into a zoo, filled with bears, otters, and everything in-between. There was a subculture that I was unaware of and ill-equipped to handle.


Like any other social media outlet, you're able to fill out an 140 character bio, explain your likes - generally a list of your dislikes, since that's "easier" - and, most important, a picture of yourself. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. In the GMC, your picture means everything. There are a lot of factors that come into play: do you use the shirtless picture you took six months ago, in your toothpaste stained bathroom mirror? No, that will show that you're messy and people won't talk to you. Do you post a selfie, shirtless, with your arm behind your head, with a slight flex of your bicep. As if to say: "Yes, I work out" when in reality you haven't been to the gym in months. You settle for a picture of you looking off in the distance, shirtless, telling anybody that sees it: "My friend took this picture of me when I wasn't paying attention, so I thought I'd post it." They don't need to know that you set a timer on your phone and took it yourself. It's all about what you don't say, after all.


You're profile is set and now you're in the Matrix. It's an endless scroll of face after face, the same poses and shirtless pictures. You pause on one because it's different. They're not shirtless, so you know they can afford clothes. They filled out their profile, fully - a rarity. Then you see the marker that makes you want to start a conversation: Friends Only.


Beware the Only Friends.


As I now know, "friends only" really means "friends (with benefits) only". But as a young, naive, single gay, I thought these people truly were looking for friends. They were the unicorn.


The conversations always starts the same:


You: Hey


Them: Hi


You: How's your day going,

You: ?*


Them: It's cool. Just chillin at home


You: Nice. Me too


Radio silence for three days, then:


Them: Hey


You: What's up?


Them: Top or bottom?


What was, as you thought, a new person you can call "friend", has now brought you to the most Frequently Asked Question in the GMC: Top or Bottom, as if you're all lost Tupperware. This is such a FAQ, that most of these sites targeting gay men has this as an option for your profile. This FAQ will, more often than not, come before even asking your name. And, not surprisingly, it is truly only a FAQ in online settings; The gloves come off online.


Online, you can say what you're thinking without any repercussions. You don't have to the look the other person in the eye when you say things of this nature. To these people, they see you not as a person but simply an idea of one. An idea that can be easily blocked if you don't match with them in that moment of time. The GMC is Mortal Kombat, where instead of punches and high kicks, it's psychological warfare and only the strongest survive.


Remember the "likes" section from earlier? That's where these lists of dislikes are found. Some have read as follows:


"No Fats. No Fems. No Asians" ~ A clear message that if you fit in any of these molds, you're not good enough for them.


"No Whites. Blacks preferred" ~ Generally found on profiles of older white men, expecting a fetish from black bodies.


"Masc for Masc" ~ That the only indication of being a "man" means that you have to have masculine qualities. But how is masculinity even defined? Those with this moniker generally don't know themselves.


In the GMC, these are the standards - if you choose to call them that. Everybody has a category they fall under: If you're hairy and "husky", you're deemed a Bear. If you're hairy and slim, you're an Otter. Slim but not hairy? A twink. The variables are endless. When I was a young, naive, single gay, I did everything I could to be in that "Masc Jock" grouping: a group of masculine presenting men that have athletic builds. Interestingly enough, these "jocks" very rarely played a sport as a young adult. It doesn't matter if you fit into the societal expectation of the term, just as long as your aesthetic matches that expectation. It was a time where I did everything I could to make sure that I wouldn't be labeled as something else. I worked hard to make sure my body language was a certain way, that my voice was lower than it was naturally. Once those fail, your "masculinity" is put into question.


Now that I'm an older, still naive but in a relationship gay, I now understand the complexity of all this. We try to fit into any group that will accept us, without thinking about what it's doing for ourselves. I've been all over the gay spectrum and have settled on one: Griff. That's the easiest thing to be. A label is just that, a label.


Remember: you can rip off that label at any time.


- G


Title: Just A Friend 2002

Artist: Mario

Year Released: 2002

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