Over the past couple of years, I have received hundreds of messages and emails from other gay men who struggle with body image in one way or another. Often they praise me as someone who is inspiring them to be more confident with themselves. Many of them wish that they could feel comfortable enough to show off their bodies like I do. When I post a thirsty THOT photo like everyone else, I get attention but, because my selfie features a belly and love handles, the comment section is full of #bodypositivity and accolades for me being proud of my body.
The more internet strangers open up to me and credit me for being proud of my body and not letting my size or shape stop me from putting myself out there- the more I realize that I may be a fraud. Do not get me wrong, I am proud of my body, and I have never let my size limit me. I am also human and share some of the same insecurities with the guys writing to me. The difference is that I have the tools as a photographer to show off my true confidence all while hiding my true self. Bare with me here; I will try and lay out exactly what I mean.
First, you should know I have never been a man to shy away from anything. I appear nude in a lot of my work because it is a part of my art. I have used self-portraiture in my artwork since my early days at art school. I am an introvert and sometimes working with myself is just an easy out. I celebrate nudity in all forms and don't equate being nude with porn or sex. At the same time, I love sex and it is something to be celebrated. I was not raised religious and currently do not conform to any outdated social norms. I even post explicit videos of myself on fan sites to fund my artwork and passion projects. I do have a healthy and confident outlook on life. And putting artwork and myself out there as innately giving me a boost in confidence.
Now, let's circle back to the realization that I am a fraud. Since I have put myself (and my body) out there in many ways and on many social platforms, I have given the impression that I am 100% confident and living my truth. And in many ways, that may be true, but at the same time, I have concluded that it is also a curated lie because I am an artist and I sell myself in one way or another. I have become for lack of a better word, an Instagram basic bitch. We live in a social influencer culture where all of our feeds are perfectly curated to exude an idyllic lifestyle. I have used the same tactics to push my narrative of a chunky but sexy, don't give a fuck confident man. Albeit I've done this unintentionally with the help of my body insecurities and my background as a Photographer.
Let me show you some examples.
I photographed this self-portrait of me enjoying my morning coffee half naked. Essentially your standard THOT photo. When I posted this, I received many positive comments, and again I got a few messages praising me for showing that "a real man" can be sexy too. Like I am the gay man's Jameela Jamil or something. But, like Jameela, I also am against body altering Photoshop- however, I am a working photographer and know some tricks. While some people look at this photograph and see a confident man baring all, it actually of a man hiding a lot. This photo was designed to only show the good- or what I believe is acceptable. I think I have a good, cute face and a nice penis so, that is all I am going to show you. I always told myself that I was a realist and am simply realistic about what is "good" and what is "bad" about my body. I never saw myself as being insecure. I just was proactive about showing off what I decided was good and hiding what was not so good. What this photo does not show is the stretch-marks that run along the sides of my muffin top. Thank you casually — opened flannel shirt. I don't have many insecurities about being fat, but, the stretch-marks my weight has given me do bother me. I wear an open shirt often not because I am covering my fat, but because I am hiding the scars of stretched flesh. I will let my belly hang out all day long, but I will almost always strategically cover up the stretch marks that hug each side of my love handles. The shirt was not the only tool of deception in this photo. No one would ever guess but, the mug is no accidental prop. I am holding that Jesus coffee mug in the perfect spot to hide my belly button. I have what I call a "sad face" belly button caused by loose skin after losing weight.
I'm ridiculous- I even do the same shit in my personal iPhone selfies. No one fucking holds the phone like that to take a selfie. I was covering my sad face belly button and damn right the elbow is dropped just enough to hide any stretch-marks that may show. Every image I take of my imperfect body is a thought-out creation perpetuating the narrative that I am secure and proud of my body.
I did not recognize until now how much time and thought I was putting into hiding my flaws. It might be because I am a photographer, I always looking to capture the perfect image but, I have taken my skills and that mindset and applied it to everyday selfies and social media. So, when I get accolades for promoting body positivity, I feel a bit ingenuine and undeserving. I use to think because I am not always worried about being fat that I have accepted myself and my body. But, I may have sold myself on the same lie that I sold the followers who think I am promoting a healthy body image.
All of this self-reflection on how I am portraying myself and editing out my insecurities has gotten me inspired. Today I decided to not only to talk about the imperfections that I carefully cover up but, I wanted to zero in on them and highlight these flaws in a new close up portrait series.
Imperfect Me (2019)
On December 28th, 2012 I had gastric bypass surgery done. I mostly kept it to myself and didn't like talking about it. It is one of those things where everyone has an opinion to share, and honestly, I am not big on what other people think. It was something that I didn't plan to do; I was much more overweight than I am now but, I was still towards the bottom to even qualify for the surgery. I was having some health issues, mostly insomnia caused by my sleep apnea. After doing an overnight sleep study, they told me that I needed to get a CPAP machine. I could not get the image of my father on his CPAP out of my head. I immediately decided on the surgery to guarantee losing weight enough to fix my sleep apnea (and it worked).
Even at my heaviest, I always thought of myself as cute, and I could pull off the weight. Although, I did get excited about the idea of getting into shape and for the first time having an ideal "good body" after getting the surgery. Ironically it did not happen that way and in fact, losing the weight caused two of the three body flaws I photographed in my Imperfect Me series.
Mr Sad Face (2019)
Starting with that ever so sad belly button, I call it that because it looks more like a frown than a belly button. Because I am bottom heavy, I carried all of my weight around the middle, my ass and my thighs. Before I lost the weight, I was pear-shaped, and now my body type as if you left a pear-shaped candle in the sun and it melted. Thus, sad belly button face. It is not as bad as it was because over the last year I have gained about 30 pounds back and my body around the middle up nicely which I think looks better. The only fix would be for me to embrace that sad little guy or get a full tummy tuck. Until I find a plastic surgeon to start fucking, I will learn to love it, starting with the first real portrait.
Next, I would like to introduce you all to my number one insecurity regarding my body, my thighs. I use to have nice thick legs and because that is where all my muscle and fat went after my weight loss the skin on my inner thigh are just not cute. I am talking flabby, loose chicken cutlets just hanging between my legs. In general, I could live with it; I merely have to wear boxer briefs now. And frankly, unless you're face down between my legs, you wouldn't know. Although that is the problem, it is when I have sex that I get insecure about my inner thighs. That is an awful time to feel insecure about your body. Imagine, here I am getting into it and thrusting away causing my chicken cutlets to start clapping along I then worry about the poor guy being knocked out. Every time I film content for my fans site of me fucking that is the first thing I look out for and edit out. Again the only thing I can do about this is getting a thigh lift procedure or gain back eighty pounds back. Embracing and loving this part of me is not going to happen but, rocking my boxer briefs will.
And finally, I bring you my muffin top adorned by stretch-marks. For a while, this was the only thing about my body I did not like. In college, I moved to Los Angeles and gained weight pretty rapidly. My skin could not keep up with the diet of a broke student with a taste for chili cheese fries and carrot cake. Over the years the stretch-marks have faded so, I am getting comfortable with it now as they are less severe. It is not the only thing I think about when swimming anymore, and I am shirtless in my videos or self-portraits I barely can see them. It may be out of habit or self-training that I still hide or let the scars bother me.
In photographing my "flaws" and talking openly and honestly today, I will continue to share aesthetically pleasing artwork but, when it comes to self-portraits and personal selfies, I will be more conscience to share the real me — not everything I do on social media should be treated the same as my artwork. If putting myself out there and sharing my fat-tastic self is going to inspire any sense of body positivity it will only mean something if I am authentic to everyone including myself.
Thank you for following along on my very honest (and TMI) rant to self-discovery and self-worth. I love my life, I love my body, I love my work and to be able to share that with anyone is pretty humbling to me even if I had to check myself.