This story is part of a wider editorial series. Coming Out and Falling In Love is about the queering of our relationships with others, and the self. This month, we look at Asian attitudes to sex and porn, dating in the digital era, experiences of LGBTQ communities, unconventional relationships and most importantly, self-love. Read similar stories here.
Men are problematic across dating platforms. Let’s not waste time deliberating that. Yes, there are a few wonderful gentlemen who go the extra mile and don’t just shove dick pics in place of conjunctions in every sentence, but the majority of the lot you find on dating platforms are garden variety incels. How would I know? Well, I’ve only spent my entire adult life being berated on dating apps. Okay, and also my entire childhood in the real world.
Life as a chubby kid is never rainbows and sunshines. On the contrary, it’s a constant war waged on us by gravity and sweaty pits. Ask any kid around you who grew up fat (or still is). The way I always saw it, the world needed both thin and fat folks to maintain the universal balance of body mass. Adnan Sami released “Lift Kara De” around the same time, and my bullies found a new nickname, apart from the usual mote (fatso), bhains (buffalo), and gende (rhino). But enough about my siblings.
High school was a weird time because everyone immediately got bracketed based on the first, most apparent, and superficial thing about them. Body weight (thin or fat) went in one category, the ones with thick glasses went in another, dark-skinned folks in one, and the girls with short skirts in yet another… you get the drill. But even then, I always had my snark as a weapon and managed to own my hefty self. What I would have never imagined, though, was trading my high school bullies for members of my own queer community.
Street-side cruising paved the way for online chat rooms in the early 2000s, and by 2007, everyone had a phone with an array of apps to choose from. When you look up Grindr on the PlayStore today, you get a bunch of recommendations such as Scruff, Romeo, Blued and Surge, each with its own special feature. But turns out bigotry is the one feature that unites them all.
Something terrible is happening on these apps. People are bringing Twitter level of pettiness to dating platforms. On average, finding profiles like this are not uncommon.
He’s your friendly neighbourhood fuckboy with an IQ of a peanut. You can find this species across sexual orientations. One of them texted me recently when I was in Delhi, and of course he sent me a catalogue of his genitals in the first five messages itself. I didn’t quite fancy this manoeuver so I straight up wrote: Not interested. But instead of backing down like a decent human being might do, he lost his shit and wrote, “Oh so now fat trash like you also have an attitude. I am doing you a favour by sharing the picture of my 8 inch tool with you”. I was rather shocked at the audacity of this man but also interested in understanding his psyche. So of course I prodded him further till he blocked my fat ass. What I essentially learned from his behaviour is that he himself has been body-shamed for not being muscular enough and that’s how the cycle goes.
The point is, there’s a clear over-fetishising of the Greek God figure amongst gay men, mostly thanks to porn, and popular media showing queer men obsessing over a Ryan Gosling or a Hrithik Roshan. Yes, there was a point when I jacked off to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but since then I have been more of a John Goodman guy. This in place has now forced men on the healthier, burlier side to form subgroups such as bears, chubs, otters and so on, thereby creating smaller subcultures and further creating a weird rift within a community I always believed was inclusive towards everyone. Well, so much for that narrative.
When I put out a feeler on Instagram to talk to other people who have been through this, the floodgates opened and several queer men opened up to me about their struggles with body shaming.
Senthil is one of my oldest queer friends, and everytime I’ve met him, he’s been nothing but warm and wonderful to talk to. However, the hate he receives for being on the chubbier side is absolutely unwarranted.
Senthil says, “I know I'm not in sync with the kind of looks most guys would want. Because of this I hardly approach or talk to anyone, because I know either insult or name-calling awaits.”
In his case, people don’t just make him feel bad for being chubby. “Even the guys who like bears have said things like: You're too hairy for me / you’re not hairy enough / you're too fat / you're not fat enough / you're not top enough / you're not bottom enough. I want to exist as a person, to be respected and loved, and not as someone's fetish.”
Darshil, another dear friend who now lives and works in hospitality in Sydney, was vocal about the deep-seated hate gay men harbour towards people on the plus side. He says, “Some of the nastiest things people have written to me online are, ‘Thank god you are not a woman, because you are so ugly and fat that no man would ever fuck you’, ‘Your mother should have killed you when you were young so the gay community would be spared’, ‘Darshil I would fuck you and date you only if you lost all that fat you carry around’. The last one I actually even posted it online for everyone else to read.” He says it's forever etched into his brain and makes him have self-doubt to this day.
What also amazes me is that the hate is across body sizes, and not just reserved for the big guys. Deep, a fashion designer and a marvelous makeup artist tells me, “I was body shamed for being too skinny. And I was best friends with Mia, so whenever I put on, I feel the need to reduce my weight, and Grindr did not help with that all.
“What’s Mia?” I ask feeling like a grandad.
“Bulimia,” Deep says. “Tumblr had banned the usage of the words Bulimia and Anorexia. So the people of Tumblr came up with ‘Ana’ and ‘Mia’.” Thankfully Deep found a way to cope with the body shaming, and surprisingly on Tumblr. “I used to post pictures of my body on Tumblr and soon, people started appreciating it. It was like a blog to remind myself that being skinny is okay and people more like me, started appreciating it. At first it was all very sexual and it repulsed me even more until a fellow user told me to remember who I am and what I have.”
The reckless belittling by other gay men can have adverse effects on one’s mental health. Deep says, “It did get to my head. I didn’t want to socialise or hang out with my friends, go to college, or even be seen. I wanted to be alive, but invisible.”
Senthil adds, “I have gone through depression and I’m currently under medication for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and hypochondria. A good part of my issues with self-confidence arose from the fat shaming.”
There is no solution in sight clearly. People are shit and men are the worst as I already mentioned earlier. Give them a phone and a faceless profile to anonymously bully someone and they’ll work wonders. I don’t know why they aren’t as enthusiastic about lasting longer in bed if they have all this gusto. Most apps act like they care about hate speech but the filters they have in place are not good enough to block out hateful creatures. So for all of you out there reading this, queer or straight, let me tell you one thing: That perfect person you have dreamt of all your life does not exist. We all need to collectively lower our standards.
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