There is a lot of issues regarding body image in the gay community and the pressure is on more than ever for gay men to look a certain way, to have a specific body type and show of their sexuality as a twink, otter, wolf, bear, jock, muscle bear or whatever else you want to label it as.

Body image issues are directly related to mental health. Leading to everything from chronic stress, depression, anxiety to even more extreme issues such as eating disorders. It is definitely not a secret that not everybody should or will have a ripped, muscley, 6 pack loaded kind of body. As an athlete myself, I have come to understand that the number of visible abs isn’t necessarily relative to my capabilities as an athlete.

Coming off from Gay Games 9 in Cleveland, a few people made less than subtle comments towards me that I could’ve “looked a bit better” during my experience there and perhaps that was the reason why I didn’t whore off as much as I could have. Without respecting the fact that I was more focused on the competition itself rather than who I was porking that night, I saved the whoring for after my races. Yet, those people who criticized my appearance and body shape didn’t fully realize either is that I came home with 8 podium medals. 3 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze. Yet, despite my athletic accomplishments at the event, I didn’t look the part and thus couldn’t fully appreciate my medal haul without questioning my right to participate because I didn’t have a six pack. Just kidding, I slapped them with one of my medals and told them to piss off.

As a writer for Compete Magazine though, part of my job is to look through hundreds of pictures from LGBTQ+ sporting events, from Gay Games to Gay Bowl (football), Gay Softball World Series, IGLA (aquatics), and so many other events. One thing I noticed every time, is that all these athletes taking part in all these different sports don’t have the same body type. In fact, the amount of body types you see at any given LGBTQ+ sports event is just as diverse as the people taking part.

As a coach, I am all about each athlete putting in their best effort to practice, train and prepare for their event. I believe that when you go into the tournament as prepared as you can be, and you put in your best effort, you’ll enjoy the experience so much more. Does that mean having a certain look or body type? No. It means knowing that as an athlete, you are performing at your best effort, in your sport. In fact, it is often disadvantageous to play a sport with a body that we as a community might find to be the ideal beauty. Either you’ll get snapped in half, won’t have the physical capability to perform the necessary skills or even just simply run out of energy due to the lack of carbs in your system. Not a very effective athlete and certainly not going to get a gold medal. Remember ya’ll, this is recreational sports, not the Olympic Games.

“But I am not very athletic!” Well, are you participating as an athlete in a sporting event? Yes? Then you are athletic. Are you having fun? Putting in your best effort? Yes? Then keep doing what your doing.

By Dirk Smith