Each year, in the lead up to June, social media is flooded with gay men’s discussions of what they are doing to slim down and shape up for Pride. Gay men dieting for Pride is not unique; however, the push seems especially prevalent this year due to the cultural pressure to lose one’s so-called “pandemic weight.”
Diet culture — a set of beliefs that elevates certain body types over others, equates thinness with health and worth, and, as a result, actively oppresses those who fall outside the ideal — is an integral part of mainstream gay male culture. This can be difficult to recognize because diets, as they are marketed to gay men, are often cloaked in masculine disguises and described as “fitness journeys,” “training programs,” or “personal development.” Dieting, for gay men, is often connected to the process of “coming out” in that one must discipline one’s body in order to be a fully self-actualized gay man, to be present in gay culture. It is a part of modern gay male identity.
“Pride Bodies” and the Normate Gay
The ideal body touted by diet culture aligns with body standards in the gay male community, or what I call the normate gay: the young, white, thin, cis, able-bodied, appropriately masculine, appropriately muscular gay man that, as the norm gay men should strive for, often goes unnamed within gay male culture. The normate gay is contrasted against those who have undesirable bodies or who are fetishized: fats, femmes, queer men of color, queer trans men, and queer men with disabilities.
This is especially true during Pride Month. Messages within gay culture tell gay men to lose weight, get “fit,” tone up, and work on their “Pride body” for the express purpose of looking socially and sexually desirable at public Pride events and celebrations or on social media. Those working within the diet and fitness industry also target gay men with promises that their particular regimen will help gay men achieve the ideal body in time for Pride. An ad for personal training I encountered on Instagram, for example, touted a 9-week “Pride Ready Training Program” that promised to help gay men…