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Do Gay & Lesbian Teens Worry About Body Image?

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gay lesbian teens body image
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Question: Do Gay & Lesbian Teens Worry About Body Image?
I was walking down the street the other day and I saw this headline blasting out at me from a local newspaper: "TV Makeover Shows Destroy Body Image." In the world of not surprising news, that was definitely up there. But it did get me thinking. How does the mass media's portrayal of the ideal body affect gay teens?
Answer:

Body image isn't just a concern for straight girls. Both young gay guys and lesbians can have a lot of issues in this area.

Gay Teens

There is a lot of discussion in the gay community about body image and some gay men are really devoted to working out and grooming. As About's Guide to Gay Life explains,

"A lot of gay men feel pressure to have a perfect body. After all, we are surrounded by six packs on magazine covers, beefcakes at the gym and those body beautifuls with their shirts off at the club."

Lesbian Teens

For lesbian teens the issues can be different. Many lesbian teens reject standard notions of femininity, yet they are often told by the people around them that they need to be more "girly."

This isn't the only issue, however. As a study titled Lesbian Body Image Perceptions found,

"As are all women, lesbians are influenced by Western society's expectations of what a woman should look like. However, they are also influenced by the lesbian subculture...The internalization of the dominant culture's beauty expectations coupled with the adoption of a lesbian identity caused the participants [in the study] to contend with a multitude of oppressive mandates from both sociocultural contexts."

Basically, what this means is that lesbians may have an even more complicated relationship with their body image than do straight women because they are getting messages about what they should look like both from the larger world AND from the lesbian community.

Feeling Good About Yourself

Of course, many gay and lesbian teens feel really good about their bodies. Some even express great body confidence due to the fact that they don't feel the need to conform to society's rigid expectations about what men and women "should" look like.

Hopefully, that's how you feel. But if not, here are some things to keep in mind when you're beating yourself up over how you look:

  • Exercise. Feeling healthy and strong is a great way to feel good about yourself.
  • Focus on your positives. Find a part of your body your really like and try to accentuate that.
  • Find someone to talk to. If you are feeling really bad about your body, think about who you could talk to, a friend, family member or therapist, who might make you feel better.
  • Keep things in perspective. If friends or family criticize what you look like, remember they aren't perfect either. They may be commenting about you because they are either insecure about themselves, or too wrapped up in traditional notions of gender appearance.

What it Come Down to

In the end, body image is really about how you feel about yourself regardless of what you look like. In fact, a lot of people whom society would consider very attractive and fit, still have low slf esteem about how they look.

If you feel like your poor body image is getting in the way of your happiness you might want to consider seeking help. About's guide to gay life has a good article on finding a GLBT-friendly therapist, that might be helpful for you.

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