Lee McKinney 43
My body is a work in progress. I’m in the middle at the moment between the binary boy and girl; I’m at neither end. Right now that’s how I’m happy to be.
Most of the time I love my body. It has served me well. When I was 39, I had my son, so I held off on ideas of transitioning until after that. Since then I’ve picked back up moving towards the male binary.
There is no one right body, there is no right way to transition, to un-transition, to be gay, to be straight. Everything in life is ﬂuid and your body is too. It changes throughout your life.
Jesse De Boe 21
I’m a recent graduate from NCAD and all my graduate work was about normalising nudity. It’s about being able to look at the body as a non-sexual object, and being content with it. People see their bodies as a product to attract a sexual partner, but when you can be okay with it in a non-sexual way, then you’ve got self-acceptance.
I think it’s the key. I used to be so paranoid about lumps and bumps and things like ingrown hairs, but now I couldn’t care less. It’s normal. You get a zit on your ass, so does everyone.
Obviously being conﬁdent is also about being sexually conﬁdent, but if you can take it out of the sexual aspect, you can have your body on its own and you can be happy with it.
Bella Fitzpatrick 28
I’ve been out as bisexual since I was nine, but I’ve been out as fat for only the past couple of years. What I mean by that is that I know am no longer living in a state of ‘when I will be thin’ or ‘when I will lose weight’. I’m not waiting anymore. I’m not a thin person inside a fat person’s body; I’m a fat person.
Whenever I’ve seen my aunts and uncles, no matter how much weight I’ve evidently gained or lost, they’ve always said ‘you look like you’ve lost weight’ as if that could be the only possible thing I want to hear. As a fat person, there’s no number of books you might have read, no amount of degrees you might have done, no amount of countries you might have travelled to – ‘you look like you’ve lost weight’ must be the pinnacle of what you want to hear. Over the past couple of years, I’ve started saying, ‘No, you’re wrong, I have not lost weight and I’m actually not trying to’.
I do things for my body and I enjoy the body I have. I’ve been a patchily active gym member for years. But when I talk about the gym and people say it will help me lose weight, I tell them that’s not the reason I’m going. When I told my trainer that I wasn’t going to weigh-in, that I was coming to enjoy the gym rather than getting to a speciﬁc weight goal, she was really supportive. My goal is to do a couple of pull-ups by the end of the year.
Society is telling you the whole time ‘this is normal and if you’re not this size, you are on the journey to be this size, and you couldn’t possibly be happy with where you are now’. But I am happy, and I think that’s kind of queer.
My advice to younger boys, girls and people of all gender identities would be to actively expose yourself to different bodies. I had to train myself to see the beauty in a bigger body or a differently-abled body, because I wasn’t exposed to different bodies when I was younger. By seeing other people happy with themselves, that’s how you’ll become happy with yourself. Just like when you come out as a young person, you might read queer books and go to queer ﬁlms, there’s a whole world for you to let yourself be part of.
Any time people are throwing insults, remember that they are really talking about their own feelings about their own bodies. People think they know the rules, that you don’t get to be conﬁdent if you don’t look a certain way, and when they see you breaking those rules, they feel threatened.
I think as LGBT+ people we all know the status quo is broken, so don’t be fooled by the trick that there’s only one kind of body ideal. Don’t let yourself be sucked into the idea that your body isn’t right.
Body privilege is wrapped up in the same package as misogyny, heteronormativity and cis privilege, so don’t buy into it.
Daragh Cassidy 35
I think like probably with a lot of gay guys, my relationship with my body is not always the best. In an ideal world I’d love to be a tiny bit bigger, a tiny bit heavier. Most people are talking about wanting to lose weight, but I’m the opposite.
We talk about the pressures that are put on women, but I think those inﬂuences are just as great on men, particularly gay men. There’s that Geordie Shore generation now, where everybody is expected to look a certain way.
I think it’s important to take stock and realise that a huge amount of what we see is photoshopped, it’s ﬁltered and it’s not actually real. We see the best of people’s bodies in the media, whereas if people realised what people really looked like, they’d understand they’re actually not that bad.
Dennis O’Rourke 35
Because I’m a large, stocky, chubby guy I always got bullied as a kid. It took me some time to become conﬁdent in myself and I think coming here today is a conﬁrmation of that conﬁdence.
I’m not bothered about my weight now, I’ve become comfortable with who I am. The extra bit of stature makes people take you more seriously at times.
The gay scene tends to be somewhat judgmental towards larger men, but then also towards ethnic minorities or feminine men. I’m only into other stocky, chubby guys myself, so it’s not a problem.
Kim O’Toole 27
I did this shoot to promote different body sizes. In magazines everywhere you see size eight models. I struggle with eczema, so I’d like to see people saying you don’t have to have perfect skin. When I was growing up I wouldn’t even wear t-shirts because I didn’t want my skin exposed. People didn’t like to hold my hand in school because my skin was ‘weird’.
I love my body and my skin now. There’s no point in stressing about it and letting it aﬀect your life. I think it’s really positive to see those models with vitiligo out there, and it would be great to see a model with eczema. I’m doing this to stand up for people with all kinds of skin.
Michael Kavanagh 22
I’ve only recently come out as trans. I live with my body every day and I see it as male. There are days when I can look in the mirror and I’m okay with it. I’m like anyone else, there’s fat where I don’t want it to be and I’d like to change that, but that’s not a gender issue.
There are other days when I look in the mirror and I’m disgusted and I just wish I could change my body. I used to look at guys who had transitioned, who had surgeries and were on testosterone, and think, why can’t I just have that already? It took a while and a lot of work on myself, and now I know I can become like them. So when I look in the mirror and see all the things I hate about myself, I know they can be changed
Hugo Welke 32 (LEFT)
I’ve been very comfortable and happy with my body since I was a child. I never felt that I had any struggle with my body, even when I was coming out.
Having said that, when it gets close to summer, I do have the idea that I have to go to the gym and get my body-shape a little bit different. I want to have a little bit more muscle to show, some more curves. I think in summer everyone feels that they step up a level on the attractiveness scale, so I’m like, I’ll just do that too.
I deﬁnitely feel there’s a pressure in the gay world around body image. This comes from a stereotype. When I talk to straight friends, they say, ‘all the gays have perfect bodies,’ so even if you’re comfortable in your body, you end up thinking about the way it should be.
Jan Schneider 28 (RIGHT)
I always think of myself as way too skinny. For a while I tried to change it, gain weight, go to the gym. I didn’t put on a lot of weight, I didn’t gain loads of muscle, and I just gave up. So, I’m in that kind of transition period at the moment, where I’m not in the gym anymore so I’d better make peace with what I look like.
It’s hard to escape societal pressure, but it’s worth making the effort and trying to ﬁnd ways to accept yourself. I think being in a relationship for so long has sort of saved me, because there’s less pressure. I’m not out there looking for somebody and judging myself around that. And it helps being in a relationship, saying nice things to each other and reminding each other that everything is okay.
We all look at our reﬂection and think, ‘I wish I had bigger muscles’ or whatever it is, and it helps when somebody else says ‘don’t worry you’re ﬁne’.
Learning to love my body as a trans woman is about agency and ownership, and that means trusting my own decisions.
For trans people the issue of body image is compounded in multiple ways. We’re not only taught that we should look a certain way, but in most cases we don’t even have an interest in achieving that norm. Did I grow up wanting to be Action Man because those around me felt I was a boy? No. I wanted to be Barbie, and while all women face an incredible pressure from society to conform to a certain body type, it’s a different type of torture to be expected not only to conform to a ridiculous set of norms, but the wrong set of norms.
There are aspects of trans bodies we never really consider. We become so obsessed with genitals and what they mean, we forget that there are other levels of pain and turmoil trans bodies inﬂict on us. Am I too tall? Will people notice my feet are a size 12? These are questions I shouldn’t have to ask myself, but I do, and there’s little I can do to suppress them. I have to simply accept.
When I ﬁrst came out I assumed that being trans meant that death of my sex life, a life which had yet to begin breathing. I was so fundamentally disconnected from my body that I couldn’t bear to think of it, let alone allow someone else to explore it. But sex really taught me to love my body; it brokered a ceaseﬁre between my mind and it.
Through someone else’s appreciation and exploration of my body, I began to care for it myself. I began to see, despite what I felt were its crushing faults, that my body had redeeming qualities. I started building a relationship with my body that had more dimensions than just seething hatred.
I’ve slowly begun to like my body and to feel it as being mine. I’m learning that my pussy looks how it looks, and that’s ﬁne. I don’t need surgery to make me happy. It’s okay to relate to my body in a way in which I am comfortable and in control. Really, at its core, that is what we’re talking about here: agency and ownership.
So much of that is stripped away when trans people come out. Our bodies become spectacles for public debate, whether it be from medical professionals or our own families. At the end of the day, you are the only person with a valid opinion on your body.
On your journey towards accepting and loving your body, your own voice is key. Listen to your heart and trust yourself. You’ll know what to do.
Nick Bell 33 (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT)
When I was younger I didn’t think much of my body. I was always skinnier than I wanted to be. I’ve given myself permission to like my body now. It’s not an arrogant thing, although some people see that as egocentric.
Putting yourself in a situation where you are naked with other people, like on a nude beach, is a really fast way to realise that what you feel about your body doesn’t matter that much.
I think the division into bears and otters and other categories in the gay scene is helpful because it’s people owning the nonstereotypical body type and forming a culture of acceptance around it.
Sarah Sproule 46
Doing this shoot is about acceptance of my body. I thought at ﬁrst that I’d be too old for it. I’ve got a caesarean scar, I’m bisexual and married to a man, and I didn’t think I was the poster child for GCN. But a friend encouraged me, so I decided to do it.
Even though my body would be less stereotypically attractive now than when I was in my 20s, I like it more now. It’s about getting older and accepting that it’s not possible to be perfect, but because I’m older too, I have been able to earn the money to afford laser hair removal on my legs. That was a massive thing for me as a teenager; I had the hairiest legs possible. It was crippling.
I have three kids and they’re all coming into their teens. I hear them talk about the difficulties they’re facing. Rather than give them advice about how to love their bodies, I’d tell them that we’re living in a world where it’s really difficult to love ourselves because of all the messages we’re given, so let’s all do the best we can. We have to keep an eye on those messages.
Anna Keogh 29
When I was younger I thought way too much about being too pale. I used to be covered in fake tan. I still get people saying to me, ‘you’re so pale, are you sick or something?’ But I’ve learned to be comfortable with who I am. I’m a complete person; I’m so much more than what I look like.
It’s the little quirks that make me attracted to someone, and personality is much more important to me than body. As much as I might conform in terms of waxing and shaving, I do that for me. I feel more comfortable, my skin feels softer. Someone who looks happy in themselves is a lot more beautiful to me than somebody who is skinny or buff.
Marco Diaz 32
I come from Brazil, which is a very self-conscious country. As a teenager I was so skinny that if I was wearing jeans I would have to put a tracksuit underneath them. I had anxiety and depression, which made me skinny and at the same time made me even more self conscious about my body. Once I started practicing meditation and yoga six years ago, I realised the connection I had with my body, and how beautiful it is. Instead of just trying to look like someone else I just look the way I am.
I think that we need to be reminded that diversity exists, because there’s this big segregation going on in the LGBT community. I am black, I am femme, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m still a man. I’m not only sexually saying if I am a top or bottom, I’m saying I have a strong, masculine energy inside myself and I feel it every day.
I’m not on any dating apps anymore. People have preferences about what they want sexually, but there is a ﬁne line between preference and prejudice.
The Emotional Body
Sometimes I don’t feel con dent about how I look. I feel scrawny, skinny and hairless, an old twink; unable to match up to my emotional sense of masculinity.
I don’t believe that most people are looking for a perfect porno body, but that doesn’t stop me from internalising those ideas that only masc men have it made.
I came up against the idea of the ‘emotional body’ in massage school last year, the belief that what we feel plays out in our physical bodies. This can be especially true for gay guys. Not being comfortable with our bodies can have detrimental effects on our mental and physical health, whether that’s from longterm issues caused by walking with our arses pushed out (I’m not kidding, I see a lot of this with both gay men and women), or feelings of inadequacy causing a chronic slump of the shoulders.
When emotional trauma plays out in the body, as we become accustomed to it, it can make us shut out pain. Because as LGBTs we don’t always have the luxury of feeling safe or seen, it’s important that we foster space for our queer bodies, to love and appreciate them for all that they are.
I was lucky to spend much of the summer at a nude beach in Seattle. There was a completely respectful energy, with people of all shapes, sizes and genders basking in the sun. Beautiful creatures smoked legal weed by the lakeside, post dip. Look there – a naked guy in a trilby languidly hanging from a tree. It felt almost impossibly utopian to be in such a free space.
I was blown away by the beauty and conﬁdence I saw around me, and reminded that the harshest judge of my body is almost certainly myself. Spending time with others who understand that, who love and accept and celebrate queer bodies, it became easier to feel good about me.
While it may be great to have abs and big thighs, and it is deﬁnitely important to take care of ourselves physically with diet and exercise, the ﬁrst step in improving my relationship with my body is to listen to what it’s saying, to understand how it feels.
I’m trying to focus not on how I look, instead appreciating what I can do. Loving what we can’t change is the ﬁrst step in caring for ourselves emotionally, which ultimately leads to feeling and looking better.
Anne Ebeling 38
I was always okay with my body, but it used to be more about how other people looked at me or read into my body. I was in a straight relationship. I had very long, wavy hair, and I had a cutie thing going on. Then I cut my hair off, I shaved my head, and I wasn’t so cute any more. People’s attitudes towards me changed, even though I was still the same person.
To feel good about your body, you have to not care what other people think. It’s about feeling good with your whole self and not tolerating any other judgements. Now I’m letting my hair grow again, and it’s changing once more.
Issa Olwengo 29
I responded to the call-out for this photo shoot because I wanted to showcase my body. I think everyone should be comfortable with his or her body.
I never used to take care of my body, but recently I went back to the gym. It’s my second week and I want to get myself a six-pack and muscle. The perception on the gay scene is that if you’re not ﬁt and you don’t have a six-pack, they’re not as interested in you. So, I feel I have to build up muscle to attract guys.
Daniel Tóth 31
I used to be chubby, and I had body issues. There’s a Hungarian nursery rhyme about “ﬁtty fatty Daniel”, and the kids would tease me with it. I haven’t ditched the hangover of that.
I consider myself vain. The way I look occupies my mind to some degree, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. My vanity may be related to me having been overweight, but I don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with being overweight.
Everyone has an inner critic, but I’m learning to talk back. Gay people have all grown up with a phase in our lives where we have to hide or adapt. I think that feeling stays with many of us. That translates onto the body, so if there’s a dictated kind of body, people will aspire to it, because they must conform, they must be adapt, they must be good enough.
Julien Finley 29
I used to be chubby too, but everyone in my family was the same, so I didn’t hate my body. It was normal.
I lost weight quickly between 16 and 18, as I got taller. I didn’t go on any diet, or force myself to change. It was other people saying to me that I looked better that made me realise there was a charm in being slimmer, that I could be more likeable.
Now I am always watching myself, using mirrors and reﬂecting my image. I like it but I can waste a lot of time being conscious of how I look. On the gay scene I’ve never aspired to have any kind of accepted body, though. Once someone said to me that I should be an ‘otter’, but I don’t really like those labels. If you’re not comfortable with your body, whether you’re gay or straight, there’s no difference.
Trent Nickson ageless
I’m not a buff person. I always felt quite slim, but three or four years ago I was on an app and I sent my pics to guy. His response was: ‘you call yourself slim do you? You’re not slim!’ That brought home every bit of bullying in high school. It made me start paying attention to my body, because I don’t want to get to 50 or 60 and be obese.
I decided to start running, even though I hate exercise. So I run now three or four times a week and I feel that I’m always focused on my body in a way. I’m single, so there is that aspect of it. I’m on the market and I want to feel attractive to others. But I am doing it for me as well. It’s point of pride to me that I’m a very similar weight to when I was 18.