Adam Eli is a community organizer, writer, and content creator in New York City. He is the founder of Voices4, a non-violent direct action activist group committed to advancing global queer liberation. He believes that when you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.
A friend of mine was recently shocked to learn that his satirically slender, practically porcelain, firmly flat “twink” body was considered desirable — even a privilege — in American gay circles. Growing up in central Asia in a heavily conservative, patriarchal, majority Muslim, post-Soviet society, his body was shamed and mocked for being “effeminate” and “weak.” Frequent state sanctioned violence such as corrective rape, public beatings, and honor killings make any type of public queer life or a tangible queer culture in his country of origin impossible. When I asked if gay men in his country celebrated his body as they do in America, he muttered “no” and looked hurt, as if the question underscored the humiliation and pain his naturally thin frame caused while growing up.
This short interaction affirms that there is no universal standard of beauty or sexual attraction. Rather, the body and perceptions of the body are influenced by culture and context. Bodies with less privilege such as queer, Black, brown, femme, immigrant, trans, and disabled bodies are more vulnerable to the wavering tides of cultural recognition and societal acceptance. My friend’s body can be glorified in the West and simultaneously a cause for violence in the East. Gay men do not have an inherent or genealogical attraction to lean, white youths. It’s our culture that elevates youthfulness, whiteness, and thinness and our sexualities follow suit. How else do you explain two completely different attitudes towards the same exact gay body? Read more via them.