Community members bare their hearts, minds and bodies in an exploration of self-affirmation
As LGBT people, our journeys toward self-acceptance of our sexuality and gender make us unique. But, we often lose sight of how else we are unique. Our personhood is not limited to our heart and mind; our body, too, is an integral part of who we are. These community members know the importance of taking pride in who we are as individuals — no matter where we’ve come from, what we look like or who we love.They volunteered to step up and “bare it all,” so to speak, to bring attention to the importance of self-esteem, self-love and self-affirmation. Thanks to all our volunteer models for making this feature a possibility!
42, 5’9”, 270lbs
White transwoman, Queer
Body Type: Curvy
Being a transgender woman much of my life has been a struggle against my own body image. Some may think it would be surgery which made me feel whole, but for me it was simply living and being accepted as a woman in society. Just as I had to overcome internal negative feedback about my prior body image, I now work to feel good about myself despite being a plus-sized gal. What I love about this body is that it is unique, it’s female and it’s mine.
36, 5’3”, 110lbs
Body Type: Athletic
My body tells the story of who I am; my scars, my tattoos, my piercings — everything is a reflection of what is on the inside. One year ago I made the decision to completely change my life. I traded in Mountain Dew for water and video games for the gym, and for the first time in my life, I listened to my body and not my mind. I’m in better shape at 36 than I was at 16 and I’ve never been happier in my own skin. Everyday I push myself to be a better person on the inside and the outside.
27, 5’8”, 128lbs
Caucasian male, Gay
Body type: Flag Pole Skinny
I chose many years ago to own what I was given and never look back. The reflection I see in the mirror is the same one I am going to see for the rest of my life. Why not love that person that is staring back at me? It is a conscious decision to be happy with myself, just as I am. As I age I’ve started to notice things changing about my body. I have embraced it and realized that with the crow’s feet and thinning hair comes a confidence and feeling of ownership of myself. No one can alter the opinion I hold about my body. I love it. One nipple is bigger than the other; why not love that? My freckles are like connect the dots when I am out in the sun; why not love that? I have knobby knees and chicken legs; why not love that? My body is just the conduit anyway — my mind is the truly sexy part. Love yourself. No one else can if you don’t.
Alan & Lamont
52, 5’10”, 190lbs
White male, Gay
Body type: Average
Attraction is a very unique and personal thing. It has to work both ways for there to be a connection. You can’t tell by looking at someone to what features he is attracted. I am who and what I am; a 52 yr old, bald, hairy, average-built white guy. To some people, my look is attractive. To others I am too old, too hairy, etc. Likewise, I have people to whom I’m attracted. It is just a matter of taste. Love who you are and the right person for you will love you for you in return.
38, 5’5”, 145lbs
Black male, Gay
Body type: Fit/athletic
For years, I slaved away in the gym keeping my body fit and looking the way that I felt that I should look for others. However, in the past six months, I realized that my working out was not for me, but for an image that I was trying to portray. A little heavier than before, I have never been as happy with my body as I am now. Bottom line is, I like me for me and don’t really care what others think anymore.
28, 5’4”, 133lbs
Latina/Jewish/Italian/Irish, Female, Gay
Body type” Bodacious
I feel sexiest when I’m in a slinky one-piece and heels. I must have been Andy Warhol’s wig in another life because I love nothing more than to sport a leotard and dance to disco. My favorite body part is my butt — it looks outrageously disproportionate to my petite shoulders, which makes me laugh. It also makes dress shopping an adventure. Shaking it to some Donna Summer is my all-time favorite hobby. For me, feeling positive about my body is not about how much skin I’m showing. It’s about how I feel whether I’m in a full-body burlap sack or just my Wonder Woman underwear. Nothing makes me feel better than when my hair is in the shape of a human woman. I will add that I just got this new bra that finally makes it look like I have cleavage. It’s the biggest thrill of my life at the moment. Body shaming is never acceptable, even when it seems the other person is being “innocuous.” It’s still a micro-aggression. A co-worker at my first job said my khakis were “tight” in a derogatory way. I know she meant that my butt looked big in them. Or people have said, “You must have a hollow leg,” intimating that I can eat whatever I want and look how I do. Which is how? Which way is it, people: am I too butt-heavy to wear tight pants or am I too thin to lay waste to a plate of nachos? People need to get right with their own body image before they can subtly jab me. I love my body — even that one weird dimple in my thigh.
White male, Gay
I’m proud of my body because I feel completely comfortable in it. What I love most about my body are my arms. They are not special in any way, but I always get compliments on how sexy they are. I also use them for the best thing in the world: Hugs. I used to be shamed in the past for not being a perfectly-shredded guy. My first photo shoot with qnotes put me completely at ease about how I feel about my image.
45, 5’8”, 182lbs.
White male, Gay
Body type: Furry “cub”
I am proud of my body more now than ever. As a child I was skinny and awkward. As I grew into my body type currently, I still was not completely comfortable until the proliferation of the internet that introduced me to the “Bear” culture. Eventually attending “Bear Week” in Provincetown where I realized that like me, there were lots of men who actually preferred my body type for what it is. The general public needs to know that not all gay men have “smooth swimmer” bodies or are gym rats. Many of us are heavier, hairier and much older, but proud.
56, 5’10”, 216lbs
Irish/German/Welsh male, Gay
Body type: Athletic “with a few extra pounds due to interest in good food and red wine”
I think I have done a fairly good job of preserving my body over the years. I was an active kid, rode horse-back in my teens and was a competitive swimmer in high school. I continue to swim, run and bike regularly each week to keep toned and in shape both physically and mentally. I have competed in two triathlons so far in my 50s and plan on competing in more races as the season is a bit longer here in the Carolina’s than my native New York. I do face fairly regular admonishments from my partner of almost 32 years to lose weight, in part because he still thinks of me as the 25-year-old with the hard body and 29-inch waist that he first met. I am comfortable in my body. In terms of specific body parts, I believe we all secretly (or some of us not so secretly) wish we were taller, thinner, more muscular, handsome, hairier, more well endowed, etc. While a few of these things we can do something about, the majority we simply cannot and I believe time spent in a stable long-term relationship has helped me realize that those wishes are superfluous when compared to the things that really matter in our lives.
25, 5’1”, 107lbs
Multi-racial female, Bisexual
Body type: Petite
My body is the vessel through which I present myself to the world; I am proud of it. I love my back, feet and arms, they are strong and hold me together. Becoming sexually active early, I faced teasing, shaming and it was difficult to be happy with myself. Through sports and dance I was able to grow my body and bring a different attention which brought me more joy and self respect. Developing a spiritual relationship with the world around me has become a great turning point to the way I view myself, my body and my sexuality. Today my body is part of who I am and I have been able to establish a spiritual grounding including my body. Coming out and allowing my sexuality to grow and sometimes change over time has been such a beautiful process that I enjoy. It is so important to gain acceptance of the body at every age because sometimes perceptions of others can be hurtful, but a happy relationship with the self can help keep you grounded and deflect negativity.
40, 5’9”, 192lbs
American Indian-Black American male, gay
Body type: Medium-built
I am very proud of who and what I am. It took me until I was 23 to be comfortable with who and what I am. I dated my high school sweetheart for six years while I was seeing men on the DL and I felt more comfort with a man than I did with her. I was raised as a Baptist, Bible-reading child. I would not even think about telling other people that I was different at that time and age. I really didn’t understand it and couldn’t figure it out. I thought something was wrong with me and God was going to punish me for being different than the other men that I was raised with and had been around. At the age of 13, I was raped by a preacher of God and was told that if I said anything to anyone that I would be choked with his private part until I couldn’t breathe. I am sorry, but that is scary to a 13-year-old. The family that raised me, if I had told them I was different, I think it would have been very bad for me and that the social service would have to remove me because I would not be welcome around any of the children in that family. They were scared of the word “gay” to a point where they couldn’t even say the word. I moved out at the age of 23 and I realize I was not happy until then and I was now free to be who I really was: a gay male who can live his life being proud of who and what I am. I love my body and other people tell me that I am cute. I dont see it, but I know I just like me for who and what I am.
28, 5’10”, 165lbs
White male, gay
Body type: Average guy
At first, I was a little terrified of doing a photo shoot in my underwear, but, oddly enough, that’s kind of the reason I signed up for this. I’m an actor and we have to be comfortable with our body because it’s our tool and it’s how we tell a story. We’re always in front of an audience. And, they’re always judging. My family is Mormon, so when I came out, they didn’t accept me. After a while, they sort of came around and I’ve let them back into my life, but I don’t think they will ever fully accept me as being gay. But, I’m proud of who I am. On my body, I’m really proud of my tattoo. I can show it off when I want to, but when I have to be a little more professional, I can put on a shirt and it’s like my secret. It’s my own little way to stand out and be proud of me.
Photos by Matt Comer
Design by Lainey Millen
Materials provided by David Lari