Well look at that. A seemingly straight fitness guy pandering to the LGBTQ community for likes or shares or some other meaningless online currency. How novel.
But that’s not my angle. I’m a bodybuilder so I come by it honestly, as the bodybuilding and gay communities have rubbed shoulders since the days of Eugen Sandow.
A family-friendly version of bodybuilding’s history starts with the physical fitness boom of the 1940’s-50s, when strapping young men (and women) would perform feats of strength and athleticism on the sun-drenched beaches of southern California.
But a less talked about version dates back even earlier and is closely linked to underground gay subculture. The “come hither” men’s magazines of that era, like Irvin Johnson’s Tomorrow Man (which was small enough to discreetly fit into a jacket pocket) clearly targeted a gay audience with photos that were more about homo-eroticism than athleticism.
And its popularity didn’t go unnoticed by the mainstream muscle mag. Publishing giant Joe Weider launched similar gay-themed magazines like Adonis and Body Beautiful as direct competition.
You could say the lines between bodybuilding and gay culture have always been blurry, even sordid, with bodybuilders participating in gay pornography or engaging in “gay for pay” (selling sexual favors), all which remain prevalent today.
Yet rarely were these matters acknowledged. To the contrary, suggestions of homo-eroticism were met with over-the-top displays of masculinity.
According to openly gay bodybuilder and Mr. Olympia finalist Bob Paris, “The myth that all bodybuilders were gay caused great psychic unrest among the straight men who ran the sport, great strivings to prove what a wholesome heterosexual pastime it was.”
Paris even recalls having bikini-clad models draped over him in magazine photo shoots to help sell this hyper-masculine image.
To add insult to all the rich irony, it’s widely acknowledged that Paris was denied a Mr. Olympia title simply because he was openly gay — while some of his competitors on stage were either closeted gay, bi-sexual, doing gay porn, or actively engaging in gay-for-pay.
Even the aforementioned Eugen Sandow — the “father of bodybuilding” and the guy they named the Mr. Olympia trophy after – lived with a male companion later in life.
And so it goes.
Enough meathead history. Still don’t believe bodybuilding is the gayest sport in all of sports? Then I challenge you to come up with a sport that’s demonstrably gayer.
Baseball? Nope. Too boring.
Basketball? No way. Some unsettling homophobia there.
Football? While curiously gay in its own right, football has way too many issues with concussions and nationalism for any sentient gay person.
Hockey? Nope. Though initiatives like You Can Play Too make it the most gay-accepting of the major sports. It’s certainly come a long way since I was lacing up the skates. Now if they could just keep some fans from throwing bananas at black players.
Wrestling? Okay, that’s interesting.
You have to get all the way down to esoteric distractions like ice dancing, figure skating, or even curling. Though I’ve been warned by gay friends not to fuck with gay curling. They take it very seriously. I’m leaving it alone.
Truthfully, no sport (provided you even consider bodybuilding is a sport) reaches the rarified air of gay like the Speedo & ProTan “look at his shredded glutes bro” pageantry of bodybuilding.
Which is all part of the reason I love it. And if you’re a card-carrying meathead, you love it too.
So I say own it.
Shave your legs, your pecs, your forearms. Hell, I shave parts that haven’t seen natural sunlight since Keith Moon was on tour and destroying hotel rooms.
Wear acceptable gym attire — ideally clothes you wash regularly, and not just stuff you got free with a tub of protein powder.
Practice decent hygiene. Wear effective deodorant. Don’t spit in the water fountain.
Above all, be kind, funny, and welcoming — all that “annoying” stuff gay people do that forces straight dudes to step up their game. Or at least flush the damn urinal.
Lastly, if you’re some knuckledragger who still uses the word gay as a slur, you best check that shit or get the hell out of the weight room.
Because in our little subculture, “gay” and “bodybuilding” have and will always march side by side, under the same colorful banner of individuality, inclusivity, and acceptance.