Why is the gay community so exclusionary when it comes to looks?
I’m a 23 year-old gay man and I’m just not good-looking. I’ve never had a relationship and I can’t get a date. People look right through me when I go out and at the gym. I put a profile online and got nothing except some people many decades older than me. I’m feeling hopeless and angry.
I want to believe that different people have different taste and there’s no one standard of physical beauty but I just don’t seem to be what anyone is looking for. I actually had a therapist whom I went to see tell me I am a “four” out of 10. That was really crushing.
I don’t know what advice you can give me. I really would like people to examine the values of our community. It all seems to be about looks and who is hot.
I have a lot to offer. I have a big heart, I’m smart and funny. I have an interesting job and I volunteer at a dog rescue. I would be a terrific companion in life, but no one is interested.
I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time.
Yes, a lot of people in the gay community put a lot of focus on looks. Whether gay men do this more or less than other men and other people in general is anyone’s guess. But it is a tremendous phenomenon.
And yes, there are certain “ideals” of attractiveness among gay men that a lot of us can never live up to. And those who do, ultimately age out.
All of this can feel like a sort of tyranny. If you don’t meet strict and at times unreal standards, you get turned down for dates, are ignored when you try to start a conversation and receive the message, loud and clear, that you really aren’t worthwhile.
But that’s just the message from some people.
Appearance is a funny thing. Contrary to your therapist’s (former, I hope) outlandish comment, looks really are subjective. I also believe that our personalities illuminate our appearance. If you are the generous, kind and thoughtful guy you describe — and I have no reason to doubt you — then I have to think that these qualities come across when someone interacts with you.
Yes, a lot of guys are drawn just to the surface. And those guys are likely not for you.
It’s time to start looking beyond bars, the gym and dating/hookup apps. You need to interact with other gay men in environments where they will have opportunities to really know you, rather than making judgments based on first impression of your looks alone.
How about some activities where you’ll be doing something you care about while also interacting with people you might want to date? I imagine that you’re spending more time with dogs than young gay men at the dog rescue.
Please don’t drop doing what you already enjoy and value, but consider some additional activities. The D.C. Center has a lengthy list of groups and sponsors Center Volunteers, which would give you more opportunities to do good while also giving others the chance to know you on a more profound level.
Yes, it would be great to change the values of our community to be less focused on outward appearance. I’m hoping your letter can help spark a discussion about this issue.
But whether or not others start to think about this issue differently, you have some work to do on yourself. For you to feel better about who you are, you’re going to have grind a new pair of lenses through which to see yourself. This is a difficult task, but not impossible. Your path forward is to challenge others’ surface judgments and see the qualities you know you possess when you look in the mirror.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works gay individuals and couples in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.