- When I came out as gay, I found the gay men I met were not as welcoming as I had thought.
- The people I hooked up with wanted only sex, and I found few prospects on the dating scene.
- I think many gay men won't accept me because I'm a fat, feminine dark-skinned South Asian person.
As one of the many queer people who came out in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns, I'm still new to the world of dating and having sex with gay men.
But I quickly became familiar with gay hookup culture: using Grindr to connect with men near me and inviting them over without even knowing their names. I naively thought that since I had met a decent number of men who had found me sexually desirable, I could meet others who would consider me interesting enough to date. I was wrong.
Instead, I found that as a fat, feminine South Asian man with dark skin, I was largely ignored by my peers.
At first, I thought hooking up regularly with men meant they would want to date me
It took me some time to realize that most of the people I met on Grindr did not identify as gay. They are the ones who identify as "down low" or "discreet." They're the ones who are closeted and ended up in an arranged marriage due to family pressure, or they're the ones who are happily married to a woman but want some fun on the side. They're the ones who have a fat or South Asian fetish, or the dehumanizing ones who say they "just wanted to try with a Black."
The gay men I met in person were twice my age and not looking to date — certainly not some 20-year-old with no experience.
It seemed my body was deemed good enough for pleasure but not for love. In their book, "Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness," Da'Shaun L. Harrison writes: "Fuckability as desire-ability does not mean that all bodies deemed fuckable are humanized, nor does it mean that every person who has sex with the Black fat sees them as living beings deserving of care."
Yet I had hope.
After deleting Grindr for what seemed like the 100th time, I went to Tinder and Hinge to connect with people looking for dates rather than hookups
Two of my recent matches on Tinder were bots who tried to sell me cryptocurrency after asking for my WhatsApp info. The rest of my matches ignore or block me if I message them. In the short time I've had Hinge, I have matched with fewer than five people — even after paying for an embarrassing "profile boost."
I fought against my anxiety and went to a gay bar several times to meet people. Even though I met some who were friendly and had great conversations with them, I will never forget how a guy ran away from me after I approached him. I'm still licking my wounds after organizing a dream date and getting ghosted by the suitor before we even met.
Rejection never feels good, but it hurts most when it feels so personal.
Data doesn't paint a great picture for my prospects
For me, being gay means dealing with a lot of self-hatred, to the extent that I sometimes feel incredibly hideous and not human-looking. As a joke, I like to say I'm the Bollywood version of Shrek. I started researching figures that could explain why I was not deemed good enough to date by my peers. I needed concrete answers.
As a South Asian man, I'm "at the bottom of the dating totem pole," research on romantic-dating markets published in 2018 by the American Sociological Association found. The OkCupid cofounder Christian Rudder published a now-deleted blog post in 2014 with user data showing that most women on the site rated Asian men as less attractive than men of other races and ethnicities. While the data focused on heterosexual relationships, my experience followed a similar pattern.
Plus, my large body — I'm 6 feet tall and weigh 240 pounds — puts me in the obese category, a condition surprisingly uncommon among gay men. That's according to statistics from the National Library of Medicine, which also says in the US, gay males have "significantly lower odds" of being obese when compared with straight adults.
I realize I'm now fighting to look like someone I never wanted to be
I have never felt more motivated to hit the gym than since I came out. In fact, in 2022, I managed to lose over 20 pounds, hoping that building muscle and losing fat would make me look more attractive.
I can't help but think of the younger version of myself who loved Barbie dolls and wore his older sisters' Cinderella nightgowns. That boy would be surprised to hear that I now dream of looking like "a real man." I don't remember ever wanting to look like the stereotypical idea of masculinity; those types of people have oppressed me my whole life. Yet here I am, heading to the gym frequently just to become a version of myself that I don't recognize to feel accepted.
I am still learning how to love myself
I try to practice self-love every day by giving myself compliments on my physique. Mirrors and pictures still make me uncomfortable, but I push myself out of my comfort zone by hanging mirrors on my walls. I even posed for a photo shoot a few months ago. After applying a double layer of powder to hide the anxiety-induced sweat on my face, I realized I had a friendly smile that's quite photogenic.
While I continue to work on my body and learn to accept the reflection I see in the mirror, I've decided to quit desperately looking for a stranger who will make me feel lovable.
The reality is that loving myself is much more important.