I had to leave. The photo was in 20 minutes. There was no time left to change my mind. As I pulled on a t-shirt, I knew I’d made one choice correctly. Whether or not the underwear was right, I was (as my nephew would say) wearing my best Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
It didn’t stay on for long. Soon I was standing in a deserted daytime Heaven (the London gay club, not the afterlife) being photographed in my aussieBum briefs, all for Attitude magazine’s Real Bodies feature. I was living the gay cliché.
Photo by Chris Jepson for Attitude
How did this happen? Back in April, I saw a tweet, responded and got the confirmation email all within an hour. That was the simple part. Only then did I ask myself why I wanted to be near-naked on the newsstands.
Here’s some of the reasons. I’m still working out the rest.
I like my legs. I spent a few days asking friends and agonising what to wear, worrying what my brand and style would say about me. It came down to some Team GB boxers from Next or the skimpy black aussieBum briefs. Standing at the mirror, I thought my legs were too good to hide away in boxers.
I wanted to show anyone can look good in a pair of aussieBums. It’s a brand sold by the toned, tanned boys of Bondi Beach and the tagline ‘If you doubt yourself, wear something else’. I don’t look like that, but I still look hot (thanks in part to Chris Jepson putting me at ease and being a great photographer).
I’m ready to date. Maybe, just maybe, someone will see the feature, look me up on Twitter and invite me out. Although that’s scuppered a bit by the mistaken quote next to my photo saying I took part as ‘my boyfriend’ was doing it too. I don’t have a boyfriend. Yet. (Chris at the magazine has apologised for the error).
I own my body and I own the image too. Matthew Todd introduced Real Bodies and other reader pages when he was editor of Attitude. His comprehensive new book Straight Jacket speaks a lot of common sense about issues in a gay scene dominated by alcohol, body image and sex. That means most gay guys meet and mix in a super-charged, not community environment. This isn’t a photo for Grindr. This is a photo of me, for me.
How I look isn’t the biggest issue in my life. One question I answered was ‘do you manscape?’ Perhaps I sound a bit arrogant in my reply: ‘I’ve got far too many friends to see, books to read and too much laundry to do to spend time with that.’
Knowing I’m generally happy with how I look without shaving off my beard or elsewhere is more important than sculpting my body just to fit a gay body ideal. Body image is a big issue for everyone. I do struggle with it, but I’m fortunate I can usually put it aside and get on with other parts of life.
I’m incredibly proud and happy to see that page and a half all about my body. The words and the space dedicated to an ordinary guy are far more important than the photo of me and, yes, even more important than if it gets me any new Twitter followers.
So when you’re in WHSmith this month, do buy a copy of Attitude, and flick to page 104. You won’t miss the cover. It shows the 49 beautiful faces of those shot dead last month at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
Digital and print versions of August’s Attitude magazine are available to buy online and in newsagents now.