There Goes The Neighbourhood: Why Tolerating Steroid Use Makes Us Guilty

Well, another pride season has come and gone, which means the hot boys of summer who seemed to have leaped from the bushes all tanned and buff to populate the streets will slither back into the undergrowth. You nursed your hangover at your desk all week and wished life could go on being a Speedo pool party forever. And all over the city, testicles will be filling back out and producing normal levels of sperm, at least until this time next year.

Yes, no pride season is complete without the perennial steroid rant, brought to you this time by somebody who seriously had no clue until like three weeks ago that literally everyone was on the juice.

It began when I made an offhand joke to someone I had recently started dating about how it would be nice to put on more muscle with minimal effort but no ball shrinkage, backne or looking like an aubergine.

He responded cagily about not judging other people’s choices.

Are you defending steroid use to me?” I asked in disbelief.

He told me he’d done them before. I told him why I think steroids are stupid and why I was not interested in discussing my athletic performance or gym habits with someone who was using performance enhancers, but I didn’t push it because I didn’t want to fight so early in the budding romance. I also thought I couldn’t pin him today for something he’d done at one time, back who-knows-when. I wasn’t with him then, I was with him now, and I thought he should be allowed to be whoever he was today without being punished for decisions he made in some past I knew nothing about.

When I found out he’d actually done a cycle it right before we’d met, or was possibly still on them in preparation for Pride, I started seeing qualities that weren’t compatible with me.

The relationship fizzled, and the veil lifted. I started seeing steroid use everywhere. Nearly every friend I spoke to about my discovery laughed and said I was late to the party, and did I know that so-and-so was on them too?

There goes the neighbourhood.

I’ve become even more disturbed by the silence around the issue. The old “it’s not my place to judge other people’s personal choices” line seems to be the gay community’s nom de guerre. Privately, we claim to think steroid users look and sound ridiculous. Publicly, we tell them how hot they are and act like how they got there is none of our business.

Some people even praise the gearheads for being open and honest about their use, which is mind-boggling to me; now on top of shallowly praising their impossible, fake muscles, we’re showing that you can be thought of as ethical and praiseworthy as long as you confess to cheating while you continue doing it?

Well, this is our business. Supporting this behavior even passively is the reason everyone’s on the juice. It makes us all active contributors to the problem. It’s why guys who are genetically incapable of forming thick bodies feel inadequate, and likely feel pressured to get big quick, wherever they go that gay men gather. It seems as if, beyond the many well-documented negative health impacts, there are no social consequences for steroid use, only rewards.

Think about smoking. While it may be a “personal choice,” society has completely shifted against the smoker. Advertising is strictly regulated, warnings are everywhere, smokers are physically ostracized from public places and can hardly walk down the street with a smoke without incurring dirty looks and comments. As a result, fewer people smoke, and many who do feel an acute sense of guilt and want to quit. Far fewer people ever begin smoking in the first place, since they do not feel it’s a requirement of fitting in with any given group.

Here’s what can happen to steroid users according to WebMD if anyone out there is somehow kidding themselves in 2013:

  • Develop breasts
  • Get painful erections
  • Have their testicles shrink
  • Have decreased sperm count
  • Become infertile
  • Become impotent
  • Get acne
  • Have an oily scalp and skin
  • Get yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • Become bald
  • Have tendon rupture
  • Have heart attacks
  • Have an enlarged heart
  • Develop significant risk of liver disease and liver cancer
  • Have high levels of “bad” cholesterol
  • Have mood swings
  • Fly into rages
  • Suffer delusions

But based solely on my observations, the common ones I’ve seen in the people I actually know who use steroids are: shrunken testes, enlarged faces/skulls, red/purple skin, weak joints, and unnatural, super annoying, testosterone-pumped, attention-craving personalities. Any one of those things is bad enough for me.

To me, steroid use speaks of a greater concern with peer pressure and appearances than fitness and health. I don’t like the idea of groups of friends doing cycles together, and smugly accepting compliments on their appearances knowing they’ve cheated. I’m uncomfortable with impacts the drugs have on people’s minds, lending a semi-crazed aggression to everything they do.

Why are we being complicit in a drug-distorted body image paradigm that makes it impossible for us to measure up without risking all that?

I know the compulsion to have a perfect body is sometimes a real, deeply rooted psychological issue. According to a study by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford school of medicine, 2.2 per cent of over 2000 men surveyed suffer body dysmorphia. Unless a ridiculously high concentration of individuals from that 2.2 per cent are routinely attending the same parties as I am, it’s safe to say I know a lot of “casual” users who don’t fit the mental illness category.

We need to treat steroid use like society treats smoking. We need to speak up about how gross it makes people look and behave. Why are we pulling our punches with the “I don’t like it but it’s not my business” crap?

Let me give it to you juicers straight: y’all look stupid, and despite the muscles, y’all look weak to me.

I’m going to get in trouble for this. Some of my friends will be mad. Some of my acquaintances will recognize themselves in this piece and take offense. To them I say, I used to be a smoker. You used to tell me it was disgusting, and eventually I stopped. We stayed friends and I kicked a poisonous addiction. Seeing some potential here?

I Think That Steroids Hurt Gay Society

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It's Your Body... Do What You Want

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Muscles Are Hot... No Matter How You Got Them

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Submitted By: Derek Bedry
Derek Bedry is a Vancouver writer and journalist who’s actually pretty buff and a total participant in the gay muscle frenzy, but that’s another story. Come at him, bro, on Twitter @dbedry.

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  • DouggSeven

    Only an unhealthy person would do something unhealthy to appear healthy.

    Thank you for contributing to the stereotype that all gay men are just vain pieces of self destruction.

    Well written article, and even though I smoke, I did appreciate the smoking comparison.

  • Rob

    I liked the article and you taking the time to write something serious like that.
    I was actually opening my mind about the use of them. Idk, I dont think it would have been soon, but the looks are something so important it seems and everybody is doing it so… I was close to Google them. Everybody knows there are risk, you just don’t believe they can happen, speially trying it once like one would.
    So I believe this article is a nice reminder.

    Keep on 🙂

  • ok

    “or was possibly still on them in preparation for Pride, I started seeing qualities that weren’t compatible with me.”

    so within the last week you got dumped/broke up with your boyfriend and decided to write an article to try to make him feel even worse out of what? broken heart? Spite? <– this

    meanwhile how much do you want to bet you did drugs all pride weekend? what's is that? The pot calling the kettle black or something?

    maybe you're the problem? stop trying to regulate other peoples lives! Yes its dumb but who are you to say what he should be doing? clearly you didnt care enough about them enough to stick around so why take it one step further?

    Oh probably because you fit into another gay stereotype, whats that? Giant bitch?

  • Del Stamp

    umm. to the person who posted the comment before this …


    this article is a crock of shit, and it actually made me angry to read it.

  • alej

    So people make questionable decisions and suddenly Ms. Judgy reels her ugly head.

    One thing that is definitely worth pointing out: aggressive confrontation is one of the worst ways to produce desired results, no matter how “well-intentioned.” It’s the reason that recent studies reported on NPR have shown how unsuccessful interventions for drug/alcohol abuse are.

    Compassion and understanding are much better tools than a wagging finger, and essential if one ever hopes to have a long-term, growing relationship with someone, flaws and all. Just sayin’.

  • DouggSeven

    “meanwhile how much do you want to bet you did drugs all pride weekend? what’s is that? The pot calling the kettle black or something?”

    Um, not everyone does drugs, you realize. Your comment makes it seem like drug use is a pride requirement, which it isn’t – at all.

    The author makes it quite clear he believes in living a healthy lifestyle – adding drugs to the mix contradicts his beliefs.

  • ugh

    I agree with the author. The point is that the blase attitude that many have about steroid use (and other drugs, for that matter) in the gay community, makes it an acceptable practice (even though it is immensely damaging in many levels).

    Stating “meanwhile how much do you want to bet you did drugs all pride weekend? what’s is that? The pot calling the kettle black or something?” just weakens your defense of steroid use. It is hypocritical to imply that one drug is okay but the other one is not (because it conveniently fits your needs). Don’t fool yourself.

    People DO need to be aware of the dangers and take it seriously. It is not “just steroids.” It can be a heart attack or a booking with the police dpt. due to increased aggression.