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?
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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