One day you're a blogger known for wallpapering a dollhouse and swooning over bookcases, and the next you are the center of a heated debate about body image. Just another day in the gay community, where this battle of the bulge is as heated as any wedge issue the presidential campaign can come up with. This is our 1 percent versus the 99 percent, although the percentages have more to do with body fat than money.
Orlando Soria is a handsome interior designer with, reportedly (by him), an even handsomer boyfriend. He is also exceedingly clever, from his Twitter handle (@Oar_Lawn_Doe) to his website name (HommeMaker.com) to his fevered insistence that street number fonts are the make-or-break feature of midcentury dwellings. (They are.)
With HGTV's Secrets from a Stylist, Mr. Soria joined the storied gay pantheon of male assistants serving powerful ladies that dates back to at least 1942's Woman of the Year, if not further. It is a grand tradition of male Eve Harringtons (minus the conniving and ambition) that has become the cornerstone of our modern career-based reality programming. But alone on the Web, he is suddenly a lightning rod. And it is his gentle ribbing at the expense of ribs, both showing and not showing, that has landed him in the black eye of a persistent gay storm.
In a blog post entitled "Why The Gays Hate Their Bodies," Orlando tries to engage in a discussion about our body-obsessed culture with both a "beat them" and a "join them" message that seemed to please neither the 1 percent nor the 99 percent. In the roomier, more populist 99-percent corner, Gawker.com's Louis Pietzman casually disguises his opinion in the title of his piece: "Article Explains Why Gay Men Feel Insecure By Reminding Them How Fat and Gross They Are." Mr. Pietzman reveals in the article that he has a sense of humor, in case his subject-line nod to The Onion didn't do the trick, but still takes Mr. Soria to task for perpetuating the obsessive body culture his blog post sought to tweak.
More disturbing is the myopic response from the 1 percent in the toned form of one Chris Ryan and his irony-free response, "Why The Gays Actually LOVE Their Bodies." The fetid swamp of grammatical errors therein can only mean the hilarity of the article is purely unintentional. As Mr. Soria did, Mr. Ryan uses a point-by-point listing for his argument where unfortunately the only points that land are the right edges his abdominal muscles are making in his photo. His credibility is lost instantly with his first argument that because gay men stare at themselves in the mirror all the time, they clearly don't hate themselves. That's like saying that someone who washes his hands constantly isn't afraid of germs. Mr. Ryan then spills the milk of human kindness, calling his closest friends "troll dolls" and expresses his voluminous self-esteem by dating less attractive men while sleeping around with much hotter ones. It gets better indeed.
Others have weighed in, as well, so to speak. Your gay mom just came down into the basement rec room to tell you all to stop making so much racket, in a lunch-revisiting blog post called "You're Special Just Like Everyone Else." If abs were made of earnestness, blogger Reuben "Roobs" Duarte would have an eight-pack. Unlike over at Gawker, where they manage to be both personally irritated and passively snarky at the same time, Roobs only has time to wet the blanket thoroughly before laying it flat over everything. It almost makes you wish there were a way to give someone a sense of humor as a present.
Out.com, known for their modesty in showing the male form, posted a sniffy response ("Gay Body Self Hatred Explained") punctuated by a sexy photo from the original article and (perhaps coincidentally) an ad for David Beckham body wear. "We certainly possess much more body hair," insists writer Joseph Alexiou, not referring to Mr. Beckham's barely-there campaign for H&M but to make a similarly subtle jab (as Louis Pietzman did) that Mr. Soria's piece doesn't take the bear subculture into account. But Soria makes clear in his post that the world he is talking about exists inside very specific circles on the two coasts, filled almost exclusively with hairless preppy heartthrobs. Of course, this is the same world that populates the editorial and advertising pages of Out itself, one writer's opinion aside.
And isn't that the whole point? This is all one writer's opinion and one homme's perspective. We can insist all we want that it isn't inclusive or is too broad, but these arguments across the blogosphere don't mitigate the facts at hand. We do have a community with high rates of suicide, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and, yes, self-esteem and body-image issues. This is not a shock when people are literally lined up around the block (be it at an urban dance club or a Chic-fil-A) to remind you that you don't belong.
We are a fractured, splintered community, and much of what we do doesn't make a whole lot of sense. We have a gay political organization that is "thrilled to endorse" an anti-gay Republican over a lesbian. We champion a campaign pitched to tell teenagers that life gets better and then drop them into a community that has more in common with the cliques and drama of high school than any episode of 90210. That's if you even think we're a community in the first place.
So bear or twink, circuit queen or sober sally, rich or poor, old or young, skinny or fat, we all have to make our own way in the world. And we spend more time dwelling in Orlando Soria's dollhouse than we care to admit. Yes, it is fun to turn up our nose at each other because it lets us forget for a moment that there are people out there who would do much worse to us, but we have to keep our eye on the prize. If reality makeover shows have taught us anything, it is that we are capable of making amazing things happen with minimal resources. But man, there sure is a lot of bitching along the way.
Follow Derek Hartley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wastesyourtime