Phoebe Sexton (University of Missouri)
Award of Excellence
Domestic Picture Story
Eating disorders are almost twice as prevalent among gay men as they are among all women*. Joshua Johnson, 27, came out eight years ago and for the past six, has been struggling with various degrees and combinations of anorexia and bullemia. He was on the heavy side as a kid and lost over sixty pounds after a difficult breakup with his first boyfriend. He continues to struggle to be healthy and to be happy with his body.
*[over 15% compared to about 8%-10%]
After his shower, Joshua spends time examining his body, a ritual he calls "preening." "What's really sad is that I know a lot of people who would kill to have this body and all I do is bitch about it."
Joshua thinks looks are especially important in the gay community and notes that the ideal is perpetuated by portrayals of gays in the media: "You don't see the fat, ugly gays getting together, you see the really hot, attractive guys hooking up." Here, he talks with a man from North Carolina who is in town for business and whom he met online.
"It was nice to feel wanted," says Joshua after the man returned to North Carolina. However, he lamented the long distance factor: "Why do i do stuff like this? Why do I set myself up for failure? It was like I gave myself a taste of this thing that I'm not allowed to eat."
"It's my freedom.," says Joshua about working out. "It's the only time my mind is clear. It's me, it's my shoes, it's my iPod and that's it. Ultimately, it's how I stay sane."
Joshua works out daily for at least an hour, mixing various cardio exercises and weight-lifting regimens. He likes that the fitness center at his apartment complex is open 24 hours so he can still come when his job schedule is more demanding.
Joshua carefully monitors portions and calorie counts. As stress levels from work and his personal life rise, he becomes more strict about his diet. "The only thing I can control is what is in my body: what I put into it, what comes out of it."
"I have noticed that lately it's not necessarily because of stress. It's been maybe because I'm depressed or because I think about cute boys and what they eat and then I think about what I just ate and I'm like, 'Well, shit, I'm too fat for him or I'm not good enough for him,' so I have to go throw this up so it's not in my body and I can start over again."
Joshua is worried about the recent escalation of his bulimic episodes and is frustrated that disclosing his bulimia to others no longer prevents him from purging. He admits: "I can't do it as a promise to somebody else. I have to do it for me, I have to make that promise for me."