All about #BodyPride as an LGBTQIA+ human
We’re all subject to continuous appearance-based pressures which impact our self-worth. The LGBTQIA+ community is no different. In fact, it’s a community that faces unique challenges regarding pressures that affect body image. And, for some people, it can escalate during Mardi Gras season.
“People will go on a big shred or a big diet for the month,” says one of Australia’s most popular LGBTQIA+ content creators, Matt, also known as Alright Hey. “As soon as Christmas is over, it starts. Mardi Gras lands around the start of March and people think they have two months to totally transform their body.”
Author, podcaster, and creator Allira Potter says much of the pressure often comes from others in each community. “I feel it 100%. Being a lesbian, I have this pressure to dress and act a certain way.”
Non-binary and queer creator, Jonti Ridley says appearance-based pressure is unhelpful to everyone. “A large facet of the queer community is enforcing these standards that we didn’t even come up with. We don’t even like them. They’re not for us.”
Actor and creator Jeff van de Zandt has this to say: “Mardi Gras prep diets come from a place of hate,” he says. “They come from hating oneself. But Mardi Gras is a celebration of love, a celebration of pride, of all these positive things. It’s just backward to me.”
Mardi Gras is a seminal time for 78er Peter Murphy who was at the very first Mardi Gras, when he was seriously injured by police as they attempted to shut it down. He says it’s not compulsory to do anything special around your appearance at all. “I’m going in comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes and I still expect to have a great time.”
Listen to these fascinating and enlightening guests as they explore body and beauty ideals within the LGBTQIA+ community, how pressures to conform can manifest, and why they’re choosing to participate in WorldPride with BodyPride, starring their unique, kind, and most authentic selves.
Matt Hey 00:07
People will, you know, go on a big shred or a big diet or whatever you’d like to call it for the months, it’s basically since Christmas for most people. Soon as Christmas/New Year’s over, you know, Mardi Gras lands around end of February, start of March, they got about two months to transform their body.
Allira Potter 00:25
People in the LGBTQIA+ community, they all have their unique pressures within their own community. I feel like 100% being a lesbian, I have this pressure to maybe dress and act a certain way.
Jonti Ridley 00:40
So a very large facet of the queer community is kind of enforcing these standards that we didn’t even come up with because we don’t even like them. They’re not for us.
Sam Ikin 00:49
This is a special episode of Butterfly: Let’s Talk. I’m Sam Ikin and I’m really happy that you’re here. We’re recording this in the lead up to Sydney’s Mardi Gras pride celebration for 2023. Every year Mardi Gras is a time of joy and celebration for the LGBTIQ+ community. But it can also bring with it a heightened sense of anxiety and negative body image for many people. In this episode, we’ll delve into the unique challenges faced by members of the LGBTIQ+ community and the impact that it has on their mental health and well being.
Jeff van de Zandt 01:21
These Mardi Gras prep diets or, or that kind of thing come from a place of hate. They come from a place of like, Oh, I hate myself, I hate the way that that looks like all that kind of stuff. Whereas Mardi Gras is a celebration of love, celebration of pride, like it’s a celebration of all of these positive things. And you’re doing all of this hate going into it. It’s so backward to me.
Sam Ikin 01:46
Before we go down that path, let’s talk about the significance of Mardi Gras. Peter Murphy was at the very first Mardi Gras back in 1978. He proudly calls himself a 78er.
Peter Murphy 01:57
A 78er is a person who took part in the first what we would now call the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on June 24 1978, or in the subsequent protests that flowed from the mass arrests that took place that night in Kings Cross. So there was, you know, more people arrested at the court the following Monday and then at a protest rally on July 15, a few more. And then I think August 27, there was over 100 people, 104 people, were arrested in Taylor Square.
Sam Ikin 02:33
These protests left a significant mark not just on the country, but also on Peter Murphy himself, quite physically. After he was arrested, Peter says he was beaten unmercifully by the police in the police station. It was just for being a gay man and not behaving or looking like what a stereotypical man should look like or be. It was an unprovoked attack, and it left him with concussion, extensive bruising, and psychological issues that he now knows as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Peter Murphy 03:04
So I was very, very badly injured by the police. As I said, it took a few years to recover. The people, you know, my friends who helped organise the second and third Mardi Gras, I really admire them because especially 1979 was a hard job, really hard job. And they did it.
Sam Ikin 03:23
I know this might feel a little bit off topic when we’re talking about body image and eating disorders but Peters story highlights the importance of Mardi Gras for the LGBTQ plus community.
Peter Murphy 03:33
It really was, it was a sort of turning point for Sydney and Australia I think, but basically it took till 1984. So six more years before homosexual acts between adult males, consenting acts, were decriminalised. That was a very important psychological victory, a real social victory. And from then on, there was a long series of improvements to the law reforms or the law to stop discrimination against LGBTQ people in all sorts of workplaces and the health sector and, you know, marriage and all of these other aspects of life where there was discrimination. Yeah, people look back on 78. It wasn’t really the start of the struggle, but it was a turning point in the struggle.
Sam Ikin 04:22
Peter Murphy was attacked for who he was and what he looked like four and a half decades ago. Today, his community is still affected by homophobia, transphobia discrimination and bullying, not just from broader society, but sometimes from friends and family members. And this can all lead to mental distress, body image issues, and eating disorders. This could explain why LGBTIQA+ people experience more eating disorders than the rest of us. They have more severe eating disorder symptoms, and the period of time between the onset of the disorder and then finding treatment is much longer than that of their heterosexual or cisgender counterparts. And not only that, the external pressures on LGBTIQA+ people but there are internal community pressures to act and look a certain way also.
Matt Hey 05:09
I definitely felt the pressure.
Sam Ikin 05:11
This is Matt Hey also known as Alright Hey. He describes himself as Australia’s biggest glamazon online.
Matt Hey 05:18
I have no perferred pronouns and I’m a digital creator, slash DJ, slash ex-drag queen slash, I’ve done it all doll, check the resume. My journey with body image has been a roller coaster ride as it is, for most people, no matter what kind of community you’re in, I was kind of like, taught from a young age that like, fat wasn’t okay. And so I spent the majority of my first 24 25 years of life, trying to lose weight, or trying to be a certain size or trying to be, you know, smashing myself in the gym, trying to eat healthy, or the rest of that sort of stuff. And then thankfully, I say, thankfully, but during the pandemic, which we weren’t, we aren’t thankful for, but in the pandemic, I kind of had a reality check where I kind of looked at my life and, and it seemed like everybody, no matter whether you were the average person or a celebrity, remember, all the celebrities were making those stupid videos like we’re all in this together, you know, and we’re all the same at the end of the day. Yeah, which, of course, was hilarious, because we were all like, please check your privilege. But in the same sense, I kind of felt that like, I felt like this is happening to the entire world and we all we are all in the same boat and at the end of the day, we all still have the same struggles. And no matter who you were, during that pandemic, like you kind of it kind of changed your life in one way or another. And the way that it changed mine is I really got to look inside myself in some ways and have a confronting conversation with myself around my body image. In earlier episodes, we’ve discussed how eating disorders and body image issues are over represented in the LGBTIQ+ community. Well, Matt Hey says that when it comes to Mardi Gras and other big events, the pressure can be ramped up even more. And people will, you know, go on a big shred or a big diet or whatever you’d like to call it for the month. It’s basically since Christmas for most people. Soon as Christmas/New Year’s over, you know, Mardi Gras lands around end of Feb start of March, they’ve got about two months to to transform their body. As I said earlier, I felt that pressure but I also believe in my opinion, it’s never a conscious pressure. It’s always been a subconscious pressure for me. So when I’m in that moment, feeling that in quotations, pressure, I am not consciously thinking of it. And so it’s not until I’ve removed myself from that situation and looked back and thought, oh, I was definitely pressured by everything. But it’s not like I was standing there in the club saying to myself, I need to be a certain size otherwise men won’t love me. I never said that. But it was just like an over overarching subconscious thought.
Allira Potter 08:14
People in the LGBTQIA+ community, they all have their unique pressures within their own community. I feel like 100% being a lesbian, I have this pressure to maybe dress and act a certain way. And I do feel like you know, in the lead up to Mardi Gras at the moment, I have a lot of gay friends that are shredding at the moment and I’m like, you don’t need to change your body to fit into this stereotypical, like look for Mardi Gras. Just show up for you. So I think yeah, I’m not the only one in this space.
Sam Ikin 08:45
The person we’re hearing from now is Allira Potter, and I’ll let her introduce herself.
Allira Potter 08:50
I’m a proud Yorta Yorta woman. I am a pretty multifaceted human. I’m an author, a podcaster. I do content creation on social media. You know what I’m even forgetting when I do like lots of things. I do lots of cool things. I guess if we’re talking about the journey itself, I feel like it probably started in high school I was really severely bullied for always being that larger kid, having dark skin, being indigenous, I was really bullied. And it wasn’t until I sort of left high school that I formed such thick skin and such resilience that I had to really sort of own who I was and be okay with my identity. And I guess in my 20s If you follow me on social media, you know that I was married really young, and I got divorced at 26. And that’s when I guess my journey got even bigger because I became single I started dating women, I realised that I was gay. I just really started to unpack who I was becoming and the person that I wanted to become as well too. And I think you know, self love and body image for me, it’s not this linear journey. There’s going to be good days for my body and there’s going to be bad days for my body.
Sam Ikin 10:07
Allira sees Mardi Gras as a great opportunity for her to express a side of herself that most people don’t see.
Allira Potter 10:14
So this is actually going to be my first ever Mardi Gras, which I’m, like really excited about. So it’s exciting because I can sort of wear something that maybe I would never wear. And I get to sort of step out of my comfort zone. And I know that I’m going to be in a safe space when I do wear what I want to wear.
Sam Ikin 10:34
What is it? What do you want to wear?
Allira Potter 10:35
I sent a picture to the designer who’s designing my outfit, and I was like, I literally just want to wear like a bra and like some cute shorts. And I want to be covered in like glitter and feathers. Like I want it like just really cool and out there. And she’s like, this is so far from what you would normally wear. And I was like yeah, because maybe sometimes I feel this pressure that I’m gonna get judged. And I just know that Mardi Gras is going to be that safe space for me to be like wear whatever you want to wear.
Jonti Ridley 11:02
There is an expectation in the queer community, particularly now with I find the commodification of queer aesthetics leaking into mainstream media that there is a standard to look queer enough.
Sam Ikin 11:13
Our next guest is Jonti Ridley, a non binary creator and model who is also super excited about Mardi Gras.
Jonti Ridley 11:20
I’m also neurodivergent, ADHD and autism because I’m an overachiever. And so far, a lot of my conversations I host on my own platform centred around sexual and mental health as well as being a disability advocate. It’s kind of interesting within the community, kind of basing that validity on your physical expression, because it kind of has the assumption that everyone has the freedom and the privilege to actually look and act, how they actually feel. That’s certainly not the case. Combined with a lot of biphobia within the community, instantly ostracizes quite feminine bisexuals because they don’t look gay enough. Or they don’t look queer enough out with their partners. And things like that, which I find really interesting because when you get to the nitty gritty of, okay, what do you think a queer woman looks like? It’s usually rooted in sexism. It’s usually rooted in misogyny, it’s usually rooted in homophobia. It’s rooted in these stereotypes that have been essentially curated for us by straight, cis people, that they have essentially curated the stereotypes in these pigeon boxes for us to fit in so we can be valid within their eyes, which is so interesting, that a very large facet of the queer community is kind of enforcing these standards that we didn’t even come up with because we don’t even like them. They’re not for us.
Sam Ikin 12:43
Johnny’s experience of Mardi Gras prep is as unique as it is for everyone. But they don’t personally feel the pressure to change their body.
Jonti Ridley 12:51
There is a pretty significant gender divide in this issue, particularly Mardi Gras, at least in my experience, when I speak to queer AFAB women about this, and I want to talk about their algorithms and what is your feed look like? And what is your phone actually regurgitating to you? What does that actually look like? Because I’m a big data nerd. I want to know the ins and outs of what’s happened and why. And speaking to my, you know, AFAB queer friends is that they seem completely removed from this bubble, at least in terms of Mardi Gras. Do they absolutely get slammed with, you know, pro eating disorder, pro diet culture stuff? Pretty consistently, pretty regularly, absolutely. As far as Mardi Gras targeting ads for this content, and it’s kind of like toxic behaviour, it does very much seem centred on AMAB gay men, which I find really interesting because as I said, it seems to be this continual perpetuation of trying to catch up on what straight people think gay people look like. And because in a lot of the media that has been casted by cis het, men, they’ve only really been projected this quite a narrow image of what a gay man can look like. And the second you go to Mardi Gras, you see all the colours of the rainbow. That’s the beauty of Mardi Gras is that we all look different. We’re all built different. We all express ourselves differently.
Jeff van de Zandt 14:14
I really hate it and most most gay men or queer people that I talked to also hate it. Like we all hate this, this feeling of having to look a certain way or, but I feel like a lot of it is still perpetuated by this community. I think there’s definitely less of it now. And again, I think being able to see lots of different shapes and sizes and being able to celebrate different shapes and sizes is really important, but I still feel like there is a there’s still a group of people in the community that idolise a particular type of body shape or physicality.
Sam Ikin 14:58
So this is Jeff van de Zandt he’s a he wears lots of hats. How would you describe yourself, Jeff?
Jeff van de Zandt 15:04
I guess people would call me a content creator. Although that doesn’t really feel supernatural to me, I would probably describe myself as a doofus.
Sam Ikin 15:14
He’s not a doofus. He’s an actor and theatre producer. And I guarantee that you’ve seen his Instagram content. It’s so popular and funny. And if you haven’t seen, there’s a link in the show notes, go check it out.
Jeff van de Zandt 15:27
I would compare us to a lot of the things that some women talk about in terms of media, images, and you know, all the photoshopping and having to have like, you know, six pack and massive, massive arms and shoulders and whatever, like, there’s this thing that like you kind of everyone is trying to look like the DNA magazine cover or the men’s health cover. But it’s so difficult, because that’s what a finish up for you that’s involved in that. And I think that there’s a lot of, I think as as gaming, there’s a lot of trying to achieve that. Because that’s what’s promoted to us.
Sam Ikin 16:07
Like Jeff kind of just said, Jonti also thinks that the idea that people need to comply with certain body ideals completely goes against the spirit of Mardi Gras.
Jonti Ridley 16:17
Realistically reinforcing to anyone that the way that they are right here, right now is wrong, isn’t healthy. I don’t think anything within let’s say, a five second fix of like, hey, I feel like tweezing my eyebrows today, I can do that overnight, because my eyebrows are gonna grow back. It’s not a long term, damaging lifestyle decision that I’m making, unfortunately, when we perpetuate these fad diet cultures, and these, you know, get skinny quick schemes and like these flat tummy tees is that they’re not a sustainable life change. They’re not for you to feel better inside and out, moving forward for the next six months to a year, it’s essentially designed to put your body to the absolute survival mode. So you can hack your system. If you have to go to that much work to trick your body into doing something the chances are, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Jeff van de Zandt 17:10
Mardi Gras prep diets or, or that kind of thing come from a place of hate, they come from a place of like, I hate myself, I hate the way that that looks, I got you know, all that kind of stuff. Whereas Mardi Gras is a celebration of love, celebration of pride, like it’s celebration of all of these positive things. And you’re doing all of this hate going into it just doesn’t, it’s so backward to me.
Sam Ikin 17:32
For Peter, who put his body on the line, literally to make sure Mardi Gras could become what it is today, the idea that people feel pressure to look a certain way just to take part is awful.
Peter Murphy 17:43
I hope it’s not sort of oppressive because it can be a lot of fun, of course, and that’s what people are really looking forward to with the Mardi Gras season. And this Sydney WorldPride is sort of going to be a super duper one. So, you know, I just hope people really, you know, don’t spend too much money. But I really enjoy doing whatever they do to sort of feel like they their very best for this occasion, and this this few weeks that are coming up. But as I said, you know, there’s no need to really feel you’ve got to do something you can’t do. Or it’s too hard.
Sam Ikin 18:20
I know we’re talking about Mardi Gras and the stories come from people in the LGBTIQ+ community, but the way that our guests cope with these societal pressures is relevant to almost all of us. So how do they? How do they cope with all of this stress and this pressure to look a certain way?
Matt Hey 18:37
You know Mardi Gras’s gay Christmas. I’m like, would I bust my gut trying to lose weight for Christmas Day, like the actual Christmas day? You know, I go, why would I do that? I think Easter I go, why would I do that? New Year’s Eve? Why would I do that? Why would I spent three months changing my body for and let’s be real the Mardi Gras day, because you know, they do it for the parade and the after party that that one night even though Mardi Gras and WorldPride will be like a three week thing. They all do it for the Mardi Gras parade. And I think to myself, that’s only like three hours of your life. You know, like, like, it’s a long time of preparation for a one night thing and there’s no other day of the year that I feel like we would do that for so why are we doing it for Mardi Gras.
Jeff van de Zandt 19:30
Be kind to others because then you don’t know what journey that they’re on. Be kind to others but also be kind to yourself like if you’re if you’re pushing yourself really hard. I think being kind is the thing that that is the answer to all of those things like be kind to yourself like you know, be kind to your body. Don’t put your body through so much stress of of starving it and doing all this stuff to it like yeah, be kind, be kind, be kind.
Jonti Ridley 19:55
If you wouldn’t be happy with your best mate, doing this crash diet, don’t touch it. Because you need to be your own best friend, you were the only one who can look after your own consciousness, you’re the only one who knows how you’re feeling 100% of the time, and that’s your piece to protect. So if you need to step into that third party and kind of humanise that voice that drive, and be your own best friend, just be like, Babe, this, isn’t it, this isn’t good. You couldn’t hypothetically adapt this into your lifestyle now for a long term change without jeopardising your emotional health, your mental health, your sexual health, stay away, don’t do it. It’s not designed for you, it’s not designed to bring you joy. And it’s not going to take you where you think it’s going to, it’s just going to feed the rabbit hole that someone else has already started digging.
Peter Murphy 20:44
Overall, you know, the parade, the whole packaging of it. And the messaging is in trying to be extremely positive, and, you know, really strongly affirming of the LGBT community and include everybody, and so disabled people, really old people, really young people, the people who who don’t fit these super glamorous images, because of different, you know, the time of their life or different things I’ve experienced. So me personally, cause I’m a 78er, we, at the start of the parade, we, you know, really dressed down except for a few. And we addressed a very simple because it’s a long walk up Oxford Street and down Flinders Street, and it can be really hot. And it’s, it’s good to just to be simple. That’s how I feel about it myself. So I’m not into costuming and stuff. And also, those people who don’t have a lot of money for that, you know, I can feel that some would feel really, you know, they’d like to be in the glamour, but they can’t afford it. And so there’s an exclusion happening more like along class lines. Yeah. So I was worried for that, too. You know, and I know, I’m deliberately in a sense, you know, down, dressed down. So that day, I’m one of the crowd, and you don’t have to be, you know, a supermodel to be accepted and loved in this set and celebrated in this, this event.
Allira Potter 22:11
People should stop, pause and ground themselves. Because I think we all live such busy lives, that we’re not actually checking in with ourselves and noticing how amazing we are as individuals and the things that we are going through. So I think stop, pause, reflect, to ground yourself, and start to honour yourself a little bit more than just be like, this is my vessel and it is amazing. And with the lead up to these types of events, try not to place pressure on yourself to do all these crazy things to look a certain way because you don’t need to.
Sam Ikin 22:41
Oh, that’s pretty good advice. Now, I just want to follow up, you said ground yourself. What does that mean? How and how do you do that?
Allira Potter 22:48
Yeah, grounding yourself can be so simple. It could just be getting out in your backyard and putting your feet in nature and just taking a couple of deep breaths. This morning, I just sat on my yoga mat and I took a couple of nice deep breaths to just be present within my body could be as simple also, like for ocean swims every now and then because it’s like a shock to the system, especially if it’s cold to wake me up. So there’s sort of ways to ground yourself.
Sam Ikin 23:15
I love it. I love a good ocean swim. And I know, sorry, I know I said that was my last question but I’ve got one more for you. So as a Yorta Yorta woman, are there any traditional values or practices that you think have helped you?
Allira Potter 23:29
Well, definitely the grounding? Definitely. I feel like my friends don’t understand when I say I need a moment to go and ground myself because that’s what First Nations people do. We get back on country or we get out in nature to actually connect with ourselves spiritually and make ourselves feel more aligned. So that’s one way that I’ve, I guess I’m constantly doing that all my elders did and are still doing so that’s yeah, one of the ways where I just, I don’t know, keep content.
Sam Ikin 23:57
Every body deserves to be celebrated with love and pride, especially yours. This Mardi Gras Butterfly is partnering with Instagram to provide support and resources. They want to encourage help seeking and spread awareness that your body and appearance does not define your worth. There’s a link in the show notes to Butterfly’s Body Pride resource hub, and I encourage you to go check it out. If you need support right now and you want to talk to someone called the National Helpline at 1 800 33 46 73, that’s 1 800 ED HOPE. You can also chat email@example.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Butterfly: Let’s Talk is produced for butterfly foundation by Ikin Media. It’s hosted, edited and produced by me Sam Ikin. Our executive producer is Camilla Becket. Lived experience support comes from the very talented Kate Mulray, and if you could tell us a little favour and leave us a five star rating and perhaps a little bit of a positive review we would be eternally grateful. I’m Sam Ikin. Thank you so much for your company.