Bare Naked: Gay Men and Body Image is a six-part YouTube series produced by Pink Triangle Press ( PTP )a Canadian LGBT media organizationin conjunction with its online website Daily Xtra.
Inspired by Egale ( Canada's Human Rights Trust ) and its m.bodiment campaign and series about body image, PTP let four men bare their souls and parts of their bodies on camera. Windy City Times spoke with PTP supervising producer Kevin O'Keefe ( who also produced the series ) about body image, eating disorders and his inspiration for Bare Naked.
Windy City Times: Egale created the m.bodiment campaign. It has produced a video series whose goal it is to have conversations with gay, bi, trans and queer men discussing their body image. Pink Triangle Press produced the YouTube series "Bare Naked: Gay Men and Body Image" that was inspired by the Egale video series. What inspired your show?
Kevin O'Keefe: I saw the teaser video for the m.bodiment series and I really liked the message and I thought it was really important and relevant and I wanted to do a short story on this campaign. We talked to Egale and they gave us a list of a bunch of the guys who had participated in the series. We had a chat with them about why they did it and how their body image has affected their lives.
What I quickly discovered was that there was a lot of material here from dating to relationships, sex and the way they view their bodies. It impacted so many aspects of their lives. So we decided to use the Egale m.bodiment series as a jumping off point to explore all the different ways gay men describe their bodies and how it impacts their lives.
WCT: In the gay community, is there a competitiveness or more of a support system in terms of body image?
KO: In terms of the gay community, I think that there is both. I think what we worked really hard to do in the series is the latter. I was talking to people that had worked on our series and had worked on other series and they felt that there is that tendency to one-up each other and say, "I'm better looking, more attractive, more muscular." I think it's a big problem in the gay community.
WCT: What was the selection process like?
KO: We were pretty conscious in the men that we selected and we really strategically chose people who we felt would be more supportive of each other.
WCT: There is a stereotype in the gay community about achieving body perfection. Did any of the guys talk about eating disorders or what they have gone through to achieve that perfection?
KO: Rashad [Richards] had an eating disorder that he was quite open about. He talked about being in a long-term relationship with somebody who accepts him for who he is. He doesn't feel like he has to do a lot to conform to this ideal gay body.
WCT: Did you grow up with any body-image issues and could you see yourself doing a series like the m.bodiment one?
KO: Will I take all my clothes off? I probably wouldn't be able to do it. I was 6'2" when I was 12 years old and I was always the skinny tall one and I was very self-conscious. You want to fit in and blend in, and I guess that my body image was just being super tall. I love it now.
WCT: The men get naked in the m.bodiment series, but in Bare Naked: Gay Men and Body Image, everybody is wearing towels on camera. Did you wrestle with the idea of how naked you wanted the men to get?
KO: The towels I struggled with because I felt the message was so important and I wanted to do a more PG version. I love the Egale series and I think it's really powerful and even in our first episode that we posted, we use clips from it. But I had to limit that on YouTube and put it as an age restriction so that every time you log on to it you have to click to get through to it. I know that's an obstacle for people because it's not safe to view at work or you've go to be careful if you're viewing it on public transit. So I know it just limits the message getting out there.
WCT: Did any of the guys worry about how their participation might affect their careers?
KO: No, they didn't and I don't know if it's an age thing or whatever. They're quite young and my experience working with younger guys is that their definition of privacy is a little different. Caiden [Chih] is an engineer and he works all day with straight engineers and he has a girlfriend and they want to have a threesome one day.
WCT: The men are very brave.
KO: I think the guys see it as a greater good here and if they can, they want to use their experience to help other people overcome. I think they have all experienced different levels of trauma because of how they looked, their body and being gay. I guess they see it as trying to get some meaning into the suffering that they went through.
Bare Naked: Gay Men and Body Image airs Thursdays on Daily Xtra's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/watch. For more on Egale's m.bodiment campaign go to mbodiment.ca/ .