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Iwake up in the morn­ing and check Grindr like I would a news­pa­per. It’s a gay hook-up site heav­ily pop­u­lated by white men. This inevitably bores me, be­cause I have jus­ti­fied anx­i­eties about dat­ing across race. Peo­ple who have killed mil­lions of black peo­ple through­out his­tory could well har­bour fetishes of se­duc­ing black boys and killing them af­ter­wards. This is why, de­spite us­ing an app full of white peo­ple, I have never dated one. I am a buff gay man and my stats are 1.76m, 75kg, 18.2cm. I would not fail the “no fats or femmes” test. I go to gym six times a week and eat five times a day to main­tain a mus­cu­lar physique.

This, of course, is dif­fi­cult and un­sus­tain­able for many gay men, and so they look for eas­ier ap­proaches to make sure they are com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket. They take il­le­gal steroids.

If you want to get a broad chest, big calves and look like a walk­ing hook-up, you would con­sider cheap an­abolic steroids such as Di­an­abol at R200. I know more about steroids than I knew about the eco­nom­ics exam I wrote last month. I am one of the thou­sands of gay men world­wide in­ter­ested in steroids.

In 2002, a study by UK re­searchers con­cluded that one in seven gay men who at­tended Lon­don gyms ad­mit­ted to us­ing steroids, and an­other study by the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics looked at teenagers who iden­ti­fied as gay or bi­sex­ual. They were five times more likely to be on an­abolic steroids than straight teens.

Th­ese sta­tis­tics shouldn’t sur­prise us. They are a re­sponse to an am­pli­fi­ca­tion of hy­per­mas­culin­ity and pa­tri­archy in our so­ci­ety. Men who sleep with men grow up not be­ing val­i­dated in their man­hood. This is ev­i­dent in how artists Chris Brown and 50 Cent still use “gay” as an in­sult to de­mean some­one for be­ing less of a man. Queer men want to com­pen­sate for their per­ceived de­fi­ciency in man­hood as a re­sult of ho­mo­pho­bia.

There’s more to it than that, of course. In the me­dia, gays are al­most al­ways por­trayed as mus­cu­lar, whether in mag­a­zines like Gay Pages that ap­pro­pri­ate the la­bel “gay” and make it ex­clu­sively white, cis­gen­der and buff, or in a TV se­ries like Noah’s Arc, where black and Latino gay men look like they go to the gym for a liv­ing. The sub­tle mes­sage that re­spectable gays must be mus­cu­lar is also vis­i­ble in vir­tu­ally ev­ery porn movie I have mas­tur­bated over.

It is time so­ci­ety re­viewed its po­si­tion on drug use. The crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of drugs has not had any sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on con­trol­ling drug use. In­stead, what the law has done is to en­sure peo­ple can­not seek med­i­cal ad­vice about bad habits. It per­pet­u­ates an un­healthy cul­ture in the black mar­ket, where peo­ple in­ject un­reg­u­lated dosages of un­ap­proved drugs. The steroid route is not a healthy op­tion. There are se­vere risks: kid­ney fail­ure, im­po­tence and death, among many other pos­si­bil­i­ties. The body of a god you worked hard for ends up be­ing a fast tra­jec­tory to your death – and a heavy, ele­phant-like cof­fin is hard to carry. Does this mean you can­not look like your Man Crush Mon­day? No!

What works for me, es­pe­cially com­ing from a town­ship with­out a gym, has been run­ning and med­i­ta­tion. It may seem strange to rec­om­mend med­i­ta­tion, but it’s not. Your men­tal state in­flu­ences how you push your body to its limit. Med­i­ta­tion does not need to be Deepak Cho­pra style, where you sit in the lotus po­si­tion wait­ing for the ar­changel Me­ta­tron, but a com­mit­ment to­wards en­sur­ing your mind is at peace and the body is ready for work. Many peo­ple who have ac­cess to gym usu­ally drop out af­ter Jan­uary and have to pay monthly sub­scrip­tions for a year. That is a waste be­cause they think it is all about the body – but at­ti­tude is ev­ery­thing.

The se­cond com­mand­ment of gym is a healthy eat­ing plan. Many peo­ple as­sume it is ex­pen­sive and un­sus­tain­able to eat well, but I get my monthly fruits and veg­eta­bles for less than R500 in down­town Joburg. I am able to blend my fruits and make ex­cit­ing smooth­ies that boost my en­ergy lev­els when I’m study­ing.

You need to un­der­stand that a healthy body is not nec­es­sar­ily one that looks mus­cu­lar. Your life goal should be to live longer and to at least see Bey­oncé live be­fore you die. Bhengu is study­ing eco­nom­ics and is an

in­de­pen­dent re­searcher at Wits. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @fistvoices

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