One size fits all: It may be true for T-shirts, but it’s false when it comes to attraction.
Minneapolis resident Justin Levy came to this conclusion last month while having a conversation with Los Angeles-based writer Mathew Rodriguez on Twitter.
“What is it about abs/muscles/general ripped physiques that makes you want to sleep with someone?" Rodriguez asked in a tweet. "What does the shape of someone's stomach muscle tell you about penetrating/being penetrated by them?”
Levy shared that there’s something about being with men who have bodies he himself wished he had, or the body he’s been told to wish he had.
“As someone who is thicc/soft, I’ve really only been with thin, semi-muscular guys. Which, upon critiquing, is fucked up and part of self work,” Levy responded. “Why should bodies like mine take work to desire?”
“Wow I want to print out this tweet,” responded Rodriguez in all caps.
Rather than printing it out, Levy suggested they put it on a T-shirt. He was half-kidding, but when Rodriguez and Levy discussed the idea further, they decided to go for it. They picked out the colors, light pink and a deep gold, and Levy contacted Minnesota-born designer Kyle Letendre to do the lettering.
Letendre suggested that they sell the shirts on Cotton Bureau, a T-shirt marketplace for designers, communities, and causes.
So what does “bodies like mine” mean?
“It depends on the shirt-wearer,” says Levy. “Something that I really cared about was it being as inclusive as possible. For me, what that means is people living in their own truths. Every person has probably struggled with something they don’t like about their body and wondered if someone would ever find it attractive or they would ever find themselves attractive.”
Levy came out when he was 15. It was a time in his life when it was hard to love himself. If someone with a culturally-dubbed “desirable” body was attracted to him, he felt that made his own body more worthy. His thought process was, “Look, they want to be with me and they look like that and I look like this.”
At the same time, he assumed a body like his required “work” to love. “My experience as a gay man – and again this is my experience and I don’t like to generalize – there’s a lot of critiquing about bodies. There’s a lot of value placed on your body in a lot of different ways,” he says.
Now 28, Levy is still working daily to accept his body exactly as it is. “I think that that’s unfortunately pretty common. In my own community, the conversations around body positivity – and about loving yourself in that moment, in that day, rather than an ideal of what you would like it to be – is something I hear folks talking about more and more,” he says. “I’ve worked really hard to grow more confident in that, and this shirt is a reminder to challenge whenever those feelings come up.”
Levy plans on wearing his “bodies like mine” shirt to Pride, and hopes it serves as a conversation starter. He believes body acceptance and body positivity are topics that merit more discussion.
“Like a lot of things, when we share our experiences, especially when we get vulnerable with other people, it creates more bonds and more community building and more connecting threads with folks,” he says. “I hope that the shirt inspires people to be like, ‘No, I look good as I am right now. This is great!’ That’s my hope. It’s not too complex.”
The “bodies like mine” shirt will be available online through February 27. Proceeds will benefit the Trevor Project, a program providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ+ youth. Shirts on the site are available for purchase for only two weeks and are made in the U.S.
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