It’s no secret that society upholds specific body standards, and as much as we may hate to admit it, social media often makes things worse. While many internet users and creators have worked to uplift different body types, it’s difficult not to internalise unrealistic beauty standards as filtered content continues to flood our feeds.
While Gen Z is swinging the pendulum in the right direction when it comes to body positivity, we still have a way to go. Minority groups continue to suffer disproportionately from body-related anxieties. And the LGBTQIA+ community is one such example.
Recent polling published by The Butterfly Foundation – an Australian-based charity providing support services for those suffering from body image issues – reveals that most LGBTQIA-identifying people feel some sort of stress regarding their appearance. Almost two-thirds of gay men, for example, think there are certain physical expectations within the queer community, with 53% of this demographic believing they need to conform to hypermasculine body ideals. Meanwhile, three-quarters of trans and gender non-conforming folk feel they experience heightened body-image anxiety compared to other groups in the LGBTQIA+ community.
It’s hardly surprising that pressures surrounding body image are experienced differently across the queer community. But there is at least one universal feeling among LGBTQIA+ individuals: pride-related events like Mardi Gras and WorldPride tend to heighten body anxiety. Over half of the gay, queer, and lesbian community have experienced stress in the lead-up to these events, where around one-third of LGBTQIA+ people have engaged in disordered eating behaviour in preparation.
Aiming to put a stop to the “Mardi Gras Shred,” the Butterfly Foundation, alongside Instagram, has launched the #BodyPride campaign. Bringing on board four queer Aussie influencers – Jonti Ridley (better known online as @_toughboy), Allira Potter, Matt Hey, and Jeff van de Zandt – Body Pride appeals to all.
Centennial Beauty sat down with Jonti to get the rundown on the campaign, their involvement, and how they have coped with body image issues in the past.
So, first things first – what exactly is Body Pride?
The campaign is all about supporting the LGBTQIA+ community by making social media a positive, healthy, and safe space during Sydney WorldPride this month. That said, Body Pride celebrates diversity and inclusion across queer spaces “no matter your size, shape, or identity.”
To do this, the Butterfly Foundation has created “a resource hub on their website, which is essentially specialised care and research on how eating disorders and body image issues directly affect the queer community,” Jonti explains.
Getting involved with Body Pride “a little on the last-minute side,” Jonti tells us that the whole thing felt very “serendipitous.”
“I had made a post talking about wanting to go to Pride and didn’t really think much of it,” they say. “I just thought I’d put a call out to the universe, and the next thing I knew, I was on a three-way call with Butterfly, and we were, you know, getting the campaign rolling.”
Having lived abroad throughout their childhood and ending up in not the most “LGBTQIA+ friendly places,” Jonti jumped at the opportunity to help create a supportive space for people grappling with their queerness – something they didn’t necessarily have growing up.
“The laws on identity and gender politics are very binary, so growing up around that very rigid structure was kind of interesting …because I was very aware of being queer pretty early on,” they share. “I was fortunate enough to have that sense of clarity, but I wasn’t really in an environment where it was safe to express that part of myself.”
For Jonti, the campaign’s focus on body image is also very close to heart. At around the age of 10, they became “overly concerned with what [their] physical body looked like,” which soon led to negative body image and disordered eating. And now, they have come full circle. As Jonti explains, “The Butterfly Foundation was the only resource hub I could find at the time that was approaching eating disorders and body image issues with the level of compassion it requires.”
But Jonti didn’t just value how the foundation addressed these types of issues. They also found comfort in the vast array of resources provided. And by focusing on the LGBTQIA+ community, this is something that the Body Pride campaign expands on.
“[The Butterfly Foundation] had the numbers to call if you wanted to take it further and had annotated papers with citations. And as someone who’s neurodivergent, someone who is autistic, I needed that data to understand what was going on in my brain,” Jonti tells us. “It’s kind of an honour to be able to help lend a voice to a resource that I was so dependent on.”
With this being Jonti’s first Pride, they are definitely taking advantage of the moment. From attending Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade to working on the Body Pride campaign, Jonti has made sure that this is a week of celebration, inclusivity, and activism. And while it may be a time of heightened body-related stress for many, Jonti hopes others can follow in stride.
“Regardless of where you are in your journey, you know, Mardi Gras is the opportunity for all of us to come together, regardless of our experiences and celebrate the thing that unites us,” they say. “Remember why you’re there, and that’s to have a good time, and that’s irrelevant of how you look, it’s how you feel. So, take care of yourself and protect that the best you can.”