When I first starting going to gay bars in my 20's, I was amazed at the physiques on the men I saw around me. Many of them were built like WWE wrestlers, with chiseled abs, V-shaped torsos and bulging biceps. Even though I had been working out since I was in high school, my frail body paled in comparison to these Adonises. I upped the weights and starting adding protein shakes to my workout routine and found my body transforming... from 150... to 155 pounds! After a few years, I chalked my lack of progress up to genes and told myself my body just wasn't built to gain mass like these studs who were giving me body dysmorphic disorder like I was some 15-year-old girl. Then, about ten years later, I finally realized: They're all on 'roids!
How did I figure this out? By asking them. Working in nightlife, I meet a lot of gogo boys and porn stars at clubs. Since they're in the service industry, most of them are easy to approach and rather open about how they've achieved their builds. If you're not the type to walk up to an uber-masculine dude and ask if they're on 'roids, there are other ways to find out. Whether it's their sumptuous purple/blue skin, their brail-like acne-covered backs or their distended bellies which have grown because their organs are expanding along with their triceps, you can always tell when someone is on steroids.
So why do I care? Well, mainly because many of my friends have wound up in the hospital from the weakened hearts and kidney issues that go hand-in-hand with steroid abuse. Another reason I care is because when I was 19, a massively-framed friend of mine died from a heart attack at 25. It saddens me that attractive men can be so insecure that they're willing to put their life at risk in order to achieve a more muscular frame. Countless acquaintances of mine have had near-death experiences in their 30s, only to start posting on Facebook about how they need to make lifestyle changes when they thankfully pull through. Interestingly, whatever changes they make generally have their bodies leaning down over the course of the next year.
The other issue I have with men who take steroids is that it sets up unachievable goals for other guys who feel they need to attain these physiques in order to be popular, fit in or get laid. It creates a vicious cycle where insecure men abuse steroids to feel better about themselves, only to have other insecure men using steroids to keep up with them. The irony of this is they all strut about like the cock of the walk at bars and clubs, leaving no indication that deep inside, they're unhappy.
Me, 20 years later...still weighing 155 pounds!
It's a known fact the pressure to look good in the gay community is high. Sure, this can be true if you let it be, but in the past few years, I've found increasing acceptance and desirability for all body types. Nowadays, everybody loves bears, twinks and guys with Dad Bod. It's not just about idolizing guys with massive frames anymore. But still, steroid abuse is prevalent, and based on pictures of guys I follow on Instagram, growing faster than your traps after that first syringe of Anodrol.
I asked my friend, a personal trainer, why he felt the need to start using steroids. He told me, "People choose trainers based on how they look, and after I did my first cycle, my client based exploded. Now, I have to maintain this frame because my livelihood depends on it." He added, "I'm also able to sleep with a whole level of men I never did before, which is a major bonus."
An attractive 47-year-old friend of mine, had a similar story: "I've always felt insecure about my body, and doing steroids makes me feel better about myself and opens the door for me to hook up with super-hot guys who wouldn't normally look at me." Although he had a bad experience doing steroids in his 30s which led him to need gynecomastia surgery, he now believes he "does it right" and will not suffer any consequences. The funny thing is, I liked his body better when he weighed 180, not 220. And even though I tell him this, he doesn't believe it.
It upsets me that so many ridiculously attractive gay men feel the need to have super-built bodies in order to feel good about themselves. And although I'm distraught every time I see a friend suffering a health setback from abusing steroids, I hope more and more people start seeing this pattern and recognize the absurdity of putting their life in jeopardy just to have a jacked body.
If you'd like to find out more about the side effects of steroids, Muscle & Strength has a great article on it: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/steroids-and-their-harmful-side-effects.html
Greg Scarnici is the author of the upcoming book, "I Hope My Mother Doesn't Read This." Connect with him and his social networks on http://www.gregscarnici.com