Fitting a mold not designed for me

Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs journeyman, describes his experiences and body dysmorphia in a commentary, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 16, 2021. From his perspective, the gay community hyperfocuses on body types casting labels to categorize the shapes and sizes. Whether you are skinny, a twink, hairy, stocky or a bear, the pressure to fit into a certain mold can cause us to feel inadequate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs journeyman, describes his experiences and body dysmorphia in a commentary, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 16, 2021. From his perspective, the gay community hyperfocuses on body types casting labels to categorize the shapes and sizes. Whether you are skinny, a twink, hairy, stocky or a bear, the pressure to fit into a certain mold can cause us to feel inadequate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Fitting a mold not designed for me

by Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- After intense 60-minute gym workouts, I typically return to my dorm room to judge myself. Grabbing at what little fat lingers on my stomach, overanalyzing if I’ll ever look good enough. The thought of being physically vulnerable quickly forces me to put a shirt on.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, Wow! I look great! for some people that day never comes, especially in the LGBT community.

The mixture of growing up overweight and in the closet into my 20’s, I find myself falling into the category of someone who struggles with body dysmorphia. Often times opting to keep my shirt on at the pool even though I looked similar to most people there.

In my experience, the gay community hyperfocuses on body types casting labels to categorize the shapes and sizes. Whether you are skinny, a twink, hairy, stocky or a bear, the pressure to fit into a certain mold can cause us to feel inadequate.

Being judged by first glances leads someone to care more about the outer appearance rather than their own character. Striving for something unattainable we forget to love ourselves in the process. But then why should going to the gym everyday be an issue when we are taught to be ‘fit to fight? ‘

As a gay male, I tend to view myself in a negative light. I grew up hiding, being ashamed, wondering, “Why me?”

I often felt my sexuality was on display and the need to inform others of the gender I am attracted to so I can prevent offensive gestures.

I find that some topics, especially within our Air Force, are taboo or not discussed. The issue is that so many things thrive in the dark, simply shining light on an issue is not enough to fix it, but it’s a start.

It’s been 10 years since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As a member of the LGBT community, I love to see our fighting force making strides towards diversity and inclusion.

The feeling of fitting in, or acceptance, was not something obtained until I arrived at my first duty station and ‘came out’ to my first supervisor. To my surprise, I was met with an overwhelming amount of love and acceptance.

With mental health, the stigma is still the same, seek help for a problem and face consequences, whether the case requires that kind of attention or not. Members of the LGBT community often feel the need to fix things alone. I spent 21 years ‘in the closet’ of a religious family and it made it very difficult to express myself freely.

In my time of need, I got to the point where I reached out for help from my kin, unfortunately, I was met with distain and disapproval and caused an emotional spiral in my life.

Thankfully, my supervisor caught my hand and showed me the advantages and support of my Air Force family.

No matter what you are facing in life, there is an Air Force family there to help you. I implore you to find them.

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