The model and fitness trainer, Caleb Whitehorn, recently took to Instagram to share with his over 48, 000 followers a bias that he’s endured because of his chosen profession.
“I’ve always been called gay and weird for wanting to be a model,” he says in a caption of a post of two pictures where he is clad in just green briefs. “I don’t know what that has to do with sexuality. Honestly, one thing I did realize is that it hurt my feelings a lot. At times, it still does. Bottom line, it shouldn’t be an insult. I’m not against gay people nor am I gay.”
He goes on to insist that “everyone deserves equality and rights as a human”, asking for his followers not to “judge people” and to “just live.”
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LGBTQ 🏳️🌈 Post. READ I’ve always been called gay and weird for wanting to be a model. I don’t know what that has to do with sexuality. Honestly. 🙏🏾One thing I did realize is that it hurt my feelings a lot. At times still does. 👏🏾Bottom line it shouldn’t be an insult , I’m not against Gay people nor am I Gay. But everyone deserves equality and rights as a human. I may not be Gay but I have friends and family that are and I love them to death and they are some of the nicest people. Don’t judge people. Just live 🤟🏾 📷: @amanlexidor
Some months ago, someone had brought to my attention where another Instagram model, Royal Georges, had shared on his Instagram story an admonishment for gay men. In the story update, he’d said something about how he’s “not gay, not even bicurious”, and had asked the men who frequently storm his inbox to stop. He’d gone on to say that simply because he takes his shirt off on Instagram doesn’t mean he’s into guys.
These posts beggar the question why it is a widely held belief that men who go into modeling are gay. And as such, a target for the roving eye of the men who have power in the fashion industry.
In 2018, former male model, Barrett Pall spoke to The Advocate, sharing how men who come into the modeling industry are preyed on by photographers. Pall alleged that he was sexually assaulted by photographer Rick Day when he was new in the business as a teenager. He’d said that Day invited him to his studio and told him a series of strange impositions were entirely normal, which would lead to unwanted sexual acts he felt trapped in.
The New York Times had earlier reported on the alleged abuse of power by photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, both said to have had a decades-long history of sexual harassment of models. Fifteen male models shared their stories with the newspaper, describing inappropriate sexual behaviour. Pressure for unnecessary nudity, they claimed, was an open secret within fashion circles.
And this isn’t even a thing that exists in just the Western fashion industry. Even here in Nigeria, the news made the rounds a few years ago of a young guy (I forget his name) who was targeted and preyed on by fashion bosses simply because he was a model. Granted, he was gay, but these men who went after him did so simply because he was a model, and not because he had had any exposure to them in the gay hookup scene. At some point, he opened up in a series of cryptic Facebook posts that he was raped by one of these men.
And we know this: that there is a culture of homo-sexualizing any man who is good looking and takes off his clothes as a profession. It goes beyond male models to fitness trainers. We all know of that guy on social media who frequently updates shirtless photos of himself flexing his muscles or working out. We know that Facebook post where he decries the gay community for hounding him in his inbox with propositions of sex. The post is often tasteless and homophobic, but it also begs the question why gay men take it for granted that any man who likes to take his shirt off for a living or show his body off on social media is gay.
Of course, as a friend of mine would say: “Them no dey write homo for face” – which is a way of arguing that gay men are attracted to men, and will always go for men who they like. And if that preference runs along the lines of men who show off beautiful bodies on social media or for a living, then it is okay.
And that’s alright. But I have been in conversations where gay men have taken one look at a Facebook hottie’s timeline and seen the shirtless professionally-taken photos of him – and went, “Oh, he’s into guys for sure.” And this prompts an audacious sliding into the DM, where they start off from a point of presumption that the guy whose online space they’ve breached is gay. And sometimes, when he objects and says no, the presumption becomes that he is hiding and being internally homophobic.
So, why – what is it about the profession of modeling or fitness training or really just being scantily clad on social media makes the gay community assume that the men who do these things just must be gay?