You are here
Home > Human Fattening > How a Halifax student’s research informed a comic book about queer men’s body image

How a Halifax student’s research informed a comic book about queer men’s body image

HALIFAX—Phillip Joy vividly remembers the day this past February when he received the final copies of art for a comic book he co-developed.

Rainbow Reflections: Body Image Comics for Queer Men isn’t just any comic book. It’s a labour of love for the Dalhousie University PhD student whose research focuses on how culture shapes the eating practices and body images of queer men.

“I remember one of my (PhD research) participants who said gay men have the same pressures as women to be thin, but then they also have the added pressure to be built with muscles,” Joy said.

“So not only do you have to have zero per cent body fat, but you also have to be stacked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s what he compared it to.”

Joy, a registered dietitian who also proudly identifies as queer, was one of three researchers who spent the last year developing the comic book. Roughly 160 to 170 pages in length, it features work by 40 artists from seven countries, including Canada, the U.S., France, England, Denmark, Greece and Australia.

Three of the Canadian artists are from Halifax.

Joy collaborated with fellow Dalhousie University student Matthew Lee from the Faculty of Medicine and Stephanie Gauvin, a Queen’s University student. All three were recipients of a 2018 Hacking the Knowledge Gap grant through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The funds are intended for projects that present research in an accessible way.

Last year’s CIHR grant focus was on LGBTQ health. The trio each received $25,000, which they pooled together to create their comic book project focusing on queer men and body image.

“I’ve struggled with these issues myself, too, so it’s a personal topic for me,” Joy said.

Joy said academic literature suggests comics are a useful conduit for presenting health research, so the team felt it was the best approach to help bring their research subject matter into focus.

The comic book was divided into sections focusing on subjects ranging from masculinity to body image issues faced by trans men. The comic strips represent a broad age range, and while most of the artists identified as men, there were a few women.

Joy said the artists who identified as queer men were able to draw on their own personal experiences for several of the strips featured in the comic.

Besides individual story strips, the comic book is interspersed with brightly illustrated pages featuring tidbits of health information relevant to queer men accompanied by academic citations.

“The Institute of Medicine (2010) reports that up to 1 in 4 lesbian, gay, bisexual youth use purging, fasting, and diet pills to lose weight. These patterns of eating have been linked to many health problems,” notes an item on one page.

“A Canadian article finds higher levels of body dissatisfaction within gay men and suggests that they may be at greater risk for eating disorders than the general population,” states another.

Joy said his own PhD research dovetails nicely with the comic book, and one of the things he hopes readers learn is that body image issues impact everyone.

“It affects even people who kind of embody that stereotype of beefy, muscular,” he said. “These guys are talking about the extreme pressures that they’re under to either get these types of bodies or maintain these bodies, because once you have them you still have to maintain them.”

One comic strip in the soon-to-be-released comic book "Rainbow Reflections: Body Image Comics for Queer Men" is based on some of Dalhousie University student Phillip Joy's PhD research. Halifax artist James Neish was one of 40 artists from seven countries who contributed to the comic book.

Through his research and producing the comic book, queer men revealed to Joy the challenges of not being able to talk about their feelings or their concerns around body image, citing the need to always appear “strong physically and emotionally.”

“This is not something guys talk about. It does make us feel lonely, it does give us stress and anxiety and can lead to eating disorders,” he said.

One of the ways to combat the problem is by fostering conversations with health professionals as well as among queer men themselves, and that’s what Joy hopes the comic book will do.

“We want to give people some resources if they’re struggling with these issues,” he said. “We need to discuss it and make people aware of the pressure and about disrupting gender norms and disrupting dominant ideas about masculinity that prevent people from talking about things like why does a man have to have a six-pack or biceps that are bulging?”

The comic book is being published by Canadian-based Ad Astra Comix, which specializes in comics with social justice themes. Joy said his team used some of their funding to ensure 500 copies are sent to LGBTQ health centres across Canada.

Rainbow Reflections: Body Image Comics for Queer Men will have its official launch Sept. 13 at the Halifax Central Library. It’s possible to preorder online, and copies are expected to be available at the Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival, happening Aug. 17-18.

Yvette d’Entremont is a Halifax-based reporter focusing on health. Follow her on Twitter: @ydentremont

Source link

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.