Concept + Photography: Joshua M. Jenkins
Editor's note: Throughout my adolescence, tiptoeing around racial slurs and dodging homophobic jabs became as typical as a morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. My body-type, however, always slim and lean, was never the subject of much criticism. Well, an occasional, "boy, eat something!" was sometimes muttered, but our society's beauty standards still held me at a higher standard than someone who was, for example, overweight. (Big ladies run in my family, so I learned to respect all body shapes and sizes at a young age.) Once I made it to high school and puberty kicked me in the face, my chest seemed more busty and my areolas larger than my peers'. I can't recall who or when someone first exclaimed "pepperoni nipples" to me, but once was enough. I started wearing multiple extra-small tank tops to flatten my "man boobs", and did so for a few years until college. To my surprise, I learned later that a friend of mine at the time, another bi-racial (and closeted hOmOsExUaL with whom I first-ever experimented sexually) also bound his chest in a similar manner.
In 2015, long after my Roberta from "Now and Then" moment, a stranger from New York, Ryan, and I found each other on Instagram through mutual followers. It was around this time that an older gentleman exclaimed "holy areoly" at me as I walked merrily and shirtless down the piping-hot street during Chicago Pride. About a month later, my new friend Ryan posted a photo of himself at Coney Island Beach with his shirt off. A random sixteen year old boy spoke up, commenting that his [areolas] look similar and asked Ryan if he considered surgery. Ryan responded:
"Honestly, I know you are young and worried about what others might think about your body but when you grow older you realize those opinions don't matter. What matter[s] is that you are happy and confident with yourself...I love my pecs/manboobs and get a lot of positive attention from them."
In a stroke (of the cock) of the universe, Ryan and I found each other in New Orleans during Southern Decadence this past week. After meeting up at Hotel Catahoula for a queer/trans+poc event called "Pussy Pop", we ventured deeper into downtown to snap a few photos. Ryan's story that follows was written for The Set Standard, then an unnamed concept, in 2016 and finally makes its debut here. --- Joshua M. Jenkins
Story: Ryan P. Price
Adjusting to my body was a big issue for me when I was growing up. I played soccer in my adolescent years until I was about 13. At 14, I decided to stop playing soccer and that eventually led to me gaining weight and becoming a chubby teenager. During that same time, I was dealing with discovering my sexuality, as well as all the other social issues you face when you're a teenager in middle/high school.
In 6th grade, I started developing "man boobs", or "gynecomastia", which is the swelling of the breast tissue in boys or men, caused by an imbalance of hormones (estrogen or testosterone.) At the time, I didn't understand what was happening to my body. I just knew that I was different from the majority of my male peers. There was one boy in my grade who had the same condition and his "boobs" where much larger than mine. He eventually had surgery to have his 'gyno' removed a year later, but in my case I knew that wouldn't be an option for me.
Instead, I tried to hide my nipples as much as possible. I would always wear wife beaters under my clothes. I never swam with my shirt off. I would try to change in the locker room when no one was looking. Even my posture was affected because I would hunch over instead of walk with my chest out. I was ridiculed and bullied periodically throughout those years, whether it was for having "bitch-tits" or for being a "faggot" or for just being black. Thank god for my parents for instilling in me the right amount of courage & confidence to not be mentally damaged by the harassment.
In my last two years of high school I began to lose a good amount of weight and I started to grow more into my body. I also became more fitness-oriented to where I now work out on a continual basis.
I'm turning 30 this week and I have embraced my gynecomastia completely. Lately, I have been getting increased attention toward the size of my nipples and pectoral muscles. There are even individuals out there who fetishize gyno and enlarged nipples. I tend to get a lot of compliments from men when I'm at the beach or on those fun social media apps. I find it funny how I was ridiculed for my nipples at one point, and now I'm being desired for them. I guess everything comes full circle in the end.
Today, I take pride in understanding that every part of my body was made specifically for me. I am a decedent of Kings & Queens in Africa — I appreciate my genetic make up. I don't want to change anything about myself because this is me and what society deems attractive doesn't play a role in how I view my personal beauty. ~~~~~~~~~