Rainbow Reflections: Mobilizing Knowledge on Body Image for Queer Men!

SexLab member Stéphanie Gauvin has been busy with her team members from Dalhousie University developing a comic book called Rainbow Reflections to help mobilize knowledge on body image for queer men!

Rainbow Reflections: Body Image Comics for Queer Men is an anthology borne from an initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, including the Institute of Gender and Health called Hacking the Knowledge Gap. In February 2018, a diverse group of researchers from across Canada with shared interests in LGBTQ2S+ health was brought together to develop innovative projects to address LGBTQ2S+ health inequities. Research teams were paired with design students, members of both community and national organizations, and other stakeholders to bring multiple perspectives to the table. The idea behind the initiative was to close the gap between research and clinical practice and to enhance knowledge translation or the ways in which LGBTQ2S+ health research is communicated to the public and healthcare providers. More effective communication of health research allows findings to be more fully put into practice, improving the health of our communities.  

There are a number of critical topics that influence the health of the LGBTQ2S+ community but this anthology draws upon the previous work, knowledge, and expertise of the team, Stéphanie Gauvin, Phillip Joy, and Matthew Lee, to focus on the health of queer men in relation to body image. The overall goal of Rainbow Reflections is to blend academic research on queer men’s body image with the powerful narratives from queer artists. The final comic anthology opens up dialogue about the social constructs of body image and how such constructs shape the sexual, emotional, mental, and physical health of queer men. We believe this anthology is an exciting way to explore the consequences of body dissatisfaction to the health of queer men and to highlight the resilience that queer men experience against body dissatisfaction. 

Body image can be thought of as how you view your body or how you picture yourself in your mind. Although there are many components of body image, we have chosen to focus on weight and muscularity as these are the most widely researched components of body image. The way queer men come to view and experience their bodies is complex. Cultural and social norms about sexuality, gender, and beauty ideals are ever-changing and are constantly shifting in ways that influence our beliefs, values, and practices about our bodies. It would be impractical, if not impossible, to trace, review, and critique all of the integral components that come to define our bodies. We hope that the comics in this book will bring to light some of the factors that shape the bodies and health of queer men and the challenge the way view we think. 

Within the pages of Rainbow Reflections are comics from artists from all over the world including Canada, the United States of America, France, Great Britain, Australia, Denmark, and Greece. The diverse comics represent the voices of the artists who draw upon their personal experiences, creativity, and knowledge. Interspaced between the comics are what we playfully refer to as our health ads. These inserts, inspired from the golden era of comics, provide you with brief snippets and summaries from research studies that are currently happening in the area of queer men’s bodies and health. The snippets also include a few evidence-based exercises that you can try to increase comfort with your body. 

In addition to the work of the artists, researchers, and funders, Rainbow Reflections was made possible with the support of Ad Astra Comix, a Canadian publishing collective specializing in comic books with social justice themes. The ultimate goals of this project are to begin conversations on body image, to explore and create knowledge on the topic, and to disrupt, challenge, and shift the ways queer men view and understand their bodies. To this end, free copies of this work will be distributed to LGBTQ2S+ health centres and community organizations across Canada for public use. We will also be releasing select comics for free online on our social media accounts (which are listed below).

To stay up to date on information about Rainbow Reflections, launch party dates, and to see all of the amazing comics that we’ll be releasing on our social media accounts, follow us at:

You can also pre-order your copy today by visiting: https://book.adastracomix.com/ 

We hope you enjoy Rainbow Reflections. It was a pleasure helping to bring it to life!

Stéphanie, Phillip, and Matthew