“CLEVELAND, Ohio – Mason Caminiti hates his body. He is open about the fact that he’s unhappy with the way he was born – with female organs – when he’s known since age 4 that he really was a man.
Doug Bates, on the other hand, loves the body he has now – the one that rebounded from a low of 125 pounds and HIV symptoms that had him at “death’s door” in 2005, he said.
Both believe bodybuilding in Gay Games 9 has helped them to come to terms with who the bodies they have now, and to celebrate them.
Both competed Tuesday at Public Music Hall in one of the most popular events of Gay Games, one of two sports that charges admission.
Caminiti smiled as he strutted on the stage, showing off the muscles that he’s developed since he began training for this competition in earnest in January 2013, but that he’s worked on accepting for the past seven years, when he first began taking testosterone to make his transition.
“It’s really hard for me to like who I am, with completely and totally hating my body,” Caminiti said, with a hint of playfulness in his self-deprecation. “It’s a very strange dichotomy. Bodybuilding helped me sculpt and change my body and make it more masculine before I could take testosterone.”
Always involved in sports, Caminiti, 38, opted to register for the most baring of sports in the Gay Games simply because he found he was good at building the muscles in his body – even though he was terrified of wearing only the tiniest of trunks on a stage.
“This has been the most naked I’ve ever been in front of people since I was born, probably,” Caminiti joked. “It was really, really hard for me. I set a goal, I wanted to do this, but it was hard for me to come to terms with, if I’m going to do this, I have to wear these little posing trunks.”
Bates, meanwhile, was only too happy to show off how he has developed his muscle since his HIV-ravaged frame nearly succumbed in 2005 before he began taking medication and working toward his goal of competing in the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.
Bates, now 58, is a former dancer who knew he could remake his body as he began to get healthier.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for making the body the best it could be,” Bates said. “I thought bodybuilding would be the best way to demonstrate coming back to life.”
The result? Bates took home silver eight years ago. He opted to come back in Cleveland to show that he can not only live, but thrive, with his new body and healthier outlook.
“People thought I was a goner,” said Bates, who is from Palm Springs, Calif. “I never even thought about death. I thought about the opposite – and that’s what makes all the difference.”
Caminiti, too, is eager to embrace the body he has, now. To a point, that is.
“I’m not saying I’m going to strut my stuff naked, or anything,” he said with a chuckle.”