Fat Gay Men

Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma

Whitesel, Jason
Jason Whitesel

NYU Press (publisher)

To be fat in a thin-obsessed gay culture
can be difficult. Despite affectionate in-group monikers for big gay men–chubs,
bears, cubs–the anti-fat stigma that persists in American culture at large
still haunts these individuals who often exist at the margins of gay
communities. In Fat Gay Men, Jason
Whitesel delves into the world of Girth & Mirth, a nationally known social
club dedicated to big gay men, illuminating the ways in which these men form
identities and community in the face of adversity. In existence for over forty
years, the club has long been a refuge and ‘safe space’ for such men. Both a partial insider as a gay man and an
outsider to Girth & Mirth, Whitesel offers an insider’s critique of the gay
movement, questioning whether the social consequences of the failure to be
height-weight proportionate should be so extreme in the gay community.

This book documents performances at club events and examines how
participants use allusion and campy-queer behavior to reconfigure and reclaim
their sullied body images, focusing on the numerous tensions of marginalization
and dignity that big gay men experience and how they negotiate these tensions
via their membership to a size-positive group. Based on ethnographic interviews
and in-depth field notes from more than 100 events at bar nights, café
klatches, restaurants, potlucks, holiday bashes, pool parties, movie nights,
and weekend retreats, the book explores the woundedness that comes from being
relegated to an inferior position in gay hierarchies, and yet celebrates how
some gay men can reposition the shame of fat stigma through carnival, camp, and
play. A compelling and rich narrative, Fat
Gay Men provides a rare glimpse into an unexplored dimension of weight and
body image in American culture.

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