Double Stigma: Fat Men and Their Male Admirers
Nathaniel C. Pyle and Michael I. Loewy
There is a thriving sub-sub-culture that very few people know about. Although there are many things that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have in common with one another politically, there are actually many different queer communities (Collins, 2004). Within the greater queer population, various communities are marginalized; in response, they each form their own spaces in which to congregate (Boykin, 1996). Among these sub-cultures within a sub-culture are communities of fat gay men and their male admirers. These are men who either do not fit the dominant image of gay men, or are not attracted to it. The primary purpose of this chapter is to introduce a community of people who have been marginalized within the already marginalized queer communities: fat men and their male admirers.
First, we offer a brief history of big men's networks, including the Affiliated Big Men's Clubs (ABC) and the Girth and Mirth clubs. Then we explore the advent of many publications aimed at big men and their male admirers, as well as internet communities that connect chubby men and chubby-chasers worldwide. Finally we explore the curious growth of bear clubs and posit reasons for their rapid growth as compared to the older, smaller big men's clubs. Throughout, we try to paint a rich picture of the men who constitute this unique sub-culture while showing how they navigate a world that limits them due to their size.
The term “chubby,” usually reserved for children and babies, has been adopted by the gay big men's community as a term of endearment. Most of the web communities and publications directed at big gay men and their admirers use the term “chubby” as a positive descriptor (BCPI, 2006). The term for fat admirers embraced in the big men's community by most people is “chubby-chaser.” The first reference of the term chubby-chaser in popular culture that we are aware of is in the play The Ritz by Terrence McNally (1976). Perhaps taking a lesson from their “coming out” experience as queer, the reclamation of a term that has hitherto been one of mockery is a way that many fat individuals move from self-shame to size-positivity.