‘Fat boys make you feel thinner!’: fat GBQ men’s comfort and stigma in UK bear spaces

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Despite heightened stigmatisation of fatness in gay/bisexual/queer (GBQ) men’s spaces, geographers have yet to explore the nexus of men, sexualities, and fatness. ‘Bear’ is a term used to describe a set of global identities, communities and bodies of GBQ men who are usually large and hairy. Spaces created and used by Bears have been described as inclusive of fat GBQ men, but no geographic research has investigated such men’s experiences in themThis paper presents findings from ‘Bearspace’, a study of Bear spaces in the UK from 2018 to 2020. It shows that ‘comfort’ was how fat GBQ men framed their experiences of both Bear spaces (‘comfortable’) and mainstream LGBTQ spaces (‘uncomfortable’), and that this meant ‘standing out’ or ‘fitting in’ amongst a majority of proximate thin or fat bodies respectively. However the paper also demonstrates that fat stigma persists in Bear spaces, and thatit is part of how Bear spaces are produced as comfortable for most fat GBQ men, through their awareness that they are not the fattest man present. The paper concludes by asserting the significance of differences between spatially proximate fat bodies for the relational conceptualisation of fatness and fat stigma, and for making fat-inclusive spaces.




McGlynn, N. (2022). ‘Fat boys make you feel thinner!’: fat GBQ men’s comfort and stigma in UK bear spaces. Gender, Place and Culture. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2022.2126827

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