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Book Talk: Fat Gay Men

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The Library at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center presents a book talk with Jason Whitesel, author of Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma (NYU Press). A book signing will follow the talk.

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. Fat Gay Men 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, the book 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 in 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.

The author, Jason Whitesel, (Ph.D., Ohio State University) is a Women's & Gender Studies faculty member at Pace University. His research focuses on gay men's rigid body image ideal and the resulting intragroup strife among them. His recent book, Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma, describes events at Girth & Mirth club gatherings and examines how big gay men use campy-queer behavior to reconfigure and reclaim their sullied images and identities.


This is a sober social event. No alcohol will be served.