Dr Nick McGlyn‘s research project attends to an unexplored intersection of geographies of sexualities, and fatness/obesity. In a nation grappling with an ‘obesity epidemic’, fat people in the UK are highly stigmatised as unhealthy and sexually repulsive, with resultant serious mental/physical health impacts. Fat stigma is intensified in gay/bisexual men’s spaces, yet the impacts of fat stigma on men’s health or sexuality have received little attention.
The project aims to uncover the role of geography in the marginalisation and/or empowerment of fat gay/bisexual men in the UK. It engages with space, fatness and sexuality through work in the ‘Bear’ community – a large global subculture of large-bodied gay/bisexual men.
The double stigma of fatness/sexuality has significant impacts on Bears’ mental and physical health, and Bear bars, clubs, and events are consequently experienced as ‘safe spaces’ for those excluded from both mainstream (due to sexuality) and gay/bisexual men’s spaces (due to fatness). The project will develop six case studies of UK Bear spaces, each comprising an on-site focus group, individual interviews, and the researcher’s own autoethnographic account as a self-identified Bear.
This project’s central aim was to uncover the role of geography in the marginalisation and/or empowerment of fat gay/bisexual men in the UK, through work in Bear communities. It has done this by:
- Developing a database of UK Bear spaces
- Using case study-based qualitative methods to:
- explore how fat stigma is spatialised for gay/bisexual men
- investigate impacts of the double stigma of marginalised sexuality and fatness (esp. regarding mental and physical health)
- identify features of Bear spaces which contribute to feelings of empowerment for fat gay/bisexual men.
Project findings and impact
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