Gay Pride isn’t for everyone.
Not if you’re overweight– meaning, larger than what other people think you should look like–and you’re subjected to fat-negative, body-negative, sex-negative messages about yourself. Not when you can’t wear what you want to, because gym-buffed men sneer at your less-than-manly love handles or thin lesbians snicker at your Reubenesque figure.
What are your odds of finding self-acceptance in a society that puts you down for your personal appearance? Fat chance.
So what’s a big, beautiful dyke to do? Or a rotund Romeo who wants to make the rounds? What resources do large, queer people of any gender have to network, find support, and find healthy ways of living without being barraged with negative energy about who they are?
Women in the Philadelphia area have Full Bloom Women, a group for fat women of all sexual orientations and “all sizes of large who are on the path towards self-acceptance.” The group is not focused on weight loss, but instead believes in supporting women in leading full, productive and enjoyable lives, no matter what their size. Full Bloom Women (FBW) meet to share, support, have fun, network, and to put forth a positive size acceptance message.
Kelli Dunham, 29, of Philadelphia, is a Full Bloom woman. She learned of the group via the Internet, from a list serve called “fat dykes.”
“It was my first experience with the fat acceptance community,” Dunham said. “I wasn’t familiar with people who were just accepting themselves. I hadn’t heard about how bad dieting and weight loss [can be]… the health drawbacks of that type of thing. It was like finding out about a whole other world, finding about fat women who are professional, good at what they do, creative, loving, and sexual people.
“There’s a joy in finding people who look like me,” Dunham said. “There’s not many women advertising cars who look like me. It’s been really refreshing and beautiful.”
Dunham said that FBW provides both a social outlet and a sense of support. “It’s kind of like coming in from the rain,” she said. “It’s like a safe haven.”
Dunham is larger than the average woman her height, but she’s far from huge. As she puts it, “I’m on the bottom of the super-size rung.” She has a warm aura, a laugh that comes easily, and a penchant for playing some sports. She participates locally in volleyball and softball, which is where she says she is in “the most mainstream lesbian” community.
“Nobody’s said anything to me [about my size]. Nobody’s made any comments. But I do know other women who have had bad experiences. But I haven’t personally experienced problems within lesbian mainstream.”
Dunham said groups like FBW are important because “you can really start to internalize those fat phobic messages [that society puts out] and think that you’re bad. We’re taught the worst thing a person could be is fat, that there’s something inherently wrong with you if you’re fat.”
And she believes the fat acceptance movement can help all women, because most women are unhappy with their body images.
“By accepting ourselves as large, we can help other people accept themselves,” she said. “It’s revolutionary to just say no to advertising, to what Madison Avenue tells us to look like… to say, ‘This is what I am, this is what I look like and I’m beautiful just as I am.'”
Dunham said she has dated both thinner and larger women. “The only experience that I’ve had that was bad was an online one. I kept saying I was fat… and she didn’t believe it, because every woman claims she’s fat, and sometimes really thinks it… When I sent her a picture, and she said, ‘you really are fat…’ I was like, ‘I told you!'”
Dunham’s journey into the fat acceptance movement began with the woman she’s currently involved with.
“She kept talking about this goddess imagery. ‘You look like a goddesses,’ she said, and I had no idea what she was talking about. And she showed me pictures of fat women portrayed as goddesses, saying how beautiful that was and how beautiful she found it.”
Dunham said that sometimes at gay and lesbian events, if she’s “around gym-buffed guys, and they’re talking about fat grams and workout programs, then I feel conspicuously large. But that’s not anything that someone says to me. I think it’s internalized fat phobia… I exercise regularly. I think that’s a big part of accepting yourself as a fat person; it’s really important to work our bodies and to glory in that and enjoy it.”
Dunham said that she always thought she was large, but actually wasn’t. That thinking, she said, “was reinforced by my parents. I think my mom would rather have a serious illness than be fat. It’s her biggest fear.
“I’m not completely comfortable with my size. I think a lot of that is about the external world and not the internal world,” she said. “I’m really, really new at this fat acceptance thing. Am I satisfied right now with where I am? I don’t know if I’m completely satisfied, but every day I wake up and make the decision to love the body I have.”
Dunham said she’s always aware of her larger-than-average size. “I don’t think that anyone’s gonna let you forget it. It’s just the way things are.” For example, she said, there’s a desk at the college she is attending that has a seat “four inches around. I couldn’t get my ass in there with a shoe horn! These things remind you.”
And, she said, it’s those comments heard on the street. “Fat gets combined with dyke for me. I think people pick out the most obvious things. They think that’s the worst possible thing they could call you. But they’re true [about me]-I am fat and I am a dyke.” And although she generally feels good about herself, hearing it said as an insult can still be upsetting.
And here’s where FBW helps, affirming her right to be whatever size or orientation she chooses to live out. Her first visit, she said, was like the “fat dykes” list serve “coming to life with all the different personalities. One of the nicest things was that I found a place where I could speak and people would understand, to be with other people who experience the external world in the same way that I do.
“I have to be with women [of all sizes and orientations] and women who make me realize I’m not alone. People who understand my stories. I think whenever women get together, body image is a concern. We are inundated with ideas about what an ideal woman looks like,” Dunham said.
The fat women’s community is not made up simply of fat women, but is inclusive of their allies and admirers. “There are thin women who are supportive and fat people who are phobic,” she said. “I may be the queen of internalized fat phobia. One of the beautiful things about Full Bloom Women is it’s helping me to heal out of that.”
A NATIONAL MOVEMENT
Judy Freespirit, 61, has been a fat activist and an out lesbian since 1972. From age six to 34, Freespirit tried one diet after another. “My whole life was devoted to trying to get thin,” she said.
The self-identified “extremely fat woman” lives in Oakland, Calif., and coordinates the feminist caucus of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA).
Founded in 1969, NAAFA is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for fat people. It works to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through public education, advocacy, and member support. The organization has more than 50 chapters throughout the country run by local volunteers and holds a national convention in a different major city each year. The conventions afford opportunities for large people to network, workshop, hear guest speakers, hold rallies and discussion groups. The evenings include dinner dances, special events, swimming parties and fashion shows. Smaller, scaled-downed versions of the annual convention are held regionally several times each year.
Much as many members of the sexual minority community have accepted the term “queer” into their vernacular, NAAFA holds that “‘fat’ is not a four-letter word. It is an adjective, like short, tall, thin or blonde. While society has given it a derogatory meaning, we find that identifying ourselves as ‘fat’ is an important step in casting off the shame we have been taught to feel about our bodies.”
In a brochure, NAAFA states “an estimated 38 million Americans are significantly heavier than average and face societal and institutional bias because of their size. Fat people are discriminated against in employment, education, access to public accommodations, and access to adequate medical care…Despite evidence that 95-98 percent of diets fail over three years, our thin-obsessed society continues to believe that fat people are at fault for their size.”
The group also maintains that “just being fat does not signify poor health. In fact, research shows that the health risks once associated with weight may instead be attributable to yo-yo dieting… [I]t is becoming apparent that remaining at a high, but stable weight and concentrating on personal fitness rather than thinness may be the healthiest way to deal with the propensity to be fat.”
Freespirit said she is active in the fat liberation movement, describing the difference between fat acceptance and fat liberation as a matter of “self definition.”
“Fat acceptance seems to say, ‘please accept me as I am, don’t try to make me different.’ It’s asking for something, coming from a bottom position. Liberation is a political statement. I’m not sitting, still waiting for you to accept me. I am demanding it. I see fat acceptance as more passive and liberation as active. But both movements respect each other,” Freespirit said.
The California activist said that fat acceptance spawned from the feminist movement as a direct outgrowth of looksism. “We began to realize that was one of the items people were persecuted for, particularly women,” she said. And so she came out– as a feminist, as a lesbian, and as a fat activist.
Freespirit noted that the New York-based NAAFA was the original fat acceptance group. It was “straight-straight. As straight as you can get,” she said. The women she worked with at that time, in Los Angeles, “tried to work within that. But it just wasn’t working.” NAAFA was, to varying degrees, both sexist and heterosexist. Most straight women were going there for social rather than political reasons.
“It’s easier to be a fat lesbian. I don’t think there’s anything harder for social reasons than being a straight fat woman. They were looking for men looking for fat women, and it was a turn off for lesbian women who were looking for civil rights…”
And so the Fat Underground was founded– the first fat feminist organization in the country. The Fat Underground was a combination of straight and lesbian women. “Some were straight when we entered and lesbian when we left! That happened a lot back then, the women who came into the feminist movement came out!”
A difference between queer NAAFA women and Fat Underground women: “we never identified as gay. We identified as lesbian, then later as dyke. NAAFA women who came out were gay women.”
The Fat Underground chapter that Freespirit worked with “did a lot of theorizing and writing on issues of fat politics. Wherever we could, we got those things published– mostly within feminist newspapers around the country,” she said. “That did not include ‘Ms.’ magazine, which never would publish our work.”
A lot of groups have come and gone, Freespirit noted, and there’s currently a huge up-swelling of fat activism, particularly among women and the lesbian women’s community– “women who would make lesbian a political issue rather than lifestyle choice.”
Likewise, she said, “NAAFA has become more radical and we’ve become more tired and old. Now a lot of lesbians are working with NAAFA. Last year I took on coordinating the feminist caucus of NAAFA.” She said the caucus is about 50 percent lesbian. The organization’s overall leadership tends to have 20-30 percent men, she said, but the membership is primarily women.
In fact, she said, NAAFA “consists mostly of fat women, some fat men, and men attracted to fat women we call ‘fat admirers.'”
The feminist caucus was created about 15 years ago to “develop women’s leadership, interrupt sexism within NAFA, develop fat feminist theory, support and empower fat women, and work to end size discrimination on a number of fronts. We provide a forum for women to communicate, gather, share fat women’s space and discuss our common experience of living in a society that discriminates against women and against fat people.”
Freespirit noted that the caucus puts out a quarterly newsletter called “New Attitude.” It also holds fat women gatherings in the fall on the West coast and in the spring on the East coast. The feminist caucus conferences include both social aspects and political speakers and workshops. There are also fashion shows and entertainment like dances and talent shows.
“It took a while before the feminists accepted the fashion shows. We didn’t want to be concerned with physical appearance, because until that point, how we looked was the only way we were valued,” Freespirit said.
Today the fashion shows are a staple of large women’s conferences– and fashions for big women is a burgeoning business.
“The complaint now is fashion shows are all feminine. Most of the clothing available is made for fems; there’s nothing for the butch. That’s because most of the fat clothing industry is done by straight women.”
At the moment, big butches- if they cannot afford to have clothes specially made- have to resort to large and tall men’s clothes. But, Freespirit noted, “fat women’s bodies are not the same as fat men’s bodies.” Particularly women with pear shaped frames, who “have a hard time because of their wide hips.”
Freespirit said the health issues within the fat acceptance/liberation movement is all about “debunking the mythology of fat and health.”
“The woman who really started this movement was a scientist who was fat and couldn’t figure out why she was fat,” Freespirit said. “She did medical research and found it did not support what the doctors were telling people: there was no cause-effect proved in any medical research between fat and disease. In fact, the high rate of certain illnesses that are stress-related like high blood pressure and heart disease among fat people are the same as other oppressed groups, like blacks and Latinos. So the question is, is it the fat that is making us sick when we’re sick, or because we’re a class of despised people?”
Freespirit argues that nutritional research “shows clearly that the amount people ate was not necessarily related to their weight. The issue of health is not clear. There’s also the fact that fat people go to doctors who are predisposed to think that our fat is the underlying cause for any illness. The doctors get so focused on the fat that we don’t get decent medical care.”
And, surprising to some but not to fat acceptance activists, “nobody’s studied fat and healthy people to see what keeps fat people healthy.. There is a specialty for just about every disease and condition you can think of. But there is no specialty for this. No one has ever researched what it would take to keep fat people healthy. [The medical profession does] not care about keeping us healthy, they want us thin. The question doesn’t even get asked.”
Freespirit says her “political vision is informed by being a lesbian and a feminist” and makes no apologies for asking “embarrassing questions. I’m not as invested as other people in maintaining status– I’m not middle class, thin, young or straight. I have less to lose than people who have their goodies.”
Despite so many years in the fat liberation movement, Freespirit acknowledged that it remains “hard to live as a woman in this society and [size] not be an issue. It is difficult to maintain constant self-esteem when this society is so blatantly against who I am. Just going outside of my house takes courage. I know I will get negative comments… I remind myself I am strong, positive, attractive, intelligent. It’s not easy. I think I do a better job of it than most. Nobody feels okay about their bodies– I certainly don’t feel as bad about my body as anorexics or bulimics…
“My body’s been badly treated by the medical profession– physically, emotionally, in all ways. I can’t honestly say I feel good about my body, but I think I’m doing pretty well compared to others. It makes a huge difference having resources in the fat women’s community.”
Freespirit noted there are several big women’s magazines from her area, including Radiance, Fat!So? and a “fat girl” zine for “fat dykes and the women who love them.”
It’s not just a “Woman Thing”
Clubs for large gay men exist across the country. The experience of large gay men is very different from big lesbians in some respects, but it’s the same story in others.
Girth and Mirth is a “social club geared to meet the needs and wishes of gay chubby men and their admirers.” Echoing Dunham’s comments about Full Bloom Women, one G&M member described the fat gay men’s group as “a social group. The fact that we exist makes us a support group as well. It’s very comforting to come home to a place where you’re not the only big man, or the only person that likes big men.”
According to the New York chapter’s website (www.members.aol.com/gandmny), it “gives us a place to interact in friendly surroundings without the possibility of being ignored, harassed or ridiculed as so often happens in the thin-oriented gay community. Our members come in all ages (legal and up), races, colors, religions and sizes.”
According to the website, the group came about as a result of an unauthorized list of big men and their admirers being circulated throughout the U.S. in the mid-1970s. The list was the primary source that G&M/NY founders used in contacting people in the New York tri-state area to see if there was interest in the formation of a club.
The first Girth & Mirth was formed in San Francisco in 1976. The New York group was founded in June 1978 in the home of one of the founders; at that time, it was decided that monthly meetings would be held. The group was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization the next year and began their tradition of holding benefits for various charitable organizations.
The organization grew quickly. G&M/NY held the first-ever “big man’s” convention at the old George Washington Hotel on East 23rd Street in 1983 and the following year, when the Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center came into being at an old, abandoned high school building in Greenwich Village, G&M/NY was one of the first to arrange a space there one Saturday evening a month. (They still have the main hall on the third Saturday of every month).
An umbrella organization of big men’s clubs– Affiliated Big Men’s Club (ABC)– came to fruition in 1985 and the first ABC-sanctioned “Convergence” was held in Seattle in 1986.
Among gay male-oriented groups the word “fat” is not used nearly as often (although the G&M/NY newsletter is called “Fat Apple Review”). The slang term tends to be “chubbies” and “chasers”, although the more politically correct terms are “big men” and their “admirers.”
Valeriano, the vice president of G&M/San Diego and webmaster of their site, said, “‘Fat’ is not a bad word, unless the speaker of this word, has a mean, vulgar, derogatory, or slanderous intent. I personally prefer to use ‘big’ or ‘large men.'”
Being “fat” is the same in the heterosexual or gay community, Valeriano said. “The gay community is just as judgmental as the heterosexual community. But this is changing with the gay big men’s movement.”
Valeriano said both he and members of his group “feel very welcomed by the community when Gay Pride occurs, and events made for big men or bears. [But] if I go to the White Festival in Palm Springs, a big man in his underwear will not be accepted.”
Under such a circumstance, he said, big men are perceived as “revolting and a barrel of laughs.”
Valeriano is 5’4″ and 245 pounds, which he describes as “a medium size teddy bear. I am comfortable with my weight, I use holistic medicine, Hawaiian medicines, and good healthy foods… The reason I am big is I don’t exercise regularly…it’s not a top priority, but it should be, and will be soon.”
He said G&M/SD publishes articles from health publications, and prints information in their newsletter on preventive medicine. “By respecting our members we cannot not make requirements or recommendations to maintain a good health standard, but suggest to begin and keep one.”
Valeriano said chubbies who want to find their “admirers” should join social clubs like Girth & Mirth, bear clubs or big men’s clubs. “Go to annually scheduled events throughout all the USA, Canada, Europe, and many more countries or join “Chubnet” (www.chubnet.com) as a Member and send your picture in, to be placed on the Web.”
But large gay men have issues other than finding a lover and a roll in the gay.
Valeriano identified some gay fat male issues as “rejection, low self esteem, and not being happy with their image, like penis size.
“How can we have diversity in our own gay community when we have prejudice in our own backyard against gay big men, women, children (just like heterosexual stereotyping)?” he asked rhetorically.
“[And there’s] major health issues including diabetes, cancer, eyesight, poor circulation, high blood pressure, stomach problems. There are some support groups within the community on these issues, however the real problem is [italic]shame.[end]. Because the average society stereotypes ‘fat’ as bad, so does the person who is just that, ‘fat.'”
Both body conscious and gay, G&M is by its nature sex-positive- much like the fat acceptance movement. Thin people are accepted and welcomed at G&M meetings and special events. For one, thin admirers and allies are considered a part of the fat gay men’s community. Also, “size, as you know, is a sore subject. We don’t judge.
“As for me, I prefer medium chubby to athletic, but any man that is loving, caring, humorous, and understanding is just fine for me. Size is not important.”
Valeriano said his appearance and body image concern him. He does “some exercise, some weight lifting to firm up the teddy belly and buns, [and wears] clothing in good taste.” He is not too concerned about losing weight, though.
Valeriano said the term “‘Bear’ is an image shield for the big man to hide his gayness, without losing his masculinity. Bear also applies to big hairy men, butch hairy men. Big young men with a touch of hair are ‘cubs.’ When a Bear club member saw my website and saw my web name “HULABEAR,” he rudely sent an e-mail and said, ‘you have no hair on your chest, you have are not masculine, and you are just a kid, so you are a ‘Cub.’ So I changed the web name to ‘Hulacub.'” (http://members.aol.com/Hulacub/hulacub.html)
Being a member of G&M helps men be proud of who and what they are. “A mirror is a reflection of yourself, and its what you reflect that makes you proud. Cherish that reflection, it’syou,” Valeriano said.
It’s not always easy.
As one anonymous Girth & Mirther, we’ll call Joe, said, “Image is everything in the gay community. Just look at the archetypes. Look at the personal ads in the community newspapers and magazines.”
Unlike Valeriano, it’s been Joe’s experience that “gay people are a lot more judgmental” than straights, noting that he doesn’t feel welcome at gay community events, particularly those directed to the gay male community. “I feel almost invisible, except to lesbians. Lesbians seem to be intrigued by the idea of Girth & Mirth. I’m surprised that none of them have started something similar.”
Joe mirrored the sentiments of the fat acceptance movement on the issue of health: “Personally, I think the health issues are overblown… There is a multi-billion dollar ‘health’ industry committed to making everyone hate their bodies so that they can sell them the ‘latest’ diet aid, model of exercise equipment, weight loss program, exercise video or what have you. I feel that message is out there and, if you want to subscribe to the official ‘health line,’ great. And, if you don’t, well, that’s great, too.
“There is an awful lot of health news that escapes the 6 o’clock news. Like phen-fen causing pulmonary hypertension, a fatal lung disease– that was buried on the news wires before the Mayo Clinic discovered the problem associating fen-phen with the heart valve problem, and the major media and the FDA picked up on it. Or the problems with ephedra, an herbal ingredient in many diet aids that the FDA is starting to regulate. Or the risk of stroke associated with low-fat diets such as the Pritikin diet. Those are some of the issues that I like to acknowledge. Not just the standard ‘party line.'”
Joe identifies fat gay male issues as “finding nice, well-fitting clothes without having to spend three to four times as much as everyone else; finding our place in the gay community, both individually and as a group; and cutting through the ‘health hype’ to learn the real issues.”
There are magazines that eroticize the large gay man, including “Bulk Male” and “The Big Ad.” These publications, Joe says, “have helped to create a positive, erotic image to the big man.
Joe identified “bears” as “almost like a whole ‘nother species. There is some overlap, sure. As an example, I consider myself to be both a big man and a bear. But as a bear would tell you, not all bears are big and not all big men are bears. I mean, when you’re big, you’re big. There is no hiding the fact. But bears are pretty much self-defined. If you call yourself a bear, then you’re a bear. And there are all kinds of bears in all sizes and degrees of hairiness.
“Some big men have found acceptance in the leather community,” Joe said. “It seems to be one place in the gay community where size is irrelevant. But I don’t think that there are any real ‘ties’ between the two groups. I think that to some in the leather community, Girth & Mirth is just another fetish. I don’t think that view is echoed in the G&M community.”
A Chubby and his Chaser
Pat Huff is the secretary for Affiliation Big Men’s Clubs (ABC). He is a big guy, and his husband, Eric, is not. They are members of Gentle Giants of Oregon. When asked about the sensitivity of the label fat, Huff was extremely diplomatic.
“Ask 100 men what they want to be called when it comes to describing their sexuality and you’ll find no consensus. Ask 100 larger men what they prefer and you’ll find the same problem,” Huff says. “Chubby, or chub, is a fairly friendly term to describe a larger man, but then so are lots of other words like ‘larger,’ ‘heavyset,’ ‘stocky,’ and tons of others.”
Huff said larger men “are abundantly obvious” in the American mainstream and more accepted than in the gay male community.
“While often the object of ridicule or the brunt of jokes, they are still there, and more and more they are creating positive images where size is not the issue, but the man inside the body. There is no corollary in gay media, unless we as big men and admirers create it for ourselves. We are asked to fade into the background and try not to make a scene.
“Gay men in particular have a long way to go in acceptance of size as an issue. It seems ironic that in a minority group crying so loudly for acceptance that the issues of size and color can quickly show how far we have to go before our own gay community practices what we think we deserve from the rest of the world.”
Like others interviewed, Huff noted a mixed reaction from the community. “We get positive response from many people when we appear at gay pride events, and we get a lot of tight bodied men laughing their asses off. Bars and other ‘traditional’ gay meeting places evolve into “club types” where leather men, yuppies, and Chubs go to, primarily because men get such negative response in social settings. We seek out places where we will be comfortable, and many bars and social situations let you know that you are not where you belong.”
“I have been told that I didn’t belong in the Gay Men’s Chorus because my size was not the image of a gay man that the conductor wanted to offer to the world when the Chorus sang… I have been told as an HIV pal that one of my men asked for a new man because I wasn’t thin enough and the HIV+ man wanted someone more buffed. Since we weren’t having sex, one would think that the level of care and support was far more important that finding a physical match, but such is rarely the case in the male gay community.”
Huff said the most important thing about Gentle Giants get-togethers is “to have fun in a social context where the person you are is not totally linked to the body you came packaged in.”
Huff said that health issues are “a legitimate concern for many of our members, and most of our support network strongly recommends taking good care of our health. We know that 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it back, and that this yo-yo attempt to be ‘normal’ does more damage than resolving to be as healthy as possible at the weight you are. We encourage men to be loving of the body they have, and to do everything they need to be at peace with their body size, no matter what that entails.
Like G&M, Gentle Giants looks kindly upon thinner body types. In fact, sometimes fat phobia is more evident.
“I myself like [thin guys]. I settled down with one, and enjoy him to no end,” Huff said. “As a rule for our club any man with an open and accepting attitude toward all sizes is welcome to attend any function regardless of his size.
“I would say that some larger men have the unfortunate circumstance of believing all they were taught as they grew up, and they discriminate against their fellow members with the same intensity that the buffed types often do. As I said, we have a long way to go… but our clubs make it possible for these men to start taking their first steps toward a more universal acceptance.”
Huff’s husband, Eric, spoke about the need for chubby chasers to do some legwork.
“As a man who loves larger men,” Eric said, “I would say in general we find the men we like. They don’t call us ‘chasers’ for no reason. It is far easier for us to find the larger men we like than it is for heavyset men to pick us out of a crowd. However, larger men with a positive self-image seem to notice all the traditional methods of eye contact, smiles and general gay conduct that we all take to mean interest. Those [gay men] with a less positive body image generally have to be bludgeoned over the head with an outright proposition before they realize that we find them attractive.
“After 12 years together, I still think that Pat isn’t quite clear that I love him just the way he is. He has been conditioned by a lifetime of ridicule that no one will want him except some abusive user with ulterior motives. For sincere ‘chaser’ types, this is a battle we fight everyday to be with the men we love.”
Huff said that he is working on losing weight now, not for cosmetic purposes so much as for health considerations. “My lover is very supportive of my attempts to lose weight- sometimes overly so- and my family and friends are as well. It doesn’t affect me at all what my size does, only how healthy I am,” he said.
Huff said that he doesn’t see any ties between the leather or fetish community and big men, “other than some of us look fetching in harnesses.”
But there are definitely some kinky big guys out there.
Zulu is founder of Anvil Dungeon International, a fat acceptance BD and SM group based in Ohio. “Our mission is to squash misconceptions about SM and fat people in the general eye.”
Zulu said he doesn’t find the word “fat” to be negative; in fact, he identifies himself “as a fat black bi kinky man.” He is 5’9″ and 250 pounds and “a teddy bear.”
Zulu said when he attends “gay pride and leather pride events, I am greeted with open arms. I am in a relationship with a woman, but support the gay community and am usually greeted warmly. Since I am bi, most are comfortable. But we also know the word bisexual is also met with controversy.”
Anvil Dungeon International (ADI) hosts events through local chapters and holds two big events annually at A Dark Angel, a gay-owned facility in Atlanta, Georgia: Phat Leather Weekend, March 6-7, 1998, and Love and Leather Weekend, October 2-4, 1998.
The BD and SM group “constantly talk[s] about health situations, [that] being fat is not a death sentence. I am fat and a dietician; you can be healthy and fat, as long as you are taking care of yourself. There are things that always have to be taken into consideration, but look at the sad results of yo-yo dieting, a disease in my opinion that has poisoned the fat community.”
Zulu said he prefers fat lovers.
“I am attracted to bear type men (bottoms) and fat women who have big butts,” he said candidly. “ADI welcomes all, and we have skinny members who support us and join us as well. My lover wants to lose weight, and she is a gorgeous bi fat woman on the smaller size. I am in love with her; I wouldn’t care if she lost 50 pounds or gained 50 pounds. It is our love that bonds us.”
Interestingly enough, many members of ADI haven’t been as embraced as they might have expected from the fat community.
“We are proud that we are able to tap into our minds and go where we go, mentally and sexually. We thought that since we are also a fat-positive organization that they would want to learn from us. That has not been the case. We have found that the fat community can be just as closed minded as everyone else. ‘Dimensions’ magazine has never solicited an interview with us, but write about feeder/feedee relationships and fantasies all the time. In my opinion, that is sad. How many people, do you think, think about spice in their love life? There are much more people who are kinky and won’t admit it than there are who will. I am happy to have the friends I have within ADI and the gay leather community. It is a sense of belonging.”
And isn’t self-definition and belonging what our communities are all about?
PO Box 188620
Sacramento CA 95818
Voice: (916) 558-6880
Fax: (916) 558-6881
On the Internet, NAAFA can be reached at http://naafa.org
Girth & Mirth Online
Addresses for G&M clubs around the world can be found on http://members.aol.com/gmfla or http:/members.aol.com/gandmny. The former site also contains basic information about national conventions like Convergence, regional conferences and other “chubby/chaser” events, plus links to places chubby men might find interesting, like Big & Tall clothing chains, etc.
Anvil Dungeon International
For a listing of local chapters and a mission statement from the SMBD group for fat people, write to:
Message body: subscribe fat-acceptance
Fat and Fit
Message body: SUBSCRIBE FATANDFIT (your real name)
Message body: subscribe fat-girls (your e-mail address)
Message body: subscribe (your e-mail address)
Subscription address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Message body: subscribe naafa-members
Internet Websites of Interest
1997 West Coast Fat Women’s Gathering www.wolfenet.com/~marymc/fatconf.htm
Big Ad mediapub.com/bigad
Big and Tall (clothing) www.webmagnet.com/links_bandt_short.html
Dimensions Magazine pencomputing.com/dim/
Fat Girl ‘Zine www.fatgirl.com/fatgirl/
Fat Liberation www.wolfenet.com/~brenner/fatlib.html
Fat!So? zine www.fatso.com/
Gothic Goddess www.gothic-goddess.com
Radiance Magazine www.radiancemagazine.com
Resources for Bears www.skepsis.com/.gblo/bears/index.html
By M. Scott Mallinger