Whitsel is a partial insider (gay) as well as an outsider (thin) to this social group, and is thoughtful about his role as researcher, as well as his limited ability to critique the omnipresent fatphobia in gay culture. He is presumed (by his presence at these events) to be a "chaser," and hence explores the world of "courtesy stigma" as well as the shift in the typical power dynamics between men.
Further discussions on the intersections of race and other oppressed identities are absent, and the writing does tend towards the academic; however, these narratives are a welcome change from the usual stereotypes of gay desirability and fat invisibility.
Allow me to share a particularly interesting passage from his conclusion:
This ethnography of Girth & Mirth culture provides a smorgasbord of strategies for dealing with the shame of fat stigma. Despite their unfortunate tendency to internalize shame and allow it to run their lives, big men continue to find more productive outlets, such as sexual objectification, status differentiation, and celebrating otherness. One of my personal favorites is campy-queer performances that utterly disregard shame, playfully acknowledging one's size in relation to one's sexuality.
What a burden it is to be stigmatized, and what an admirable feat to perform one's way out of the isolation of being stigmatized. Undoubtedly, the road to acceptance appears paved with something more than simply managing stigma: it requires an unforgettable performance.
I would be delighted and grateful to hear any recommendations of other material that address this subject matter! Thank you for reading, and for anything you can share.
Jessica Katzman, Psy.D.
I'm a psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco's Castro District. I'm interested in harm reduction, LGBTQQIAAP issues, psychedelic integration, social justice conversations, size acceptance, and any intersections of the above. I welcome your comments!
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