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If you self-identify as a gay, bisexual and/or otherwise queer man, and you're breathing air, you've probably experienced, witnessed or perpetrated some form of fat shaming. A recent study in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity refers to this as the more scientific-sounding "antifat bias."
"Fat Chance! Experiences and Expectations of Antifat Bias in the Gay Male Community"--or, as I'd like to refer to it, "The Mean Gays Report"--used two studies to explore just how antifat gay men are, because simply logging into Grindr doesn't carry quite the same professional heft.
The first study found that out of 215 gay men, age 18 to 78, over one third of them had directly experienced antifat bias, even though most of them were not overweight using common body mass index guidelines. These men also reported that the most common form of antifat bias they received was from potential romantic partners, which was associated with several types of body image disturbance.
The second study compared the expectations of antifat bias among gay and straight college men. These 'mos and bros rated the likelihood of certain outcomes if they saw an overweight man hit on an attractive target. Basically, if they saw a fat guy hitting on someone out of his league, what would they expect to happen:
Gay men reported greater likelihood that the overweight man would be blatantly ignored, treated rudely, or mocked behind his back if he approached an attractive potential romantic partner.
The shade of it all.
So not only do gay men face antifat bias, regardless of actual weight, we also expect our peers to exhibit the same kind of behavior in our pursuit of love, or what have you. The results aren't surprising, which is perhaps the worst part of this study. It only confirms what so many of us have experienced and further illustrates a problem that it seems has plagued gay men for as long as anything resembling a gay community has existed. A problem that is exacerbated by the media and perpetuated by hookup culture.
There's no simple solution to fixing generations of this antifat bias--the idolization of the male body has always been part and parcel of gay culture--but that's why we have bears. And otters and cubs and others in this sexual menagerie that reject and subvert the idea of the ideal body.
One simple solution we can all do, however, is to stop broadcasting ignorance and prejudice--like, if you're filling out a dating profile maybe, I dunno, leave out the "no fats, femmes, etc." bullshit. Just a thought. Oh, and don't fuck with others who use that kind of language. You know, gay it forward, be the change you want to see in the world, etc, etc. And on Wednesdays we wear pink.