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Bears, Cubs, Chasers, and Chubs: My Journey into the “Belly” of the Beast – Part One

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“How much do you weigh?”

“Ummmm. I don’t know. I think about 360 pounds now? I haven’t weighed myself in a long time.”

“Go do it. Send me a picture of the scale. I don’t like skinny men.”

This, or some variation of it, more often than not, was the introduction to most conversations during my four plus years on gay dating apps. Men would message me from all over the world, ask to see photos of various parts of my body – my arms, my thighs, my stomach, my you-name-it – and I would always respond with a “Hi! My name is Robby!” I wasn’t into the whole, “Show me everything about yourself right now on this totally anonymous app.”

Within the gay world, much like the lunchroom scene from Mean Girls, there exist many different worlds or “cultures” as we will call them for the sake of this series. There’s the twink culture: a group of young men from their late teens to early thirties, not too muscular, thin, and not a bit of hair on them. There are the daddies: the over 40s with chest hair, salt and pepper beards, and steady incomes. There are the muscle jocks, muscle bears (same as muscle jocks, just hairy all over), otters (thin men with hairy bodies), and so many more.

All of these terms are labeled in a way that doesn’t strike me as offensive. But my group? My label? The “chubbies.” I don’t know about every culture around the world, but in the English language, that word isn’t a friendly terminology. I was called “chubby” all through elementary and middle school. I was always a big kid. So, hearing the word now, it strikes me as difficult to understand how it could be seen in a positive light. Enter: Chasers.

My Life As A Fetish

When I started my gay life, I thought there were two types of gay: gay men, and lesbian women. Now, we have every letter of the alphabet covered from A to Z with a label within the community, and I’m not here to argue that’s a bad thing. I simply started my gay life as a gay man. I didn’t know anything different, shockingly, until about a year and a half ago when I learned the terms “Chubs” and “Chasers” and what they meant.

A “Chub” is a man who is overweight, and a “chaser” is the man who likes him. As a bigger man, it’s difficult to see myself as a fetish of some kind. To me, I’m a normal person. I’ve got the same issues like everyone else: I want to fit in, I am planning for my future, I’m developing my career. I have a past, a present, and a future. I’m a whole, complete person.

To some, but not all, chasers, I’m a piece of fat that is there to be viewed and on display for their enjoyment. This became way too apparent to me in the recent past when a GIF was made of me standing outside a pool with my stomach shaking.

If you had met me a year ago, when I was living in Miami, and we went to the beach together, I’d have kept my shirt on the entire time. For big people, it takes a lot of courage to take our shirts off in public. Children stare and point at us, people shake their heads or laugh, and most worry we’re going to break a piece of furniture. Still, throughout the last year and a half, with the love given to me by my partner, I’ve found the courage and body positivity to go shirtless at pools and the beach, even going to a nude beach in Spain and letting it all hang out, folds and all. I wasn’t ashamed.

That’s until I was sent a link to a GIF of me on Tumblr.

Now, the funny thing is, the image/video (it’s been removed now, and so has the Youtube video) was filmed by a chaser. Some have told me I should just be happy someone found me attractive enough to film me.

And there’s the problem with our society, the Chub/Chaser/Bear culture, and the gay culture in general. We’re told to feel “lucky” that someone finds us attractive, instead of lucky someone loves us for who we are. Sure, pipedreams in a culture obsessed with looks, but still. I want to be seen as more than a number on a scale.

My favorite conversations online happened when someone would send me a message asking for photos or immediately asking me to have sex with them. When I would turn them down, or suggest anything other than immediately jumping into bed with them, they’d tell me that I can’t afford to be so picky, and that I’m lucky they messaged me at all. Excuse me, sir, but you messaged me first. You found me attractive right up until the minute I didn’t find you attractive, and now I should be lucky? I think it’s the other way around…

The Events

This past year, I’ve attended events around the world where people are celebrated for being all shapes and sizes within the Chub/Chaser/Bear/Cub scene. They’re body positive, reaffirming, and just downright fun. Some people use the events to send their legs shooting up into the air, but most of us go to socialize, make new friends, and drink in a swimming pool. It’s at these events that I have made some of my closest friends, and learned a lot about myself.

I used to look down on these events. I thought they were just an excuse for people to get together and have wild sex parties, and I’m not about that life. Now, after experiencing them, I see them in a different light. I see people who come from small towns in the middle of nowhere and they don’t have a place to belong within their own zipcode coming to these events, greeted with hugs and a jello shot. I see people who normally wouldn’t feel comfortable taking their shirt off in a public place wearing speedos and loving who they are in that moment. That’s the part of the event that truly matters.

So… What Are You Trying to Say, Robby?

I feel that, generally, society has come a long way in accepting homosexuals and overweight people, but it seems we haven’t come too far in accepting the intersection of the two. The very fact that I often get told I should feel lucky someone is giving me attention proves that we aren’t there yet. You never see a condom ad with a guy over 185 pounds in it. To my knowledge, it wasn’t until Modern Family that I saw a Chub/Chaser gay couple on network television, and even then, it’s played that the overweight Cameron was at one point skinny and desireable. This, I believe, was corrected in later seasons where they dive further into his “clown” past and they show pictures of him at heavier stages. Still, even the actor, Eric Stonestreet, has been losing weight in the last few years. My point is, we haven’t yet given the intersection of gay and overweight the “all clear” from society yet, and it’s still frowned upon.

Over the next few weeks, I want to explore more of the Bear/Cub/Chaser/Chub relationship. I want to dive into different pairings and learn more about what makes them “tick” and I want to talk about the lack of “closed relationships” within the community. Personally, I say, “To each their own” when it comes to relationships, and what works for some doesn’t for others, but it seems much more prevalent that closed relationships don’t happen as often in these communities.

I want to explore the inner-feelings of chubs and chasers, how they think, how they view themselves, and learn more about what motivates them one way or the other. I want to explore gainers and encouragers, those that eat obsessively to gain weight at the encouragement of their partner, often to the detriment of their health.

Buckle in, folks. We’re diving into the belly of the beast.

Originally posted 2017-09-25 21:09:43.

Robert was born and raised in Nashville, TN, but had a thirst for seeing the world around him. He currently lives in New York City. His adventures have taken him to all corners of the world, but favorites include: attending the Rio Summer Olympics, island hopping in the Philippines, tasting every gelato flavor her could find in Rome, and surviving a Colombian death cab ride in Bogota. Robert is an out and proud gay man and hopes to inspire other members of the LGBTQ+ community to tell their stories, both of travel and personal. His debut book, I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year Long Journey of Self-Discovery, recounts his adventures traveling North and South America for a year while diving into his past growing up gay in the conservative South.

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The Coward: A Look into Homophobia in Queer Spaces

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Theatre has always been a safe space for the LGBT+ community. It has given people of any sexuality and gender identity a platform to explore themselves and their relationships, as well as their fears and trauma, and share those experiences with everyone. LGBT+ theatre shows the truth, but sometimes it’s a hard truth, meant to make audiences uncomfortable but aware of the hardships that the queer community faces.

In her play The Coward, playwright Kati Schwartz explores the effects of homophobia in the queer community. The show focuses on a young actress named Jill, who spends the summer at an isolated summer stock theater company with a small group of actors. This group includes a man named Christopher, who claims to be straight despite his obvious attraction to a male castmate. His homophobia, fueled by his strong religious beliefs, clashes constantly against Jill’s questioning of her own sexuality, leading to a tension-filled show.

Schwartz is incredible at mixing realism and fantasy in her shows, and The Coward is no exception. Jill carries a wand and casts spells throughout the play, though it is unclear whether her castmates can see the spells’ effects or not. However, the plot of the show itself is very much based in reality.

The Coward, as with most of the plays I write, is based off a real life experience,” said Schwartz. “What you see is my interpretation of that experience with some witchcraft and magical realism sprinkled in.” Schwartz is adept at mixing fantasy and reality while still keeping the focus on such a heavy subject matter. She is able to transform her experience with an aggressive person into a story that balances the inherent tension and sadness with the surreal.

Schwartz attempts to figure out Christopher’s homophobia in the face of his own sexuality along with Jill and the audience, and it certainly is not always easy.

“In the first draft, the Christopher character was a female, and the story was much simpler,” said Schwartz. “Once I switched that character to a closeted, self loathing gay man, the themes of the play became a little more challenging for me to explore.” With this switch, Schwartz dove into an exploration of internal homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community and its effects.

“The resulting changes to the script offer more equality between Jill and Christopher, and more opportunity for discussion on who the true coward is,” said Schwartz.   

Though the focus of the show is on issues within the LGBT+ community, Schwartz knows that this show is important for people of any sexuality to see and understand.

“Rifts and prejudice exist within any community,” said Schwartz. “Something I hope that people of any sexual orientation can take away is a keener sense of one’s responsibility to speak up when someone is being mistreated regardless of the immediate social ramifications.”

The Coward is playing at the Duke on 42nd Street on October 9th in New York City, as part of the New York New Works Festival. It is an important piece of theater, that should be seen by many. Share this with the theater lover in your life, and be on the lookout for more from Schwartz soon.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 15:42:41.

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How to Travel to This Gorgeous Liberal European Town With No Roads

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This town is called the land of water, and is also known as the venice of Holland. It is Giethoorn, located in the National Park Weerribben-Wieden in the Netherlands. There are no roads here, and the visitor can view beautiful thatched farms, lakes, reed beds, forests, wooden bridges, and greenery. This town is also gay-friendly, because it is located in the first country to recognize gay marriage in 2001.

Here is a step-by-step guide for travel to Giethoorn, and how to explore its beauty, culture, and community:

Book Your Flight to Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Plan your trip to Amsterdam, because from there, you can travel to Giethoorn.  There are numerous flights that go to Amsterdam, and here are cheap flights that were recently found by travelers. The flight will arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schipol, which has shopping and dining to occupy your time. If you decide you want to stay in Amsterdam for a while before traveling to Giethoorn and have booked a hotel, then the Schipol Hotel Shuffle can take you there.  

Once you are ready to travel, then from Amsterdam Airport Schipol, you can take the bus or boat to travel to Giethoorn.  You can also travel by train, if you wish, and you can use 9292 to plan your trip.  

Plan Your Stay in Giethoorn

Hotel de Pergola. Source: Booking.com

If you plan to stay in Giethoorn for longer than a day, then book your stay in the hotel of your choice. Above is a photo of the Hotel de Pergola, which is situated on the waterfront, but there are also other great options. There are some reasonably priced places to stay, such as the Fletcher Hotel Restaurant de Eese-Giethoorn, which has an outdoor tennis court, a national park, restaurant, and indoor pool. One traveler recommended another place, the Hotel Giethoorn because it was super cozy.  

Day 1: Travel on a Boat in the Town with No Roads

Travelers on boats. Source: A Wanderlust for Life

There are many things you can do on your first day here, and one option is to travel on a boat, because after all, this charming town has no roads, but it does have water. Canoe trails are 90 kilometers long!  In fact, the postman has to travel by punt boat, to deliver mail.  

You can rent kayaks, sailboats, and rowboats. If you want to boat by yourself, consider renting a whisperboat, which are open punter boats equipped with a silent electric motor (why it’s been given the name ‘whisper’). You can book your boat in advance, and you can even book a day tour which includes the whisperboat, coffee, sandwiches, drinks and dinner.  

Day 2: Go Cycling

The Giethoorn Weerribben cycling route. Source: Holland-Cycling.com

Another popular activity here is cycling. The Giethoorn Weeribben cycling route is 46 kilometers long, and there are thatched cottages, narrow bridges and wetlands on the way! You will see these at the farming village of Giethoorn. The route will also take you through the historic town of Blokzijl, the National Park De Wieden, and the villages of Jonen and Dwarsgracht.  

Day 3: Hike and Explore

Giethoorn. Source: Holland.com

If you want to explore Giethoorn more, and are a hiking enthusiast, then consider the 15.3 kilometer walking route, which starts at Eendrachtsplein, and then follows the green route.  There is a walking network which guides you, so follow the colored arrows. Sights to watch out for are canals, thatched farmhouses, and the largest lake of the Kop van Overikssel, the Beulakerwijde.  

Before You Go: What to Bring With You

Sunscreen

As you plan your trip, including flight, accommodation, and activities, consider what to bring with you.  Expect warm weather here, so bring sunscreen, lip balm and a hat.  But it can rain, so be sure to bring a raincoat and umbrella, so that you’re on the safe side.  Other items to include in your backpack are a camera, first aid kit, hiking boots, a torchlight, SD card, and shorts or pants with pockets.   

Where do you plan on vacationing this year?  If this European destination sounds good to you, then consider planning a trip.

 

Originally posted 2017-10-09 17:23:57.

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Love It, Leave It: The NYC (Pizza) Edition

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You’re beautiful, saucy, and sometimes too hot to hold. Aside from my family and friends, you’re the most important thing in the world to me. We could hang out every night of the week and I wouldn’t get sick of you. I love you (don’t tell my girlfriend). Oh boy — it’s a bit weird saying that aloud for the first time — especially in such a public forum. But, it just feels so right. The two of us were made for each other. You complete me, pizza.

I’m an Italian girl from Staten Island–what did you expect? :: insert stereotypical phrases like fuhggedaboudit and ay oh! here :: Eating pizza is one of my favorite pastimes and I’ve got plenty of favorites in NYC; this list will give you a feel for my top three joints.

Love It: Roberta’s. Denino’s. Rubirosa.

Roberta’s: A pie I’m willing to trek to Brooklyn for. This wood-fired pizza has been a Bushwick staple since before Bushwick was the hipster mecca it is today; it’s nearly a decade old. You’ll most likely have a hearty wait to fold (please don’t use a fork and knife) a slice here, but don’t give up. Once you get a spot, the bee sting is an inventive (soppressata, chili, honey), go-to order. I bet 10 pepperonis that you’ll be back.

Denino’s: Ah, puppy love. Denino’s and I have been in a long-term relationship since I had enough teeth to physically chew a slice. (Who are we kidding, I would’ve gummed it.) IMO, this is the OG pizza parlor from Staten Island — cash only, surly career waitresses, and no ambiance or dessert menu. If you want the authentic experience, take the ferry over and grab a cab here. But you lazy folk are in luck, because a new outpost opened up on MacDougal street this year. Despite getting asked without fail: “sauce on the whole pie?” I always order sausage and broccoli rabe, red. Never disappoints.

Rubirosa: This trendy, dimly-lit Italian spot is thankfully only a few blocks away from my apartment in NoLita. Coincidence? #nope. The iconic, thin-crust pizza has a sweet spot in my heart, as it happens to be crafted with the same recipe that has been around for decades at Joe & Pat’s (another must-try spot) in Staten Island. I maybe worked there in high school simply so I could eat slices on my break.

Leave It: Anything that says “99¢ or $1 pizza”‘

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN. Unless you have consumed enough drinks to knock out Floyd Mayweather, this is a terrible, horrible, unforgivable decision. You’ll have more regrets than that guy who got the “no regerts” tattoo. People who may love Domino’s or Pizza Hut might find nothing wrong with a cheap slice slathered in Prego-style sauce and an ambiguous Sargento cheese blend. But, any sensible ‘za lover will walk spritely by these unrefined joints with interrogation room lighting and never look back.

Originally posted 2017-10-09 16:45:50.

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