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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.

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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8 Homophobic Brands to Avoid

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Here at TravelPRIDE, our goal is total inclusivity and acceptance. Bigotry of all kinds is all too common, and we like to promote a message of love as much as possible. If you’re looking to do the same, knowing where not to spend your money is a great place to start. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies, but there are also plenty of homophobic ones. Boycotting these companies (not giving them your support/money) is the perfect start to ending hate.

Chick-fil-A

Plenty of LGBTQ people already avoid Chick-fil-A already (partly because the food is not great, but that’s my opinion) because of company president Dan Cathy’s open homophobia. According to Huffington Post, a report was published saying that as of 2010 the company had donated almost $2 million to anti-gay groups across the country. So if you want a chicken sandwich, I suggest going somewhere that’s open on Sundays.

Urban Outfitters

People are getting whiplash from Urban Outfitters’ stance on marriage equality. With a conservative chairman and recent push back for pulling a pro-gay-marriage shirt from its shelves, Urban Outfitters reportedly, according to an article from SFist, “donates 100 percent of its ‘Marriage Equality’ t-shirt sales to EQCA and NCLR,” which are two group leading the charge against the recent Supreme Court challenge on legalizing same-sex marriage.

With its history of flip-flopping on the gay marriage issue, it’s best to stay aware of Urban Outfitters’ current stance. They seem to be supportive now, but this could change as homophobia remains present across the United States.

Barilla

My little gay heart has been overjoyed at seeing gay couples featured in various advertisements. But according to Barilla’s chairman, you’ll never see this from the pasta company. In an interview with LGBTQNation, he went even further in his attack on the LGBTQ community, saying “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.”

So much for gaining more customers, Barilla. I think I’ll be buying generic from now on.

Exxon

This one will have you taking the bus to work from now on. With a history of eliminating domestic-partner benefits for same sex couples, according to an article on Queerty, you might want to reconsider that gas-guzzling car as your go-to mode of transportation. Taking the bus will not only take money away from big oil’s profits and homophobic practices, you’ll help the environment too.

Salvation Army (according to the same article from Queerty)

Between Salvation Army’s open homophobia and Goodwill’s exploitation of differently-abled employees, as revealed by Huffington Post, I’m at a loss as to where to donate my stuff. That being said, knowing that Salvation Army actively fights pro-gay-marriage legislation, I think I’ll be holding a lot more garage sales in the future, and you should too if you’re part of the LGBTQ community.

Purina

On the same Huffington Post list as Exxon and Salvation army, the Fancy Feast company refuses to provide benefits to same-sex couples. While they haven’t confessed anything more openly homophobic than this, partner benefits are still a huge deal and spending your dollars on other pet food brands might be a wise choice.

Boy Scouts of America

Surprise, surprise. A male-dominated group not supporting same-sex couples? Astonishing. This isn’t a company, per se, but the BSA relies on donations, and you can decide to support a better, more gay-friendly organization. While the Boy Scouts do allow openly gay males to join, it’s still taboo to be an openly-gay leader. It’s progress, but not nearly enough. If I were you, I’d donate to a worthier cause, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, a group that is openly pro-gay and pro-choice

Cracker Barrell

While not at all shocking that a southern-themed restaurant wouldn’t support the LGBTQ community, it’s not exactly funny. In another Huffington Post article, it was reported that “In 1991, 11 employees were fired for not displaying ‘normal heterosexual values,’ as was prescribed by an intra-company memo.” The same article reports the company has been known to segregate its customers in restaurants. So add racism into the mix, and you get a company not looking good for any minority. So if you’re craving grits and biscuits, I’d recommend finding your favorite southern dishes elsewhere.

I think we all know that this list is far from complete. It would take weeks or maybe months to find and list every single company with anti-gay practices. If you want to help out your fellow readers, let us know in the comments what other companies you boycott because of their homophobic policies. We’d love your participation in adding to this list, so we can continue to fight hate wherever it appears.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 13:55:21.


Also published on Medium.

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Collaboration With Travel Bloggers Sarah and Rachel

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Travel bloggers, Sarah and Rachel, share their experience in Aruba:

We sat down on our couch in the middle of December not expecting to purchase plane tickets that evening. Upon scrolling through social media, my girlfriend Sarah found a flight deal from Chicago to Aruba (yes, the Caribbean island of Aruba) for only $250 round trip. If you do any traveling at all (ESPECIALLY to islands) you know that it’s really expensive to fly there and flying for a little more than $100 each way is amazing. We discussed it with our best friend, Callan, and ultimately decided to take the plunge, dip into our travel funds, and go for it. Thus…one of our favorite trips ever happened.

Aruba wasn’t ever a place we specifically sought out to go travel to. Perhaps sometime on a cruise we would stop by it, but we didn’t anticipate starting of 2017 sipping Heineken (Aruba is Dutch, so of course we had to have Heineken) on their beautiful white sand beaches. We had the typical week of touristy attractions, shopping, getting sunburnt, and laughing at us trying to drive in our TINY car (that also broke down in the middle of the national park – that was fun) through the winding streets in Aruba. They don’t have the same traffic laws in America and most of the time it’s a free-for-all. Pro-Tip: Parking is sometimes really picky on this island, so watch out for any signage!

Much of the trip was spent relaxing and if I had to tell you the last time we truly relaxed and didn’t have a worry on our mind, it was that trip. There’s something so peaceful about the ocean and being “stuck” on an island is a good way to ensure you have nothing else on your mind.

As mentioned before we explored Arikok National Park, where we ran over a rattlesnake with our car, saw the caves that have been there for ages, and saw the prettiest beach we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Since the island of Aruba is incredibly close to the coast of Venezuela, there’s a lot of history throughout the parks and beaches. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get the chance to see the flamingos on Flamingo Beach. We had to skip this, since it’s a private beach and you must buy day passes/stay at the local hotel for the chance to see them. There’s always next time, right?

Fort Lauderdale, Florida was the beginning and end of our island getaway. We loved exploring the little beach town and we enjoyed the best Caesars salad we’ve ever had in a small beach hut right by the ocean. Even if you can’t go all the way down to Aruba, Florida is packed with small beach towns that will steal your heart.

After our week long vacation, we finally landed back home in Chicago. Pro tip: don’t forget to put your car keys in a place where you’ll remember after being away. We had to open 3 of our huge suitcases in the middle of baggage claim to find them. *cringe*

Originally posted 2017-09-05 12:28:27.


Also published on Medium.

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Liberal Leader Takes a Stand Against Discrimination

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Disclaimer: I was not raised with any religious affiliation so I may be unintentionally offensive. I mean no offense to anyone who may be religious!

At this point, most of us are aware of the fact that people can’t help being born with a same-sex attraction. However, there are a select few who believe that being in the LGBTQ  spectrum is inherently and morally wrong and that having a same-sex attraction can be cured. Within this select few, there are some who believe that it is fine to discriminate against LGBTQ people because they do not fit their misguided religious narrative.  

“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation”.

In both the US and Australia, the concept of religious freedom sounds good in theory. What’s wrong with practicing one’s religion? At base level, this does not harm anyone. There are people, though, who abuse this right and claim that discriminating against LGBTQ people is justified because LGBTQ people do not align with religion (although there are religious gay people…) An example of this is Texas’ proposed Senate Bill 522, which would allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses to LGBTQ people because same-sex marriage may go against the clerks’ religious beliefs. This is clearly a problem as LGBTQ people deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Luckily, people are fighting against this antiquated belief system and realizing that change is an inevitable part of life and it is better to be on the moral side of change. One such person is Nick Greiner, federal president of Australia’s Liberal party. Greiner urges both liberals and conservatives to support same-sex marriage as he believes that “great institutions evolve all the time.” This statement can be proven true by looking back in history, whether it be the advancement of LGBTQ rights or the ratification of the 19th Amendment. I am hopeful that Australia will soon achieve marriage equality but, of course, there are objections.

As an American, I can say that this is true and that the above video holds no merit, as since same-sex marriage became legal in the US, being gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans has not become “widespread and compulsory.”

This campaign was aimed at the Australian population to dissuade citizens from voting yes on marriage equality as the people in this video claims that it will damage religious freedom. This, of course, is not true as the United States achieved marriage equality and did not damage anyone’s right to religious freedom. In the words of Nick Greiner, “Any case for enhancing protection for religious freedom exists today and is not dependent on a change to marriage laws.” He also realizes that no negative consequences arose from the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The experience in these countries has been that no one has become more gay, or less married, and the achievement of the reform has been a unifying moment for people across the political spectrum.” -Nick Greiner

Greiner also recognizes that in heavily religious countries like Spain, same-sex marriage has not taken away anyone’s freedom of religion. The argument that it does is inane because it is simply not true. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia will not take away anyone’s right to practice their religion, nor will it create an increase of LGBTQ people. Nick Greiner recognizes these facts and, hopefully, he will be able to lead Australia in the right direction and have same-sex marriage legalized across the country. By legalizing same-sex marriage, Australia can become a more cohesive nation and convince other countries to become frontrunners in the name of equality.   

“Together let’s celebrate the many achievements of this government and focus on the real challenges and opportunities our nation faces.”

 

Originally posted 2017-09-04 17:32:11.


Also published on Medium.

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