University greenlights one of the world’s “largest empirical studies of Bear communities”

The University of Brighton just greenlit a study on gay bear culture in the UK.

The study will be lead by Nick McGlynn, a “proud self-identified bear”, who says he wants to “explore the experiences of big and fat men in Bear bars, pubs, clubs, and events, and to understand how these spaces might help tackle fat stigma for men.”

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He’s calling the study “Bearspace” and hopes that it will develop a “complete database of every Bear bar, pub, club, event, and social group in the UK” that can then be used as a basis for “one of the world’s largest empirical studies of Bear communities”.

Sounds ambitious.

“Bear bars and events are some of the only spaces I feel comfortable as a fat gay man,” McGlynn explains, “and writing by other Bears suggests that many others feel the same.”

“Fat stigma is increasingly felt by men and we all know how heightened this is in gay bars and clubs! So I’m eager to find out if there’s something positive and empowering we can learn from Bear spaces.”

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The project description on the University of Brighton website adds:

This research attends to an unexplored intersection of geographies of sexualities, and fatness/obesity. In a nation grappling with an ‘obesity epidemic’, fat people in the UK are highly stigmatized as unhealthy and sexually repulsive, with resultant serious mental/physical health impacts. Fat stigma is intensified in gay/bisexual men’s spaces, yet the impacts of fat stigma on men’s health or sexuality have received little attention.

The university has awarded McGlynn £6,726 (about $9,000 U.S.) to conduct his research.

The study will include six case studies held at “UK Bear spaces, each comprising an on-site focus group, individual interviews, and the researcher’s own autoethnographic account as a self-identified Bear.”