One of our readers wrote to the A+ inbox and complimented our Monday Roundtables (thank you!) and also asked if we could put together a roundtable where “fat staff members talk about how fatness / diet culture / body positivity / etc relates to their queerness, identity, gender, and such?” We thought that sounded like a great idea, and we aim to please, and we have a lot of fat feelings, so here we are! Enjoy this roundtable of all our fat feelings and if you’re fat, let us know how you feel in the comments!
Siobhan Ball, Contributor
My relationship to my body and my queerness aren’t connected exactly but they do run parallel. I’m tall and muscular with giant shoulders and for some reason as a teen there were several years where I was constantly active but still fat, especially around the face, and like my queerness these were all added to the pile of how I was Substandard and Unloveable. As I’ve got older and embraced my queerness I’ve come to love my body, which is probably a direct result of being in the queer community and the refreshing break from heteronormative beauty standards. I’m larger than I ever was as a teen but it doesn’t bother me any more.
Alexis, Staff Writer
Before I get into it.
1. I wanna write books on hunger and fatness and lesbian identity. Just putting that out in the universe.
2. You need to know that a huge part of why I’m fat is because I’m stubborn and ridiculously competitive and that’s not going to change.
People say, “You can’t finish that.” Bitch, watch me.
“Maybe you should exercise.” I was working out BUT NOW I’LL JUST SIT HERE.
“Are you losing weight?” Now that you’ve noticed? Not anymore.
So just keep that in mind.
When I first came out (accidentally, in a writing class my senior year), I was really obsessed with being thin. I went to a predominantly white school and was in the theatre department a lot, where they have to be very particular about their looks, and it probably wasn’t the best for me. I ate dinner and usually drank coffee with a lot of whipped cream for the rest of my meals. Since I’ve graduated, I’ve had more time on my hands / more depression / a nervous breakdown and am now on meds so I’m probably the biggest I’ve ever been and it’s been hard coming to terms with that. Like today, I feel really good about it. I’m like, “LOOK AT YOU, BODY! YOU’RE ALIVE!! HOLY SHIT!! YOU MADE IT EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE SURE IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE! YOU’RE POSSIBLE!!” But that’s not every day. It’s more than it used to be though.
My fatness only ever becomes super apparent to me in pictures or when I can’t physically do something, but it’s got to be something like not fitting through a window when I’m sneaking into a haunted house or something. Like, if I’m walking to the comic book store and I feel my legs going noodley, I’m not thinking about my weight, I’m thinking about how if I move now the pain will probably go away and regardless this is the only way I’m getting to my new books so may as well ignore my noodles. That kind of thinking has helped me in the past few years and is mostly informed by Shonda Rhimes’ book where she says something to the effect of: when I realized getting healthy was not gonna be fun, that it was probably gonna suck, it got much easier. Like, feeling good about my fatness is better for me when I’m doing the good-for-my-body thing and every step of the way I go fuck you fuck you FUCK YOU ALL THIS SUCKS and then I feel better. Like the permission to not be all smiles and showtunes about my body is what helps me in fact smile and sing showtunes about my body.
I’ve also, like, made peace with my fatness through poetry – like I’m pretty sure I can only write this because I cried while writing a poem about my body last week. The literary community I surround myself with, like everyday I see posts about how to unlearn toxic body shaming, or how to treat your body softer, or fat forgiveness (and realizing there’s nothing that needs to be forgiven!).
When I was in outpatient, we had to do workouts weekly and the first two weeks I hated it (I skipped the first month before I got caught) because I was the fattest one there and also I don’t like people looking at me. But the trainer was really great and I started to feel really strong and I loved it and I’ve been chasing that feeling instead of the ones the media tries to sell me. There’s a post somewhere that goes, “Every time I feel shitty about my body, I ask myself, ‘What man is profiting off this feeling?’ and then I feel better.” I didn’t even know I’d lost weight ’til she told me, “I just wanna tickle your ribs!” and I was like, my what? So uh, I only think about my body for extended periods of time in regards to diet culture / weight loss when it’s brought to my attention.
Since people like me are rarely represented in media truthfully anyway, most of my body issues come more from inside my family. One of the top three things said to you at a family function, if you’re in my family, will be about your weight. Maybe not at every visit but at least every other visit. But thinking about my family’s history, it makes me hesitant to call them out on it. On one side, my grandparents’ parents were sharecroppers, he was one of 10+ and was hungry a lot, so little kid logic said I needed to never be hungry in order to make up for his hunger. We weren’t allowed to leave the table until we finished our food, so I was allowed to go all the time – and then I’d eat my sister’s food when they weren’t looking. On my other side, my grandparents who were also hungry a lot of the time growing up, take us go grocery shopping and get literally whatever we wanted. Once, I ate chocolate peanut butter sandwiches and milk for every meal for like a week straight.
It also probably doesn’t help that almost everyone in my family is an amazing cook and food is a love language for a lot of us. Actually, those are both good things. I don’t want to take away from that, but there’s a way things can be inherently good and we fuck them up so much that they end up hurting us. I’ll stop talking in “we” language here. I usually felt like it wasn’t enough that I’m black and a girl/woman and probably not straight, just not right in the head, so the least I could do was be smart and be skinny. Both of those fell apart when I couldn’t go to college and I’m just kinda picking up the pieces now.
I think it helped when I really attached myself more to butch than any other term because it not only helped with coming to terms with being nonbinary and strangely enough (but not really) my blackness but also how my body is supposed to look. So with the butch thing, it helps that I just wanna be strong and like literally carry my loves wherever they need to go, especially during the apocalypse. My butchness informs my tacky fashion sense which literally stays in the 2000s era of baggy clothes and helps me remember that this body is mine. I want to wear these clothes, by the way, not because I want to hide my body but because that is what I wanted to wear when I was little and now that I can I most certainly will do this.
I’ve seen fat butches so I know I can be a fat butch. I’ve seen black fat butches so I’m damn sure I can be one.
Also – I was the perfect cuddling partner when I was skinny so now the sky’s the limit on my cuddle power.
Reneice, Staff Writer
Body positivity is linked with my queerness ’cause it’s responsible for all the actually fulfilling sex I’ve had in my life! It was through body positivity and the self love journey I started after finding the movement that I was able to accept and be proud of myself and therefore my sexuality and want to share it with the world. To live and love authentically, because I now knew I deserved it. Body positivity was how I gained confidence in my joyously fat self and realized just how sexy I am and had always been. I also believe that because I learned how to treat myself and my body with unconditional love and respect, I’m able to do the same with others, which is so queer and beautiful.
Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer
Growing up in Malaysia, I was Fatty McFaterson Fat Fat FAT. My body shape was the Before picture in weight loss ads. My BMI was “obese.” My clothing size was at minimum XX+L. Before I could enter a shop the salesperson would yell at me, “We have nothing for you.” I hated clothes shopping because nothing fit.
The thing is, back then, and even now, I wouldn’t be considered fat by Western standards. It was a revelation to me when I went to a department store in London when I was about 15 and found that I was squarely a Medium. Now as an adult I’m somewhere between M and L, 10-12 US, 12-14 Australian. So not thin, but not even plus-size.
It makes interacting with fat spaces in the West really weird. By their standards I’m an “inbetweenie” at best – at worst, I’m infiltrating. I “don’t know what it’s like to be fat.” I’m “just normal.” I’m “privileged to find clothing my size.” I “can fit in seats.” I “have nothing to worry about.”
But by Asian standards I’m still fat. You want to know why clothing from cheap online shops like Wish always run too small? Because that’s their beauty standard: small, slim, flat. Just my boobs alone push me to the plus-size zone – never mind my other curves. Japan only just embraced plus-size fashion and a lot of the models in their flagship magazine look like me – but I don’t think there’s ever going to be something similar in Malaysia or, hell, even in my family’s home country of Bangladesh. I’ve been in magazine photoshoots in Australia but no media outlet in Malaysia is ever going to include me because I’m not thin enough. (Then again, I’m not tall enough for Western plus-size modeling, which is its own annoyance.) For nearly 20 years I grew up in an environment with an especially narrow idea of what an acceptable body size is and was always perceived as some kind of extreme outlier – and now I move halfway across the world and I’m told my experiences don’t actually matter?
I still sometimes have weird feelings about my body. Not necessarily that I’m too fat or whatever. But more that I’m always some kind of in-between, never quite one size or the other, not quite normal but not quite plus-size either (outside of Asia). Maybe if I were fatter and taller I’d more obviously belong somewhere? Like yes, good, now I know my size, now I know where to look. But right now I’m so ambiguous. Everything about me is ambiguous. And that gets old.
Carmen, Staff Writer
I was just talking about this recently. I’ve been at least “soft”, if not yet fully fat, since I was tween and first hit puberty. There was a time when I was about 16 where, thanks to strenuous after-school activities and my own struggles with stress and depression, I stopped eating sufficiently and landed around a US women’s size 4 in clothing. I hate those pictures. What amazes me (or really, thanks to the ways we have indoctrinated as a culture to fatphobic western beauty standards, doesn’t amaze me at all) is that whenever I bring up how much I dislike those pictures to my family, they uniformly respond with, “Oh but you looked so beautiful!” I didn’t. I was in emotional pain. And physically, with my always large breasts that my smaller frame could barely physically support, I looked like a drawing of Olive Oil from the Popeye comics. They don’t see it. They only see that I was thin.
In general, I’ve ranged from the same few dress sizes (between a US women’s 14 and 16) for most of my adult life. If I go lower or higher, you can bet that I’m mentally unwell. I use that as a guide. Being comfortable and my most healthy at a size that isn’t what society or an ill-informed medical community says is “ideal” can shock a lot of people. I’ve gotten into fights over it before. You know what? Others’ opinions don’t matter! I get a yearly check up, I eat fresh vegetables whenever possible, if I’m in a good mental state I force myself to work out. Sometimes, if I stick with it long enough, I even find that I enjoy it! (I’ve always really hated sweat, even as a kid. Still, it’s good for me.)
When I do those things, eating balanced meals and moving my body, I don’t do them to lose weight. I don’t have any interest in it. I don’t want to subscribe to systems of beauty that weren’t designed for my queer, black body anyway. I want to feel comfortable in my skin, I want to feel strong and capable for whatever life throws at me. I want to be kind to myself when I fall short of those goals. I focus on that instead.
If you get to know me, you’ll learn that I quote Alice Walker a lot. As a black queer woman, her words often speak to me. Perhaps none of her writing impacted me more than this line; she defends a black feminist as one who: “Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.”
Loving your roundness. Loving your community. Loving yourself. For me, all three of those are tied. It’s not always easy to approach your body from a place of love. It flies in the face of everything that a multi-billion dollar fashion and beauty industry has been built on, you know? Capitalism, it sneaks into our innermost thoughts. But what is feminism, if not love? What is queerness, if not love? And what kind of queer feminist would I be if I didn’t start by loving myself? That requires loving all of me, even the back rolls that I sometimes cringe at and the stretch marks on my belly that I sometimes try to hide.
One last thing, it’s great to be having this conversation with these fat babes on Autostraddle because two of them have sincerely helped me in loving myself! Reneice and Vanessa are the hottest women I know, and watching their body confidence inspires my body confidence. I suppose those are my last parting words: find a fat friend! Even a virtual fat friend! Find someone who makes you feel good about your body. If you aren’t lucky enough yet to have someone like that in your life, can I recommend Yvonne’s recent article about Tomboy Fat Femmes? You don’t have to be a femme (or a tomboy) to pull from it, but looking at those babes had me walking taller and feeling brighter all week.
Vanessa, Community Editor
I am almost always thinking about my body. I say almost always because surely there must be some times, occasionally, once in a while, when I am actually not thinking about my body, right? Surely those times must exist. I can’t pinpoint them – I can’t prove they are real – but… surely, right? It’s impossible that I am always thinking about my body. Or is it?
My body, my body, my body. I love my body – I do, that is true, it is a fact – but I’ve put off answering this roundtable question, even though I’m the staff member who asked everyone else to participate, because I want to give you more than that. I want to be honest, want to find a way to talk about loving my body and also being human.
We live in a fatphobic world. When I was seven I thought I was fat. I was not, but I was bigger than a GAP XS so the girls at school told me I was. When my brother was eight he asked my mom and dad why calories kill you, because that’s how my family talked about them at dinner. “Why do calories kill you?” He was eight. I was ten. That same year my family moved and I was the new kid at school and I made sure to wear overalls on the first day to hide my stomach because I thought if the other kids saw how fat I was they wouldn’t like me. It should be noted, I was still thin. Also, I was ten.
I spent a really long time hating my body. I don’t want to spell out the things I did to my body when I hated it to try to discipline it into submission, but I was not kind to myself. One thing that is strange about me that I think is probably a mixture of who I am as a person and the privilege of always being small fat is that even when I hated my body, I have always loved myself. That’s not a narrative I hear a lot so I would like to add it here, just to make it exist. In high school I hated my body and I loved myself. I never thought, if I just lose weight all my problems will go away. My body felt very separate from who I am, intrinsically. I pursued crushes and made out with boys and felt good about my brain and my personality but I hated my body, I hated it, I hated it so much. I did used to think, if I just lose weight all my problems with my body will go away. Because my problem with my body was that I was fat.
I don’t want to say “I came out as queer and all my body image issues went away” because that’s not true, but I do know that coming out as queer and learning to love my body are absolutely linked, no doubt about it. To be queer is to rewrite normative stories. Queerness already lives outside of the center, is already on the margins. A girl I know does a stand up bit where she says she has to explain to her straight friends that she’s like, a 4 in the straight world but she’s a solid 9 in the queer world. The joke is problematic, I know, but I think it gets to the heart of how I feel about my body and the way I look in straight society versus queer community real bluntly. Queer community can still be fatphobic. I will never pretend otherwise. But being queer suddenly gave me the framework to potentially love my body. It was like…okay, if I can be gay, what else could I be? If this can be okay, what else could be okay? And fellow queers proved me right. I started to feel hot, and other folks treated me as though I was hot, and while I would love to say external validation means nothing to me and it’s all inner peace, of course it’s not. It is a combination. I finally felt desirable, and I liked that others saw me as desirable. They feed into each other. They work in tandem.
Oh, but also – living in New York as a queer person did not allow for me to learn to love my body. I know plenty of fat queer humans who live in New York and love their bodies but I couldn’t do it. For me, it took moving to Portland, Oregon to really fucking learn to love my body. And not only did I learn to love my body there – I gained a lot of weight and learned to continue loving my body, even as it shifts and changes. It was not lost on me that I was much fatter in Portland than I ever had been in New York, and yet I loved my body and how it looked so much more than I ever had before.
And this is where I want to be real, and complicate things a little bit. Because… I… listen, it’s still hard for me to love my body. I love it! I do! I’m hot! I know that! I hear from people frequently that my attitude toward my body helps them love their bodies a little bit more. That feels so good. I want to be that person – other fat queer babes inspired me to love my body, that is real, that can happen, I want to exist in this world and help make that happen more.
And also – I’m human. The world is fatphobic. My friends go on diets (or, excuse me, no one calls them diets anymore because that’s not trendy, but you can still say you’re “changing your eating habits” or “getting healthy” or my least fucking favorite “practicing clean eating”) and post before and after photos and I know everyone can do whatever they want with their own body, of course I believe that, and also, what do you think your celebratory post about how thin you are now compared to a year ago says about how you feel about fat bodies? You don’t have to tell me you still hate fat bodies when you post those photos – I can see it. Talk about the health benefits and how energetic you feel all you want, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, but I live in this world too… I know it’s easier to be thinner. I know how good it feels to be complimented on weight loss. I know the things that are hard in a fat body get a little easier in a thin body.
And so sometimes on Facebook I encounter a before and after photo and I just keep scrolling, because I’m tired or I don’t know how to gently bring up how hurtful those images are to see, or sometimes I’ll engage and a friend will get frustrated with me. “You love your body, so you don’t understand,” a friend said to me months ago, when I gently suggested her aggressive weight loss talk on social media was off-putting and that while I was stoked that she felt good in her bod, maybe she didn’t have to post about restrictive eating and excessive exercise all the time. Her comment really threw me off, because it told me she didn’t understand what a fucking challenge it is for me to love my body every day. I am not special. I am not super human. Loving my fat body in the context of a world that tells me I am supposed to hate myself because I am fat is no easier for me than it is for any other person who struggles to love their body. Just because I try to be vocal about body positivity and performative (not in a fake way, that’s not what I mean, but in a very public and purposeful way) about how much I love my bod on social media, doesn’t mean I’m immune from our fatphobic world. I don’t know, it just felt so bizarre for this woman to say to me, “my posts about weight loss shouldn’t bother you because I hated my fat body and you love yours.” That’s… that’s not how this works?
I don’t know. I’m scared to share this with you. I don’t want you to think I don’t love my body. I do. I don’t want you to think I am not body positive. I am. I don’t want you to think I don’t realize the privilege I have of being a small fat person. I do. I just… I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about this all so much. It is a choice, every fucking day, for me to wake up and love my body. I put work into it! I look at myself naked in the mirror and give myself compliments. I force myself to post photos that aren’t “flattering” or “taken at the right angle” because I think it’s important to accept and celebrate what I actually look like! I do a lot of mental work with my own internalized fatphobia. It’s a lifelong project. It’s not easy, but it is easier than hating myself. But also, it is not effortless. Fatphobia still affects me. We all need to hold each other up and we all need to do better all the time, myself included. So it’s jarring when people imply that I should have a thick skin, that I shouldn’t let actions that are rooted in fatphobia upset me because I’m “body positive” or “confident” or “love my body.” I do love my body, and also that shit still hurts.
I treasure the queer community because it does feel like when I came out I actively removed myself from the cis straight male gaze and I truly do not give a fuck what individual cis men or the patriarchy at large think about my body. Being queer and fat does not solve all my problems, but I would choose to be queer and fat than straight and fat any day of the week. Being a queer fat femme is a huge part of my identity; I am grateful to exist in this way.
I accidentally wrote an essay so I’ll stop here, but I feel like I should note that I could keep thinking and talking about this forever. I guess I can safely amend my opening sentence: I am always thinking about my body. These are just some of my thoughts.
Thanks you also much for sharing. I felt so close to some of the things you’ve said. Memories of my mother telling me to suck up my stomach when I was 12, being taken to the dietician to be put on a « healthy plan » when I was 14 to get my weight ‘under control’ even though I grew up in France and listen my mums cooking was perfectly balanced and I was a healthy kid.
Remembering how much all of this fucked me up, up to this day. Finding queerness and doing the work of learning to love my body but also the body of all the fat queer babes I get to meet, despite my mother’s teachings, because they deserve nothing but love. We deserve nothing but love.
All I take from all of this is: damn it, why must loving ourselves take so much WORK?
Have you read the articles that came out recently about how White-Anglo-centric a lot of “healthy eating” advice is and how they don’t account for cultural diversity? I recognise that France is also considered White but I’m sure there are cultural nuances to French cuisine that don’t get recognised in conventional healthy-eating discourse.
Oh for sure! But France is massively fat phobic and any extra fat is considered unhealthy a lot quicker than in Anglo countries, even at the doctors… so you get told you need to be on a diet to get your weight under control even if you’re already doing everything right…or are, you know, a growing teenager ?.
We fail pretty often in two aspects: praising happiness and comfort, and recognizing mental struggle. And it’s easy to identify this when we overvalue the person who goes to the gym to lose weight but not the one who works hard to be in a mental happy place. It’s completely acceptable to have a shit mental health in a lean body but not to be fat with a healthy mind. I guess it goes a long way on how we overlook our feelings for the_right_aesthetics.
And how our default is always trying to improve everything and looking for others that are doing the same, but only if it’s tangible, purchasable.
All this to say how important is this place where you guys fight so hard to be a real community caring for one another; not trying to sell the next big thing, but just making the most non profitable thing that is teaching us how to love ourselves.
This article and all of y’all who wrote it are forces of nature. Thank you for sharing <3 <3
I have to be honest and say that I’m disappointed in this article. While I admire the purpose behind it, I think it was executed pretty poorly. It’s disappointing to see a straight sized person featured in an article about fatness, even if they self identify as fat (which tbh is kind of confusing, sizing is kind of the universal boundary for fat/not fat). It should have featured larger fat people, who are already so underrepresented in stories about body size, fat positivity, etc. And it also would have been cool to feature more people for whom fatness is a social identity, just like their queerness, instead of mostly people whose fatness is a condition they just need to accept. Idk, I think this could have been done better.
yeah, our roundtables are just members of our staff who identify with the topic of the roundtable — and the way this one was done, she just asked who wanted to participate and this is who chimed in, in response to a reader question that asked specifically how our staff members felt about being fat. it’s not intended to represent all the voices who might be valuable on this topic. it is literally ‘how WE feel about being fat,” not “how women feel about being fat” or “how queer people feel about being fat.”
So like, respectfully, if roundtables are just members of your staff speaking about a topic, that means y’all have an issue with fat representation on your staff and an issue with the staff you do have (fat or not) being able to talk about fatness as an identity and social justice/ marginalization issue, especially as it exists in queer spaces.
I can understand that it feels frustrating to read something expecting a certain type/level of representation and not find it, but I think there are two important points to keep in mind:
1) AS runs on a shoestring budget, and the staff already pours their limited resources of time, energy and money into trying to attract writers from underrepresented demographics that are directly related to the site’s focus. They write often about the challenges involved in attracting and retaining these writers when they can’t pay as much as bigger sites. Expecting them to stretch those resources even further to specifically seek out other identities is unfeasible.
2) As an online written medium I’m not sure how they’d go about doing this even if they wanted to, or what the legalities would be. Certainly they could clarify that people of all body sizes are welcome to apply/contribute, but beyond that I don’t see how they could evaluate that.
Thanks for proving my point.
I have thoughts and feelings! I might need to come back to them to articulate them well <3
Kind of strange to include a straight sized writer in this article. I don’t really care if you “feel fat”….fat activism goes beyond clothing into so many areas of accessibility. Have you ever been concerned about a seat belt fitting? A chair breaking? Discrimination from your medical provider? I’m sorry you grew up in an even more fatphobic place than you are now, but don’t expect the fat people around you to coddle your feelings.
I’m a size 22 now but I’ve been a size 12 too and I understand the pain of most people thinking you’re fat but not belonging in fat community, but I beg of you to consider why you have such a sense of entitlement to spaces that aren’t *for you*. It’s more than just a feeling, these spaces deal with the material reality of existence.
Very disappointed in this article tbh.
I came to this thread to listen and validate the experiences of the super brave writers who made themselves vulnerable on this topic. I want to say that I hear you– especially the part about feeling like this specific space belongs to non-straight-sized folks. But I also think that relying on one standard/universal measure of fatness can unintentionally obscure difference and nuance. Like Creatrix Tiara, I am an “in-betweenie” (I wear a straight size but have experienced fat shaming from doctors, family members, strangers, the internet, etc.) However, unlike Creatrix Tiara I am not Malaysian. I think that their specific articulation of the ways that fatness and Malaysian culture have intersected in their life is extraordinarily valuable, regardless of size. As a straight-sized/fat-feeling person, I don’t feel entitled to be a part of this space and I certainly don’t expect to be coddled. Rather, I feel really lucky and a little bit like I might get yelled at.
I’m not aware of how many fat staff members AS has, but maybe they would do better to hire a more size diverse staff. This isn’t the first article on this site I’ve seen that doesn’t adequately represent fat people (hey, fashion roundups). These writers’ stories and experiences are valid, but it’s disheartening that to know that they couldn’t have pulled a more diverse, representative group of fat staff for a piece like this.
I understand the straight size contributor’s section was largely a reflection of fatness in growing up in Malaysia. I guess I’m just salty that this article is the best AS could do in terms of fat representation. Reading this as a fat queer person didn’t make me feel more seen or represented.
oops, the above comment was meant for a different thread. sorry!
I don’t need anyone to coddle my feelings.
A little less xenophobia and racism could be useful though.
Wow, thanks for this! I liked seeing everybody’s divergent backgrounds.
First of all, I think it shows what a deeply stringent body-shaming culture we live in, that folks who are a little thick-waisted identify as fat! As Oprah said, people should live their truths, and I would never discourage somebody from identifying however they want to. What an amazing and fucked-up world we live in!
I am fat and queer and sucked up those messages, too. And it’s not just capitalism and the patriarchy making money off a fat woman’s misery that I deal with. It’s being looked through and bypassed by real living people. I don’t think it’s easier to be fat and queer than fat and straight, but maybe my introvert nature outweighs all.
I started loving my body only recently. It is absolutely amazing! Getting interested in mindfulness, meditation, and self-compassion has led me to really appreciate my body. For example, during breathing exercises, I put a hand on my belly, and during loving-kindness meditation, I put a hand over my heart. Just touching my body regularly like that has led to changes in attitude and belief.
Letting go of internalized fat-phobia is a process, not a one-and-done task, so I get where Vanessa’s coming from. I find myself looking in the mirror more, and liking more types of bodies more!
ahh y’all are great and perfect and this is great and perfect thank you for sharing your feelings with us! being vulnerable on the internet for strangers is so hard! I’m so proud of you!
Al(aina) I love you so much
Personally I think that if you’ve had the experience of a clothing store having nothing in your size, you’re allowed to speak on this subject. People have said that they’re disappointed in this article. I’m kind of disappointed by the comments. Have you ever thought that maybe Autostraddle staff who are larger than those represented here maybe just didn’t want to comment for whatever reason, which is also valid?
Idk. I’m a size 20, and while I think “fat” is an accurate descriptor for me, I don’t self-identify that way. It’s not because I’m ashamed of being fat or I think it’s a moral failing. I just don’t want to be defined by my body. It should be a neutral thing, in my view, just like thin bodies are. Maybe that’s naive, but it’s how I choose to view myself. Maybe some of Autostraddle’s other writers felt similarly?
I feel like medical discrimination is also a valid metric. A lot of fat people are small boned enough they can wear straight sized clothing but are fat enough doctors mistreat them for it.
I think this is a good point. Doctors will fall all over themselves telling you to lose weight as the first response to anything if your BMI puts you in the “overweight” category, even if you’re an average-sized person, and that type of medical discrimination hurts everyone.
I can see where you’re coming from. I don’t know if I personally identify as fat (for reasons I’ve mentioned above) but it’s a label that’s been applied to me and affects how I am able to navigate the world.
I totally understand this! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I think you provided some much-needed perspective on how what it means to be “fat” is culturally relative.
I do want to push back a little on the idea that queer spaces are more fat-postive than other spaces, or that dating as a fat queer person is easier than dating as a fat straight person.
As a bisexual woman, I’ve kind of experienced both worlds, and I’ve always been infinitely more desired by straight cis men than any other type of person.
Maybe part of that is just a numbers game, or maybe I’m just an unappealing person, but I never felt more comfortable as a fat person in queer spaces, either. I knew no one would make a shitty comment about it to me, or if they did, they’d apologize, but that was about the extent of the solidarity I experienced. Honestly, our LGBTQ center didn’t exactly excel at making everyone feel welcome, so maybe that was just a problem with that space in particular, Idk.
hard same. I’m bisexual as well and I feel way more erased as a fat person in queer spaces than I do elsewhere.
I’ve had a completely different experience and I wonder how much of it is regional or sub group related within the queer community?
Possibly so! I haven’t really seen body size play into my experience personally when it comes to being seen as attractive by queer community – usually it’s my skin colour and how well I fit into the “queer uniform” bracket that makes a difference. But I’m sure different cities have developed their own beauty norms!
This is a good point. For reference: I was casually dating in NYC and Virginia, and as other people have mentioned, New York is a particularly difficult place to be fat. I mean, I was at least 40 pounds lighter than I am now when I lived there and I was the largest person in almost all of my classes.
I’m sure other factors contributed to me having a hard time with dating – I know for a fact that biphobia played a role, for instance. As for when I was on OKC in Virginia, there’s just a smaller population of queer women there which makes total sense. I’m not blaming fatphobia for my dating failures. But I definitely would have felt more comfortable in both scenes had I been thin.
Agreed. I don’t feel like queer spaces are fat positive in general. I am in some queer spaces that are but those spaces tend to be very intentionally created and usually by fat people. Both in NYC (where I used to live) and San Francisco bay area (where I live now), I find that fat bodies are not more accepted in queer spaces than they are outside of them. At most, I see a lot of thin/not fat queer people pay lip service to body positivity while really only being welcoming to some body shapes and only small fats.
Even (sometimes especially) at spaces like a camp, it doesn’t feel like fat bodies are any more welcome or desired than they are outside of queer spaces.
So, I *know* this isn’t what you meant, like, I *know*, but Vanessa’s bit about posting about how much weight you’ve lost being hateful made me *very* uncomfortable.
Due to starting treatment for an immune disorder, I’ve recently lost a lot of weight. Still not skinny, but not as fat as I used to be. I feel incredibly better alongside this weight loss, and yeah, I make posts being happy about that, because my goddamned life changed because of this. I mean like, I’m not calling in sick to work all the time. I don’t get so dizzy I can’t get out of bed for nearly a whole day. When I post about my…progress? idk, I always talk about how much better I *feel*, how I can do things I couldn’t before.
Even still, I’ve had fat friends judge me, or accuse me of trying to subtweet them, or shake their heads at me about how I obviously secretly hate myself, or them. It made no difference how frequently I emphasized the non-weight-related parts of it, they’d still say I was being fatphobic just for talking about it – and I’m not very active on social media.
When I talk about the health benefits my weight loss has brought me, I’m being serious. I’m not just using “health benefits” as a nebulous way to glorify skinniness, because my health really has changed for the better, and I really don’t appreciate being told I “still hate fat bodies” because I express happiness about it.
Thanks for this
The benefits you feel were almost definitely brought on by getting treatment for your -immune disease- and that’s great! Studies show that >95% of weight loss does not last beyond 2-3 years. What you’re experiencing is not the miraculous ‘health effects’ of weight loss, but rather 1) treatment of a disease, 2) navigation of the world in a smaller body, and 3) less systemic bias by a fat phobic medical system
Thank you for including a butch voice in this roundtable.
I see so many queer fat-affirming articles shared online, on Facebook, etc. and they are always, always written by femme women, or at least by people far from being butch or MOC. And I’m so glad they exist! Honestly! But I can’t connect to what they write, I don’t see myself in their words, and I let my negative self voice convince me that those affirmations don’t apply to me. That I’m still doing this wrong, that my hips, my ass, and the size of my chest will always mean that I’ll be read as someone I’m not.
I had to skim most of this for now, because things have been rough lately and I’m not yet really comfortable talking about my body, and truly loving myself seems like a lofty goal. But I’m glad its here. Thank you.
I appreciate this space as a starting point for more conversations about fatness and queerness and how we experience them together. As a newly fat nonbinary person (went from a size 12-ish to about a 26 or 28), I’m still trying to piece together how I can work with my body and achieve piece with my gender presentation. I’d also love to see more discussion about fatness and in/accessibility, especially for larger fat folx! Some spaces really aren’t built for us, and it can be hard to navigate that when trying to access queer community.
Thank you so much for this! A lot of this resonates with me. When I was growing up, I constantly felt gross and masculine, which I now realize was a combination of feeling gaygaygay and also being fat when my mom was constantly on a diet. I would love to hear more from you all about how fatness and gender and presentation intersect for you.
Embracing my gender queerness made me feel more Ok about my perceived masculinity because I realised I only felt bad about not meeting the male gaze rather than anything inherent in how I looked, and that I actually like my big ass shoulders.
Yes!! Realizing that I didn’t have to figure out how to get a man to be attracted to me was SUCH. A. RELIEF.
thank you all for sharing your experiences! this was a really interesting read!
also everybody PLEASE READ THE INTRO. i am going to get t-shirts made that say READ THE INTRO and go out every day wearing it on busy streets to give people something to think about.
a reader asked how AS staff members felt about being fat and if they could do a roundtable about it, so they did. vanessa opened it up to anybody on staff who wanted to participate. i personally feel like it’s a really diverse range of experiences all to come out of one slack team, you know?
also like honestly these people came here to talk about their bodies and reveal uncomfortable things about themselves! appreciate that!
Right! Like sweet jesus have some more thought. The staff writers aren’t just robots there to spill out perfect pieces of *magically applicable to everyone social justice fare* , they’re actual people sharing THEIR stories about their own lives and emotions. It is truly wild to me that a conversation about fatness isn’t allowed to have nuance /an appreciation of how context changes the way in which a body is interpreted. We accept that for example, a white masculine thin woman will have (generally) an elevated place in queer women’s communities but that that will not follow her out the door in the same way once she’s back in the wider cis str8 world. So why can’t we use a little bit of the queer lens to look at fatness and see that it’s not a *one size fits all* approach so to speak!!!
*snaps* well said
Maybe I am not catching the nuance, but I don’t really get the second to last paragraph. How is cis male gaze different from trans male gaze? Aren’t both male gaze, just from slightly different areas? I’m really confused here, as men are men, and my abuser was a bi trans man who used that line im different from other men to try to do unlawful things to me.
People yelling “You’re not fat enough! Your experience is not valid!” is really not how I thought this comment section was going to go.
I don’t think that there are a lot fat positivity movements outside the US, and that there are a lot different beauty standards and ways to body shame around the world, so I don’t think it’s that uncommon that people from other cultures seek identification and comfort from this one.
I’m curious if some of you seem to think that AS staff isn’t “fat enough” to talk about their feelings re:fatness, then what is “fat enough”?
Like, is there a number? A clothing size? A list of things they must experience? Who gets to decide this list?
BMI and obesity grades.
I mean, I literally mention how Malaysian doctors declare me as “obese” based on my BMI in my piece and that didn’t stop anybody.
But the American dreeeeeeeess siiiiiiiizes
This is beautiful yall. Intro again here just for reference. “One of our readers wrote to the A+ inbox and complimented our Monday Roundtables (thank you!) and also asked if we could put together a roundtable where “fat staff members talk about how fatness / diet culture / body positivity / etc relates to their queerness, identity, gender, and such?” ” Roundtables are SO GREAT bc they are different than articles or essays. I hope you all keep doing them and we can express appreciation for them :)
Thank you all for being so vulnerable and also so gorgeous in your bodies and your selves!
Loved and appreciated this. I thought it was awesome to hear and see beautiful and empowering representation of under-represented body types and experiences here on AS.
One thing I’m kinda jealous of about these body types is how often they go with being very physically STRONG, even like flip a tractor tire strong. I love doing sports, but personally it’s very difficult for me to put on muscle mass and keep it on; I can never be as physically strong as a lot of y’all.
You can have higher relative strength though, which can be super fun in other ways.
I’ve been doing bodyweight exercises recently, after gaining a lot of weight, and it’s very hard and I feel completely out of shape. I know that it’s basically like exercising with a weight vest (and after taking a long break from physical activity on top of that), so I’ll be stronger, but I’d much rather not struggle with, say, jump squats and pushups than flip tires. (I know that people heavier than me can do jump squats, pushups, pull ups and so on. It just takes a lot more to get to that point the heavier you are.)
I am not at all physically strong! I can’t even lift my own weight.
Something I really miss about my pre-illness self is how strong I was. I used to be able to do things like dramatically carry a girlfriend and move furniture by myself.
This is a beautiful roundtable full of awesome people and perspectives! I really appreciate the vulnerability in honesty all the writers expressed. Queerness doesn’t solve all fatphobia but it can help create a new way to approach it! Thank you for writing this; I was delighted to read it and helped me feel more body positive today
thank you all so much for being so lovely and vulnerable and sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. i love this site and this space so, so much.
I love this and thank you for letting me be a part of it and vanessa please dont apologize YOURE ALLOWED TO CONTAIN MULTITUDES YOURE A FUCKING UNIVERSE SO CONTRADICTIONS AND NOT CLEAR CUT EXPECTATIONS AND EXPLANATIONS ARE OKAY YOU ARE WONDERFUL AND LOVELY AND NOTHING CAN NEGATE THAT
CONTAIN ALL THE MULTITUDES PLEASE
Thank you all so much for sharing!!!
I hate that people are here acting as gatekeepers. I’m sorry, but I do. Sizes are subjective bullshit. We don’t get to decide who belongs in a roundtable like this. All of these experiences are valid.
If your experience is different, I wish you would share it here or submit a piece about it!
I think there are super interesting and productive conversations to be had about fat identity and fat politics, etc, I know because I’ve had them with some of you! i want to keep having those conversations! Instead of yelling about how they aren’t here.
Thank you all for sharing your experiences. Writing about deeply personal parts of yourself for the internet, and especially The Queer Internet, is a lot harder than it looks. As ever, I continue to learn so much from each of you.
From a business perspective, I think it suffices to say that Autostraddle cannot be all things to all people. No queer-run organization or business or media can be all things to all people, especially running on budgets that are a mere sliver of what a Conde or a Hearst has. The enemy is out there. It’s not in here.
Thank you to everyone for being so honest and open in sharing your feelings. I would love to learn how to not hate myself for being fat. I definitely have awful internalised fatphobia exacerbated by my health issues and every little thing being blamed on my weight regardless. I have such mixed feelings about myself and wonder how I can ever feel attractive to myself when I struggle to believe anyone could like me. Certainly I can’t imagine ever being attractive to anyone else.
This is a really difficult, deeply personal, emotive subject and I am grateful to you for providing a space to be open about it.
Interesting article. I’m kind of disappointed by the comments
Thank you Creatrix Tiara for talking about your experiences. I’m South Asian American and “in-between” as well so I could really relate to a lot of what you said. I’d love to see more of a conversation around the diaspora and weight. We talk a lot about other beauty standards (hair, clothes, skin color) but less about Eastern obsession with thinness. I felt pretty okay about my body in American high school but in my Indian high school, I was one of the larger girls. It’s a weird mind fuck, and I can’t imagine how hard it was to grow up like that in Malaysia.
I hope this plus the Fat Tomboy Femme article are the just the beginning of this conversation on Autostraddle!
Oh my god absolutely!! I was in all-girls schools growing up and the fatphobia starts EARLY.
I sometimes feel like there’s a racist element to it in Malaysia – a lot of clothes shops are run by Chinese folk and they’re all about small/slim/flat. Malay-run shops are pretty similar. I’m not sure how I’d be treated in an Indian (though I’m more adjacent-to-India) clothes shop?
Because I’m adopted, my only access to Korean and/or East Asian people was through media representation and occasional trips to bigger cities growing up. I legit thought something was wrong with me that all these other Korean and Chinese people were so small and petite. I have broad shoulders and I’ve always been a bigger person, even as a little kid. I was standard size for a long time and still “felt fat” and I think it came largely from only ever seeing skinny Asian people in media representation in addition to basing my American beauty ideals on thin white women in the era of waif-worship. I thought I was some fat Asian freak.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, @creatrixtiara!
Thank you all for sharing your perspectives ??
hi i wanted to sleep on it before i responded to some of these comments and today i have a really full day of classes and school work but i just wanted to note that i’ll be back tonight to address a lot of things. i’ll say more later, it just feels weird to me to be absent from some of these conversations and i don’t want anyone to think i’m avoiding it – far from it, it’s all i can think about today.
thank you to everyone for reading and engaging with this. please try to remember that there are real humans behind these computer screens writing really vulnerably for you, and even if you think we’re fucking up, perhaps you could try to read these words with good faith in your heart, so we can all grow and change together for the better.
also, to my co-workers who agreed to participate in this project, thank you, thank you, thank you. thank you. i am so grateful.
more later. thanks for your patience.
“Oh, but also – living in New York as a queer person did not allow for me to learn to love my body. I know plenty of fat queer humans who live in New York and love their bodies but I couldn’t do it. For me, it took moving to Portland, Oregon to really fucking learn to love my body.”
Reading this part really hit me. I’ve lived in New York all my life, and I don’t plan on leaving, but I do think this city is making it really hard for me to love my fat body. I can’t pinpoint why, but you have hit the nail on the head for me. Thank you, Vanessa.
I honestly feel really uncomfortable being queer and fat – for me, those don’t mix well. The most comfortable I’ve been in my skin in the dating/sex world is when I’m with other fat girls…like, I don’t feel judged, even if I’m not actually being judged, and it’s all in my head/projected.
I have a lot of internalized fatphobia. I have really bad body dysmorphia, and I have disordered eating issues, and I’m still trying to figure out how to accept my body and be at peace with it.
I am currently reading The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. There’s a lot in there about internalized body-shaming. I highly recommend the book, even though I’m only halfway through!
I love and appreciate everything about this, thank you. ??
Look, I know this comment thread got somehow derailed, but can we please, for a hot second, talk about the politics of fatness?
I’m German with a weird American influence and whenever I travel to the US (to see my mom) I‘m flabbergasted by how different I perceive the American approach to food to be.
Greasy, fast food in huge quantities is so vastly less expensive and easily available than healthier options, which then quickly tip over into the other extreme of zero fat kale smoothie craziness that social class, work load and income are indisputable variables of a person‘s body composition.
A lot more so than in the European countries I’ve been to.
Just last week I read an article about the tobacco lawsuits and how these days, there are several other lawsuits, like ones against soda companies targeting their sugary drinks at kids, that don’t reach the courts or don’t get filed by the official departments responsible for public health because they lack political interest and backing.
All of this makes me wonder how much of fatness and obesity really is a result of truly enjoying deliciousness or whether body composition in both extremes is moreover a sign of class and nefarious marketing influences.
I‘d love to hear what you think about this!
Hi Amidola! While I see where you’re going, I’m uncomfortable with your assumptions, or maybe with having that conversation in this space, which is a space about our personal experiences in our bodies. Like if someone is writing here that their personal experience was not having access to healthy food as a child, I want to hear that, but I feel WAYS about making public health declarations in this space.
Like we know that lack of access to fresh food, and food insecurity in general, is a huge issue for many Americans, and that affects health in myriad ways, but it’s only one factor in how people’s bodies are composed – there will always be thin people who eat very little fresh food, and there will always be fat people whose diets are very healthy. Ya know?
Which is all just to say that that’s a FRAUGHT layer IDK if we want to really dive into unless you’re speaking from personal experience, does that make sense at all?
I could be off-base, that was just my gut instincts around this <3
Of course I have a personal story to this.
I used to be an immigrant to the US with uh, mixed legal status and wildly varying family income levels while being a teenager there in the 90s (think cleaning condos at fifteen). And I’ve returned there,usually as a dirt poor college student, until recently.
I’ve tried to eat healthier in the past few years,too, because of health and mental health reasons, so I don’t know if it has simply been my perspective shifting or of suddenly being more aware of healthy food choices, because I actually could make them, money wise, or whether the whole decent food for ok money thing has so extremely shifted in the past twenty years.
I agree with you that the extreme skinny zero everything thing is just as scary!
However, my experience these past few years has been one of struggle. I’m simply overwhelmed whenever I go to the US, I don’t know what to eat where and I am absolutely unwilling to shell out 40 bucks for an unsatisfying breakfast situation when that covers over half a week’s grocery bills in Berlin.
A fifth of that gets me a stack of pancakes, a tenth a couple of donuts.
It’s just extreme.
However, I know that my perspective is skewed and that’s why I wanted to know whether people who actually live there have the same experience.
I totally respect your sentiments on the issue and won’t ask any further.
And just for the record, by healthy I actually mean healthy, like in things with micronutrients. Like in needing to be desperately kind and taking care of myself way, after almost self destructing. Ahem.
Have a good day!
I mean, feel free! And thank you for sharing! I think I get jumpy or want to be careful to conflate the politics of food with the politics of fatness, is all (although I understand that they are of course linked).
I totally get what you’re saying.
Argentina has a 25/30% level of poverty for at least the last 30 years, and is very common to hear things like “how can that kid/woman/man be fat if they’re poor?” (yes, you can find that kind of sensitivity here). The thing is that being poor only allows you eat certain things every day and every month, and this means cheap (rice, noodles, flours and such). Processed foods and sugary foods are also cheaper than meat, vegetables or healthier foods.
Particularly, nowadays, we’re makind a trend with this because our level of inflation and the mess that is our economy is creating more and more poor people every day.
Hello immigrant to the USA here. You’re totally right
thanks for your honesty with this roundtable and in life, you’re all stars
Thank you all so much for sharing and consensual hugs all around. The family stuff? The actual weight not lining up with how positive you feel about your body? The depression/meds and weight gain? Yes, yes, yesssssssss.
The biggest thing that connected with me is that self compassion, here, body positivity, is an ongoing process. You never reach self love and *poof*! Impervious to fatphobic marketing, pernicious diet culture, snipey comments from well meaning(?) relatives. That shits a practice.
Reading and seeing you all helps me feed my self compassion and love for my body exactly the way it is. And it’s reassuring to read your journeys too!
I was pretty much expecting some of these comments (I said as much in my piece) but i do appreciate y’all who stood up for me.
I’m not after coddling. What would be nice though is SOLIDARITY.
There’s not really a body-positivity movement in Malaysia or surrounds- Japan’s really been the only place and again, the models are my size and that’s notable. There are a few bloggers that do that kind of work, but nothing to the scale of the US or elsewhere.
It’s pretty damn shitty to grow up with your body being defined as the model of Wrong and Fat, to the point of doctors declaring you as obese and treating you medically as such (which I said in my piece but y’all seem to have missed) – and then to move elsewhere seeking more options only to be told your experiences are invalid. To be back in Malaysia for 9 months a couple of years ago and STILL have trouble finding things to wear, to have shopkeepers tell you you’re fat, to be told you’re dressing “inappropriately” and are being “too revealing” and someone’s going to assault you because your very sedate t-shirt doesn’t squash down your curves – and then come to the West and be told by people who think they know you better than you do that you haven’t dealt with anything.
And this sort of thing contributes to the uncomfortable-ambiguity I talk about. My body is never good enough for anyone – even AND ESPECIALLY – the people who crow about body acceptance. Because my experience is different from the norm, because I’m not neatly one side or the other.
Come to Malaysia sometime and see what I have to deal with. See who’s in the Before photo. See our BMI charts. See our clothing stores.
Maybe then that’ll inspire you to provide actual support to people there who have nowhere else to go, rather than snipe at them for not being oppressed enough?
Tiara, I can’t stop thinking about what you wrote! I am American and a size 16/18. I’ve had similar experiences as you – I spent a lot of time living in Spain when I was younger where they are really size and fashion obsessed,and I couldn’t ever find clothes that fit me (unless I went to the cheap Walmart-esque stores outside of town). My sister who still lives there and is very fit and fashionable is constantly talking abouther latest diet or exercise regime. People in America think that fatphobia is bad, they should try living pretty much anywhere else in the world.
During the brief period where I wasn’t fat I still couldn’t wear Spanish clothes with sleeves because my arm muscles were bigger than even the largest size they had (we went on holiday there and they had such beautiful things).
This is funny because I had the exact opposite experience in Spain – it felt to me like people were more free to wear whatever they wanted. I did get fat-shamed by my (also fat) homestay mother, which was confusing and upsetting, but for the most part, I felt way more uncomfortable about my body when I was amongst my American peers than when interacting with Spanish people. I was also a lot smaller than I am now when I lived there, though, and pretty much exclusively shopped in the men’s section of H&M, so that might have had something to do with my experience.
The topic of this roundtable is something that I struggle mightily around. It is difficult for me to suss out the nuances of how my queerness and gender inform my fatness and vice versa, especially as a more MOC queer. It is all a jumbled mess.
I would say my family and friends, whether they are queer or straight, are a lot more accepting of my queerness than my fatness. Perhaps that is because they see being fat as a character flaw to be changed and being queer as innate to who I am. I think this is fairly typical of the community where I live, and perhaps why I struggle more with being fat and not with being queer. That and I am able to hide my queerness if I have to, but not my fatness.
Currently, what is jump starting my self compassion and self love the most is the knowledge that I cannot judge myself for being fat/queer/etc. and not judge others for those same things. And frankly that is not who I want to be. I can only love and be compassionate for others like me to the degree that I can love and be compassionate to myself.
Anywho, all that to say thank you all so much for your vulnerability and your perspectives. I found bits and pieces of myself in your stories, which was affirming as hell and gives me lots to think about. ?
Vanessa, thank you, thank you for sharing that. jesus christ, I just feel so held right now. I almost said I feel so “seen,” but that doesn’t quite capture my feeling. I feel seen, but I also feel buoyed up and held by your words, your honesty, your encouragement. thank you for being vulnerable, and also being so powerful – I loved/needed/will come back to your paragraph on before-and-after’s, and on the challenge it is to love your body each day. thanks for taking on that challenge, for being authentic about it, and for sharing your experience.
Standard plus size solidarity, @CreatrixTiara! I’m currently in an 18 or 20 and have been all over the spectrum as size. I feel like arbitrary decisions about being “fat enough” are about as useful to our collective liberation as statements about my pan/bisexual identity being “gay enough” or my gender expression being “queer enough.” Like…ENOUGH. WE ARE ENOUGH.
I don’t know why we can’t hold more than one thing to be true. Fat bodies are treated differently at different sizes. I have some privileges that other fat people do not. That’s real and true. I also experience discrimination and harm because of the stigma around being a person of size. That’s also true! I don’t have to take anything from a fellow fat who is pushed even farther to the margins in order to be liberated. I can uphold their liberation and I can also ask for mine. I can center their experiences while still adding me own to the narrative. GOOD GRIEF. Life is a series of “both, and” situations. Those commenters were right to want even more inclusive representation of fat bodies on our staff. ASK FOR IT. Let’s aim for it! It doesn’t have to come at the expense of silencing others who are also victims of fat-shaming culture.
I really appreciated this roundtable and all the staff voices here. For me, hearing as many stories as possible about people’s relationships with their fat bodies really helps me feel accepting of mine.
Am I living on another planet? Because the lesbian community is the most anti-fat space I’ve found!
I grew up skinny, then I was fat, and now I’m average-sized. There is no doubt whatsoever that the thinner I am, the more accepted I am by lesbians, and the more prospective dating partners I have. When I was fat, I tried to find women through dating sites in multiple major US cities, because I travel for work. The VAST majority of women’s profiles selected who they are attracted to as “thin, athletic, or average.” Almost nobody said thick, chubby, or god forbid a body size larger than that. Many profiles specifically had language like, “no fatties,” or, “sorry, but I’m only interested in slim/athletic women – please don’t contact me if this is not you.” Even though I had tons of other things in common with these women, and am a nice person, that was all irrelevant.
When I went out to lesbian events in person to meet women, I was the fattest or almost fattest there, and nearly everyone was very thin. Because I am chapstick femme, and in the multiple spaces I have inhabited, fat femme lesbians do not exist. (I should note that I skew toward being attracted to femme or androgynous women, or some bois – and these women being attracted to femme women who are fat seems very rare.) I am friendly, and when I would speak to these women, they would pretend to be listening to me and then quickly find someone else to talk to. When I would dance (I’m a good dancer), the thinner women would immediately move away to find a thinner partner.
Where I live lesbians have a lot of pool parties, and every time I’d go to one they’d look me up and down like ‘why did you even bother coming here?’ and go sit next to the other thin people. I tried to talk to them and smile, but they would always end up making some awkward comment about me maybe “being more comfortable at some other type of event” – like one without a pool, or where they don’t have to see me. What they meant is THEY would be more comfortable. Every time I went to the Pride parade and tried to talk to people, they would all look away, like they were embarrassed for me because I’m too fat to be cool and chic. I have a great personality, am funny, am a good listener, am adventurous – I have no trouble making friends in the straight world. I get hit on by straight men nearly every time I leave the house, so somebody does find my curves and face attractive. Which makes me feel worse. But I did not get a single woman to kiss me, exchange numbers, dance with me, or even hang with me as a pal, while being fat. Year after year after year.
One time I ran into a woman in a city that was new to me, sitting alone at a lesbian-frequented restaurant right next to me. I approached her, and in conversation she said she was sad and having a hard day, and was going to be alone for the night because her plans hadn’t worked out. But she was always looking to do more things at new places. It turned out that we had more aspects in our lives in common than seemed humanly possible, and we liked to do the same types of things too! We even accidentally ordered exactly the same thing. So I asked her if she would go with me to a place we had literally just talked about. And she said no, wished me good luck, and pulled out a book and started reading right there at the table. We had everything in common, but she was clearly not attracted to me. She was athletic, and I was chubby at that point.
I was so desperate for human contact in those years, I did flirt back with men a few times, and once even halfway hooked up with one (but when he asked me to suck his dick, I laughed and said that was just not going to happen – but I felt no desire to do that whatsoever, I just liked the making out and groping before that part). That all messed with my brain, but I just needed someone to be nice to me and act like I was worth anything, like they saw me, like I was attractive and interesting. And not a single lesbian woman I was interested in and had things in common with could bring herself to do that.
Guess what? The more weight I lose, the more women suddenly come out of the woodwork to notice me, and consider me. They have made it clear that if I was actually thin, not average, they would see me as cool and we could hang out and maybe even have sex! (shock) But that doesn’t make me feel good either. It’s so clear they don’t even care what kind of person I am on the inside, or whether we like to do the same things. Lesbian women are the most shallow, closed-off, judgemental people *I* have ever met in my lifetime. I so wish that wasn’t true, but it just is. (Well, except for some gay guys I know, but at least I don’t have to date them!) So now I’m kind of bitter. I’m less fun when I know the people talking to me are only doing so because of what I look like, and not because of who I am. But it is also apparent that no one cares if I’m that fun, because I am significantly less interesting and engaging now at lesbian events, and even so the women are nicer to me than they ever were when I was fatter. But they still always leave to talk to the thinnest girl in the room. I am now good enough to maybe be a pal, but not to fall in love with.
And still, straight men continue to actually want to date me seriously, and one guy even suggested we get married (because straight men will never hear when a femme woman says, “Dude, I am GAY!”).
So I have a lot of ambivalent feelings about my body. I tried to be confident when I was fat, to wear flattering clothes and look nice (everyone has this fear of fat people being unclean somehow). Now I can do more things with my body, and wear more clothes that I like. I don’t have to pay more money for plus-sized clothes. I don’t accidentally hit my arms when I try to walk through a door. People don’t alternatively treat me like a leper and then pity me. But, it is clear from the generation of women who worship ‘The L Word,’ the ‘Real L Word’, Portia De Rossi, the ‘hot’ lesbians of Orange is the New Black, etc. that when I stop fitting a Medium/Large size (boobs) and start fitting a Small or Extra Small, THEN and only then will I really be seen as the fabulous and desirable chick I am. But, I would have to engage in some pretty unhealthy habits to get there. So I guess I stay average, and continue only getting looks from women who are lonely and killing time before the thinner girl finally notices them.
I myself would date a fat girl if we had lots of stuff in common, but so far the ones I have met have completely opposite interests to me, so that avenue has not opened up now that I’m thinner.
But I guess everybody else here lives in Fat Acceptance Land, so much so that some feel they have the privilege to exclude and be cruel to girls who are not fat enough for them?
My experience is that “queer spaces are so much more accepting of diversity” is bullshit. My experience is that straight dudes think I’m fuckable, and gay women decidedly think I am not. Which has left me – for lack of a better word – cranky. All the more so that nobody so far in this entire community apparently knows what I’m talking about. Also, I have a high sex drive, and have not gotten laid in almost a decade, because the only ones who want to go there with me while actually giving a shit about who I am as a person, have a dick attached. Sad face.
This was amazing, thanks so much to everyone in this roundtable for sharing. I loved reading all your perspectives.