“No Fats, No Fems, No Blacks, No Asians”: Interrogating Whiteness and Its Collusion with Thinness and Hyper-Masculinity in Queer Communities

I have a t-shirt that says “More Fats More Fems.” It is a direct confrontation to the “no fats, no fems” rhetoric that is used in many gay personal ads or app profiles. I have seen this for many years. In addition, “no Blacks, No Asians” is also frequently used, along with an aversion towards transgender people.

Most of these ads emanate from white, cisgender, gay men. White supremacy, thin supremacy and cis supremacy are huge problems in the GLBTQ community. I have found this out the hard way through my own experience. I am oppressed by two of these axes of oppression and privileged by the third. I will talk about the oppression first and then end with the way I am privileged.

I am fat and femme. In 1973, I was assigned male at birth. Growing up, I always knew I was not a boy. I was a feminine-acting and a gender nonconforming child. My gender creativity did not sit well with my peers or even my own family. For my first six years of existence, I was just me and living life with my parents and siblings. But as soon as I went to elementary school, I was thrown to the wolves. It was like a trial by fire. The playground was a battleground for me. I was brutally bullied from grades k-12 and grew increasingly aware of the fact that I was femme. When I came out into the gay community as an undergrad I was shocked by the level of femmephobia or effemiphobia. Fem gay men were completely marginalized. There was a tremendous emphasis on being masculine. Masculinity was seen as sexy and male-assigned people who were fem/me or feminine were seen as sexually and socially undesirable. I was shocked because I erroneously assumed that a group that was discriminated against would not discriminate against members of their own community. There were lots of fem/me gay and queer men that I met and they too faced marginalization from the community. When I came out as trans the anti-femme hatred only intensified and I realized how much misogyny, sexism, effemiphobia and transphobia there was in the gay and lesbian community.

I was also a chubby child and was bullied for being fat. I look back at chubby photos of myself as a child now and think I look cute. At the time, having my appearance mocked was devastating. I was already being teased mercilessly for being a feminine boy. Being made fun of for my weight and appearance dragged me down even further. I am not a lifelong fatty. When I hit puberty, I zoomed up in height [eventually reaching a height of 6’6”] and became really skinny for about 15 years. However, when I hit 30, my weight started to shoot up. This was similar to my other family members. I went from my lowest adult weight of around 200 to my current weight of over 400 pounds. I doubled in size. I have seen the way people treated me then versus the way they treat me now, including in the queer community. One time at a trans event, a skinny trans woman gave me the dirtiest look because apparently I was taking too much food from the buffet. I could no longer enjoy the event and felt like crying. The standard in the LGBTQ community is thin. The community as a whole is thin supremacist. The beauty standards for trans women or transfeminine people is the same as dominant culture: thin, dainty and petite. As a 6’6”, 425 pound transfeminine non-binary person, I am a TransAmazon. I do not fit the dominant beauty standards of cis or trans communities. It is very difficult to realize how marginalized I am in this society.

Transmisogyny and Fatphobia are issues that I care deeply about. I am affected by both problems and am the victim of these forms of oppression. However, I am also white. As a white person, I receive white privilege. This refers to unearned benefits and advantages that a person receives simply for having white skin. I first became aware of my whiteness in 1992. I was taking a Black Studies course and it was also the year that there were riots in Los Angeles due to the fact that the Black motorist Rodney King was brutally beaten by cops and the cops were exonerated by an all-white jury. This was done even though there was a video of the assault. I could not believe this injustice and was embarrassed to belong to a race that was so hateful and so dedicated to spreading white supremacy and dominance.

When I first came out, one of my best friends was a Black, bisexual woman. Her coming out paralleled my own coming out as queer and trans. We were both in a white, cisgender, gay and lesbian community and organization. As I began to experience transphobia, I noticed that she began to experience racism and biphobia. White lesbians and gay men treated her differently and made inferences about her identity. She got sick and tired of the racist treatment and had me read a letter to the LGBT group addressing her mistreatment. Her experience sadly was not unique. Beginning in the 70s and 80s, women of color began to speak out and write essays about racism in Women’s Studies, feminism and the lesbian Community.

Women of color and lesbian of color feminists sounded the alarm about racism in white-dominated feminist and lesbian spaces. Audre Lorde emerged as a leader who wrote and spoke extensively about racism in the women’s movement and in the lesbian community. She wrote that “your silence will not protect you” and encouraged women of color and queer women of color in particular to speak out about racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

It was through my friend’s experiences and then through my immersion in Women’s Studies that I learned about racism and my own white privilege. I realized that I have white privilege in the LGBTQ community and that there are many ways in which white people receive better treatment in both the mainstream and in the subcultures. LGBTQ people of color face racism in the white dominated LGBTQ community and sometimes homophobia and transphobia in communities of color. This means that it is often hard to find a home where they truly feel valued. It speaks to the need for queer and trans people of color communities to have their own groups and spaces that are safe and inclusive.

In conclusion, the “no fats, no fems, no Blacks, no Asians” phrase is absolutely despicable. This phrase speaks to the need to combat racism, fatphobia and femme-phobia within the LGBTQ community. One of the things that has truly helped in the past several decades has been the emphasis on intersectionality. Now people are looking at what it means to be a queer person of color or a fat feminist or an Asian trans man etc. because they are putting together multiple forms of identity and analyzing multiple forms of oppression. My hope is that people will analyze both how they are oppressed and how they are privileged and work towards a community of diversity, inclusion and respect.

Appearance

We live in an image-obsessed society. This has done incalculable damage to our citizenry, especially to women and girls. The reason for this is looksism, a type of prejudice that is rarely discussed but that is incredibly powerful in our society.

In a previous entry, I wrote about feminism. To me, a major part of feminism deals with body image. Another previous entry I wrote deals with weight. Weight is a major part of appearance in today’s world. The answer to combat both weightism and looksism is feminism. We need more feminism and we need to use feminism as a tool to combat appearance bias.

It doesn’t matter how we look. That is a basic feminist tenet for me. It is shocking that we are still caught up in how people look. I am a very tall, fat, crip, non-passing transfeminine person. I get stares everywhere I go. It is absolutely exhausting. I get dressed and I put very little thought into it because I don’t think the way a person dresses matters. Yes, I get that it is a mode of self expression. Some people take a lot of pride in their appearance and I don’t want to take anything away from that. But the truth of the matter is that way too much stock is put into a person’s appearance rather than on their inside. As corny and clichéd as it sounds, it’s what is on the inside that matters. But the appearance-obsessed society doesn’t see it that way.

I think my social positionality as a fat person, a tall person and a non-passing, non-binary transgender person has of course greatly impacted my views on appearance. In addition, I have a mobility challenge and sometimes limp and/or use a cane. When people comment upon my height, it drives me up a wall. I don’t think they are being malicious, but I do think they need to understand that I have been asked about my height a thousand times and it grows tiresome. Since I have doubled my weight from 200 to over 400, I have noticed the way people have treated me. Ironically I have become less visible in some ways, When you are fat you become a blob who fades into the background. When I use my cane I notice people give me a wide berth when I walk around and rush to open doors for me. But of course it is my non-binary, non-passing gender expression that gets the most attention. It is that facet of my identity which continues to provoke fear, embrassment and humiliation.

My experiences with being treated differently due to my appearance greatly affect my feelings about it. Looksims divides people into those who are physically attractive and those who are not. It labels people as “beautiful” or as “ugly.” I fall into the category of people who are deemed unattractive/ugly. This means that in addition to fatphobia, transphobia, crip-phobia, and heightism, I also face looksism. The unending emphasis on appearance and image is really sickening. Everyone is beautiful but we are not allowed to feel that way because society grades us based on external beauty rather than on internal greatness. Why can’t people see the light that burns within us?

My desire is to allow people the right to their own image but to stop placing so much emphasis on it and most especially to stop grading people on their appearance in a hierarchical fashion. The media is one of the worst culprits in this and we need to demand that everyone is beautiful, including People of Color, Trans people, People with Disabilities, Fat People and people deemed phsycally undisirable in the current system of hierarchical valuation. I ask anyone reading this [all 5 of you ;] to hold up the preceding groups as beautiful and fight back against the system that devalues some of us. Get involved with feminist groups to fight for body positivity, fat acceptance and appearance diversity. Only through concerted effort can we ever foment change in this very important area.

 

Weight

Weight is not a number on a scale or a BMI. It is a social construct. Weight, like race and gender, is socially constructed. It is imbedded with cultural meanings by social actors. Weight is not simply a “neutral” number on a scale, but a socially constructed ideology that ranks human bodies in terms of their supposed health, attractiveness and overall value.

Right now we live in a virulently fatphobic society. To put it bluntly, fat people are hated. I am fat. Therefore I am hated. I am hated because fat people are hated. We need to stop with the tepid language. Weightism is a social justice issue. I feel like I spend so much of my life saying this. The reason is that fat and weight are viewed in this country through the lens of “health.” Allegedly. But my own view is that this emphasis on health is often just a smokescreen for thinly veiled anti-fat prejudice. Be that as it may, fat people need to not be discriminated against, just like women and transgender people and People of Color need to not be discriminated against.

I am going to define some of the terms we need to have in our toolkit to describe the systemic hatred directed against People Of Size [POS]. Fatphobia is the irrational, ubiquitous fear and hatred of bodies that are socially designated as larger than average and the individual and interpersonal prejudice directed against fat people based on negative perceptions of their weight or body size and the many stereotypes that circulate in the culture about People of Size. Fat Shaming is a form of Body Shaming. It is unsolicited comments, slights, put-downs and other micro-aggressions leveled against People of Size to make them feel guilty, ashamed and inferior due to their weight. Fat shaming can also make POS hate their own bodies and internalize their own oppression. Weight Stigma is the bullying, teasing, negative body language, harsh comments, discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s body size or weight. Body Policing is the practice of monitoring, surveying and appraising the value of people’s bodies (particularly women’s) based on hegemonic notions of what constitutes a desirable or attractive weight and appearance. Related to Bodysnarking, which is cruelly talking about and dissecting another person’s body (either directly at them or privately with others) in order to reinforce weightest and looksist norms and ideals. Weightism is institutional practices, policies and structures that cause discrimination and oppression against people of size. Weightism is also caused by cultural representations and embedded cultural values that promote the defamation and degradation of fat people and the supposed superiority of thin or average-sized people. Fatphobia + Power = Weightism. Thin Privilege is the unearned resources, advantages, access and power granted to thin people based solely on their dominant social group membership. Privilege is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why privilege is almost always invisible to those who possess it.

Just as people come in a spectrum of colors, genders and sexualities, people come in a diverse spectrum of weights, heights, body shapes and sizes. Weight/Size Diversity should be acknowledged, affirmed and celebrated just like racial, gender and sexual diversity. The Fat Acceptance Movement is a social movement seeking to eradicate fatphobia and weightism in our society, as well as affirm and celebrate weight and size diversity. The movement grew out of the various other social movements of the 1960s to challenge the routine denigration of fat bodies, as well as the virulent discrimination faced by People of Size in employment, education and the medical establishment. Besides its political role, the fat acceptance movement also constitutes a subculture that acts as a social group for its members through activities such as conferences, fashion, art, athletics, the blogosphere, burlesque, dancing, performance and more. The Fat Acceptance Movement encourages People of Size to have Fat Pride by being unashamed of their bodies and affirming a sense of their worth and self-respect through unabashedly celebrating size diversity. Alongside the Fat Acceptance Movement has grown the field of Fat Studies: An emerging, interdisciplinary area of study that researches fat identity, politics, media representation, culture and oppression, among other topics. Fat Studies has an explicitly fat activist agenda and is the academic arm of the fat rights movement. There are now many books, articles, and conferences dedicated to the academic exploration of Fat Studies topics. Health At Every Size (HAES): HAES is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor one’s body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and wellbeing (rather than narrowly-focused weight control). HAES encourages: accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes; Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite; and finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.

The viewpoint I have proffered in this blog entry goes against the dominant narrative in every way. As fat people we are supposed to hate ourselves. We are supposed to be ashamed. We are supposed to beg for acceptance by embracing the diet industry. At least we are trying to lose weight, right? I reject healthism and reject the diet model. I embrace HAES and size acceptance movement. And I hope all who read this, whether thin, average size or people of size, will embrace this new model of thinking about weight.

Food

As I sit writing this, I am waiting for my breakfast a local restaurant. I ordered a fruit cup to start, coffee and OJ, and a super vegetarian omelet with English muffins and sweet potato home-fries. To put it bluntly, I love to eat. To put it more bluntly, it is one of favorite things in the world. 🙂  And one thing I dislike with a passion is food shaming.

Food shaming is when a person judges or criticizes another person for their food choices. This is mean, spiteful and totally unnecessary. I believe strongly there are no inherently “good” or” bad” foods. We need to stop thinking of food in this simplistic and dichotomized way. We also need to realize that food and eating are a part of life. It is no surprise that so many people love food and love to eat. But this simple reality is threatened by the food shamers.

Of course, this is related to two phenomena: healthism and weightism. Healthism is the imposition by society and government of a so-called “healthy lifestyle.” In fact, imposition is too weak a word. A synonym for healthism is health fascism. Thus it often feels like this thinking is being aggressively forced upon people. At this moment in society, we are battered with constant messages of “health” and “healthy eating” that criticize the way we eat, including our very natural cravings for particular foods. Apparently these cravings are meant to be overcome by simple discipline and sheer self-control. And what drives food shaming and healthism? Weightism is a big part of it. Weightism is the institutional discrimination against people of size. As a person of size [I weigh over 400 pounds] this is something I face on a regular basis. It is one of the “isms” that is seldom talked about even though it is ubiquitous. Fatphobia and the fear of becoming fat drive weightism and food shaming. We have a very guilt-ridden and shaming approach to food, to eating, to “health” and to weight in our society.

Food shaming also comes from applying one’s own eating habits onto other people. As Aner Tal states in an article from Marie Claire: “In some cases, the internal monitoring that goes on with one’s own food choices gets projected onto the outside world. In a way, being critical of other’s choices is just externalizing the criticism or self-control you apply to yourself.” People need to stop assuming that everyone will eat like them or wants to eat like them. People’s eating and food preferences are highly individualized and unique. Rather than viewing some people’s eating habits as “bad” or “unhealthy” we need to see them as personal preferences and leave them the hell alone. Food shaming has been proven to be very injurious to people and it needs to stop.

It’s actually kind of sad and telling that I have spent the bulk of this post writing about the abuse associated with food rather than how wonderful it is! I have just finished my breakfast and it was absolutely delicious, including my serving of veggies and fruit. It saddens me greatly that we have taken one of life’s great pleasures and turned it into a site of panic, criticism and judgment. The good news is that there are plenty of people who are challenging these hegemonic norms based on food-shaming, healthism and weightism. Fat activists, size acceptance movement, body positivity folks and Health At Every Size [HAES] proponents are some of the cultural warriors who are combatting these discriminatory attitudes and transforming our culture in regards to weight, food, fitness and health. So, eat up! Mangiamo! Bon Appétit! Eat without apology, savor and enjoy.