I have to be completely honest and true to myself when writing this article, which is why I have found it so difficult to do. So, rather than start from a place of false enthusiasm, I will start from a place of raw, authentic, honesty. I am still processing the experience of Queer Fashion Week, but sadly for me, it was not the all-loving, all-accepting haven I had been dreaming of (a reality for many people other than myself as well); it did have it’s outstandingly beautiful moments, but it also had too many moments that left me hurt and confused as a Queer Fat-bodied womyn who presents femininely.
It left me wondering, “Is there still no room for me, even in my own community?” If I had to pinpoint one pervading reason I felt this way, I would have to label it Patriarchy. Yes, you read correctly. Patriarchy. The power of the Patriarchy is so utterly pervasive, that it seeped its way into the invisible cracks of our community, manifesting and presenting from one Queer to the next – regardless of gender identity. (Remember one of my favorite bell hooks quotes will forever be: “Patriarchy knows no gender.”) How was the Patriarchy performed you ask? Dominance assertion and attempted dominance. I had a strong sense of a performative power and quality to this experience as well – come, let us show you in overdramatic displays of muscle clenching and ones of aloof coolness, just how masculine we are. Just how worthy we are. Just how much we want to be seen. So much so, apparently, that they actually made my bodily experience feel exposingly akin to walking down a city street construction site…I felt like some sort of feminine commodity that somehow didn’t make the “all-bois” club – and for some fake reason further swallowed by those it is leveraging itself against, never will.
Before further outlining what I hated about the experience, I figured I would express some of my loves – complete with never-before-released exclusive photos from behind-the-scenes of Queer Fashion Week!
*Facing a fear of being seen by an audience and taking to the runway for the first time!
*Spending unexpected time with Rain Dove and Corey Wade!
*Bonding with my fellow voluptuous Size Queen models back and on stage!
*Running into Sonya Renee Taylor and Denise Jolly
*Being immersed in non-heteronormitivity (aka Queerness)!
*EVERYTHING Model SAUYCE WEST rocked with her own Body Positive Twist!
*Watching my fellow Size Queen Models Rock the Runway Confidently for Round 2 in their Fabulous Fatkinis!
*The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins Experience!
*Having [my partner] Sada by my side as WYV Photographer for the day!
*Brief but Fabulous Step-and-Repeat Moments!
*the AFTER PARTY that Got Fiery!!!
*The easiest way for me to synthesize the negative experiences I had during my QFW experience, is to list them below. These are the reasons why even in a Queer space, it didn’t feel safe to be me; in all of my intersectional forms (*newsflash: I am a WOC who understands the she receives white privilege*). I write these points from an anguished place, but with much encouragement, I feel brave enough to speak about my experience. Apparently, after talking to more participants, I wasn’t the only one having some of the negative feelings and experiences I did, but sadly most people were too afraid to speak out about it because they so badly want to be included next year (this reeks of some high school popularity BS to me, and I have a great Psychological understanding that many Queers I have interacted with, seem to be stuck in this immature stage, trying to perpetuate cycles of dominance only this time with themselves on top).*
1. Walking into a space that felt like a concentration-camp-meets-cattle-call. I seriously have no other way to describe the experience of walking into a giant warehouse and hearing some one screaming in a commanding and cold tone repeatedly: “STRIP DOWN TO YOUR UNDERWEAR!” (Sada actually first verbalized this feeling for me in that moment.) I felt completely frozen in place (*newsflash: my Safta, which is Hebrew for Grandmother, escaped the Holocaust in Germany with her parents – sole survivors of their family*), stunned at the franticness I was witnessing, and as the experience came clearer into focus, I could actually read the uncomfortable energy among so many of my fellow Queers – it read like coercion and co-opting of bodies that had most likely been traumatized in ways that read similar to their very core. My freeze turned to movement and to anger as I decided to stay true to myself and remain clothed – all the while wondering if being berated was just an acceptable part of the modeling process. (And then on the flip side of that, was walking out amongst this room filled with Queers – and being made to feel like I was still on sale in a meat market. I mean, ogle if you want, but it’s important to note that the majority of the gazes felt the same as when I receive the male gaze
2. Feeling invisible while a whole crew of fat babes were waiting to get makeup done & then after trying to address it, being told to apologize (!) for expressing this concern. *addendum at the end of article*
3. Overhearing a discussion on body hair removal with one of the individual’s running the show – when asked by a model why QFW said they required hair removal (aka shaving) in a community that so often rebels against this fake beauty standard, the person totally wrote the question off by stating that the Queer community had to adhere to the stakes of High Fashion Runways (which require hairlessness). Overhearing this, I almost snorted in discontent, waiting for the model to quip back with a serving of truth, but instead they were silenced and moved on. I was left standing there refraining from opening my mouth like a good little girl ready to obey the patriarchy being placed upon me. I AM ABSOLUELY NOT SORRY TO SAY HERE THAT QUEER FASHION WEEK SHOULD EMBRACE THE HAIRINESS OF ITS BEAUTIOUS COMMUNITY – I THOUGHT WE WERE TRYING TO CREATE SOMETHING OF OUR OWN, NOT PERPETUATE FALSE BEAUTY STANDARDS THAT WE OTHERWISE DO NOT ADHERE TO! Seriously, fuck that, I hope the whole audience enjoyed my hairy pits emanating from my body con dress – I can almost hear the gasps – aren’t you too feminine for that though?! (*yawwwwwwwn*)
4. The BATHROOM SITUATION was barely tolerable – I’m guessing that even for the droves of fellow models and eventually fashion show attendees, having only 3 bathrooms at such a large venue and event was also problematic (not just for Crohn’s Disease survivors or chronically ill individuals like myself)! I thought it was highly unprofessional to have the models mixing in with the audience to use facilities, and was frustrated also that the changing spaces were so sub-par (seriously I’m no pre-madonna, but I didn’t realize I had been changing in a space with an entire shattered mirror just inches away in bare feet, until about halfway through the experience)! Also, I was just fascinated by the lack of nourishment at a facility requiring people to be so physically active and exert so much energy with their bodies – I couldn’t find a piece of fruit to save my life, and was thankful that my always overly-prepared, gluten-free ass had brought some turkey to eat. In any case, I believe this last point refers to all organizational and logistical errors that could easily be fixed the second time around, which feels like a somewhat hopeful note to end this article on!
5. Sitting in the audience photographing during Size Queen’s bathing suit runway. The presumed-to-be gay men sitting behind me began to make some very rude comments which I death stared away – dear sirs, if fat bothers you so fucking much, how did you not see mine kneeling directly in front of you!? Also, a palpable energy of discomfort immediately filled the room – deny it if you want to, but it was oh so real. I noticed many more people beginning to nervously chatter amongst themselves or diverting their eyes – anything to keep from focusing on the fabulous fat female form exposed so gloriously on stage for all to see. I understand that Fat Phobia is a disease that afflicts all humyns, but for the Queer community to not allow fat to exist safely in their spaces is simply a perpetuation of hatred that has been places upon Queers for years. In fact, I wouldn’t even be using the term Queer if it hadn’t been taken back positively by our community, just as is being done to the word Fat now. Even as I type I wonder if cohesive Queer community can even exist with so much division within the ranks – for example, I do not resonate with womyn who label themselves as Lesbians, and often I have found gay men to be even more degrading of my body then their straight counterparts (as I stated in my previous article, this is because they literally don’t need my body for any sexual pleasuring purposes).
Did you attend Queer Fashion Week? What were your highs and lows? Sound off in the comments below.
Editorial note: The first version of this post contained a phrase that some readers found inappropriate or insensitive. That was not our intent, the phrase has since been removed. We appreciate your feedback–our mission is that everyone’s voice is heard and included in on the conversation. #WearYourVoice
*Writer’s Note: Originally my phrasing about this experience was deemed hurtful and removed for re-writing so that I may be better understood (and so that no one was else was hurt when that was the exact opposite of my intention). I was in this point trying to express the fact that having another POC invisiblize me felt even more painful than when White mass media does it. I feel it is more hurtful because I believe that part and parcel of living in America as a POC, is the experience of marginalization or oppression. I do not mean to impose oppression on any other person’s behalf, but I do believe that it is important to highlight that it does inherently affect POC living in America, even if somehow they have even only felt it once in their lives. Personally, I have never met a POC who hasn’t had this experience, but if that is the case somehow, I am joyful for them (and would love to know where in this country they live). Also, it is important to note that I do not attempt to leverage my partnership with a Black Womyn in any other way beyond acknowledging that a multiracial relationship is our personal daily lived experience – and conversations about Black lives in America and de-centering whiteness happen daily as well – within the safe space of our love and mutual respect. Sada, in fact, proof-read this article and the very sentence deleted was a discussion for us; one that ended with her belief in the importance of my sentiment. I have explained this for transparency purposes and to give perhaps better insight into our world (as well as to leverage her voice, one of many often left unheard, and also one that highlights that of course not every one in the Black community will hold the same opinions – as many people have surprisingly suggested by rejected her very beliefs on race). Again, remembering, dear readers that this article is my very personal account of my real experiences from QFW’s Saturday show. In the future I will be publishing a specific article addressing my intersectionalities to use as a reference guide if any one needs to refer back to it so that doesn’t distract from the truthful importance of my article’s two main points that can be combined into one: Fat Phobia and Patriarchal Dominance are alive and well in the Queer community (and I took the risk to write about it) – what are you doing to help shift that paradigm?