Not a single person who has ever fat-shamed me has even bothered to asked me if I want to be thin. I don't.I hate the gym. It's a traumatic space for me. Being a fat person in public is hard, and being a fat person in a gym is even harder. It can shatter your confidence in a split second, with one chuckle, one smirk, one look of disgust, one eye roll from another patron. Gym culture is toxic, and like many other institutions centered on physical appearance and desirability, it's built on a foundation of fatphobia and antagonism, whether the gym rats on Instagram want to admit it or not. For a long time, I hated exercise, too. When I was growing up, I wanted to wrestle. I wanted to play football. I wanted to take up boxing. I wanted to lift weights. I wanted to climb the trees in our front yard. Instead, I was limited to gymnastics, cheerleading, and basketball, activities that were acceptable for a girl to be engaged in. I still defied my mom and climbed trees sometimes, and I was always reprimanded for it. I quit cheerleading after one season because I hated it, and did the same with basketball because I had no passion for it (even though it did sometimes help me feel the masculine energy that I had always longed for as a girl, but had not the language to take about it). For financial reasons, gymnastics was no longer accessible to me, and while I did enjoy it, it was incredibly gendered and classes for girls never focused on strength and conditioning like the classes for boys. I played in the marching band in high school (which burns way more calories than you “cool kids” think it does, by the way), but apparently that wasn't enough. Countless fat kids and teenagers, and people who just weren't thin enough for their family's liking, are unfortunately familiar with forced exercise and degradation from the people around them growing up. My mom forced me to exercise in the way that she wanted me to, punctuating her disgust for my lack of a trim body with comments like “You can't honestly say that you're satisfied with yourself” and “Don't come crying to me when the boys don't want to date you.” One year, I actually did lose some weight, unintentionally. It was the year I played basketball. My jeans would no longer stay up on my hips without a belt and my mom praised me in a way that she never had before, and hasn't since. It made me self-conscious. It made me anxious. It made me feel like shit. It made me hate her, and myself.
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Beyoncé addressing this post-baby body reality is an important moment.I am not a rabid Beyoncé fan. I like Lemonade and a few more of her songs, but it would be a stretch to call me a “fan”. However, reading her statement in Vogue’s September issue, I felt a kinship with her that I had never felt before because she spoke honestly and openly about birth and the post-birth body. As a Black woman who is prized in part for her looks, I believe this was a radical act on her part. Beyoncé took over the high-fashion magazine and, yes, we were given the beautiful photo shoot that we were expecting to see, having been photographed by Tyler Mitchell, the first ever Black photographer to shoot the cover for the 126 year-old magazine, but we were also gifted with the raw and open discussion of her pregnancy and postnatal period. This wasn’t an exposé or an in-depth report — it feels intimate and candid. In her own words, the artist states, “To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.” [caption id="attachment_49914" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Tyler Mitchell for Vogue U.S.[/caption] It was Beyoncé saying, “This is what happened to me and this is what I did to come to terms with it.” It is part of a larger statement that she is making about her recent history that shares space with her career and performances. It is not a separate, specialty story, it is just part of her life. She described having a “FUPA.” This is a very normal post-baby body change, but I cannot recall ever hearing any reference to it in a mainstream fashion magazine. And when have we ever heard a celebrity speak about their belly fat unless it was about how they lost it? The post-baby body is one of the most scrutinized bodies. No matter how you looked before, your body is almost always different afterwards. The culture we live in thinks nothing of commenting on and reminding people who have given birth that they need to look like they did not just have a baby, and this starts as soon as you’ve given birth. From the perspective of all people who have given birth, who have lived with the changes that their bodies go through during and after that process, Beyoncé addressing this post-baby body reality is an important moment. A woman known for her perfection and beauty is standing up and telling us, “My body isn’t perfect by external standards, but it is perfect by the standards that matter most — mine.” That’s a radical act, to acknowledge the process of birth, to accept that once the baby is no longer physically in your body it doesn’t mean that the process is over. That these changes will last and you don’t have to fight your own body to be what it was before you gave birth.
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Even though we share some common lines, I don’t know what it is to live in Roxane Gay’s body.Roxane Gay had weight loss surgery (WLS) and I have many opinions and feelings about that but it is also none of my goddamn business what Roxane Gay does to Roxane Gay’s body. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. Gay has been one of the most visibly fat women of color working today. She has written a number of articles, books, and even comics. She has spoken passionately for fat activism, her book, “Hunger”, was about her struggles with food, trauma, and her own body. Her work has struck a chord with many fat feminists who found solace and strength in her words, myself included, but none of that gives me any room or right to tell her what she can and can’t do with her body. She outlines why she made this choice in her piece, “What Fullness Is” for Unruly Bodies. It was not one that she came to easily and she was pondering it off and on for a number of years before finally going through with the process. And it comes to this: She lived under multiple marginalizations for her entire life when, given a choice to be able to opt out of one, to give herself a break from the constant abuse of the world, she did. I’m a visible, fat, Black woman. I’m smaller than Gay which affords me more privilege than her in navigating this world, but I still get the abuse, the constant messages that should hate myself for my fatness, my Blackness. It is exhausting to always be in a position where you feel you have to prove you are worthy of just existing.
As fat, Black femmes: how can we navigate and decolonize the politics of desirability?By Tina Colleen Black queer women and femmes and female identify people (FIP), we are celebrating our natural melanin and manes more today than ever before. We demand equality, but have we truly broken free from European influences when we choose a partner? Dating in the queer world feels pretty hopeless on a lot of levels. Especially for me as a black, queer, plus-size femme. In the last year, I have been going to 'Meetups'. I first went to speed dating events that were queer-inclusive, yet they were not racially diverse. It wasn’t a fit, and I didn’t feel comfortable. I began attending meetups and events for Black and non-white Latina women and femmes. At these events, there were always three extremes: queer women who were cliquey and had no desire to include you; women who had a partner and just wanted to be your friend; and/or couples. Again, I felt like I didn’t fit in, so I stopped going to these events. I started dating online in July. I connected with this lovely androgynous black woman quite quickly. Despite my fear she would not accept my size, our dates went well and things seemed to be looking up. After our second date, she called it off. She was stuck between liking me and another woman at the same time. I came in second place. Following this blow, I was lucky to have received tickets to the Afropolitan Insights: Self-Care Festival. At the festival, I attended a panel discussion. The topic of decolonization came up. One of the panelists mentioned that she was unsure if she was genuinely attracted to a specific type of man, or if she was experiencing undue European influence from decolonization.