Fat people are more than their fat. They have minds and personalities. They have other physical attributes. They have lives.
They’re still fat, even those that are not fat.
Fat is a physical attribute, to be sure, and people have varying degrees of fat Thus, they have varying degrees of fat stigma aimed at them. Being a small fat or not fat at all won’t save you from personal shame at the idea of fat, though, and that is because fat is an internal experience as well as an external one.
I like to cross-dress. Readers of my blog will be aware of this. A handful of people in my offline life are aware of this.
To the average person not in the ‘know,’ I am a cisgendered woman.
I am biologically female with notable male physical attributes and an androgynous mind and personality. I like to dress and androgynous clothes and sometimes in full man drag. I’m good at it too. Sometimes I do it in public but usually it is private. If you were to assign a label to me, I am androgynous/queer transvestite. At one point, when I was going through a particularly masculine phase, I identified as transgender, but as an adult, that is not a totally accurate description of me.
So queer it is.
Well, not everyone agrees, because I spend most of my time presenting as the average cis woman. I have been accused of lying or not doing it right. Never mind that I tell people upright my biological sex and how I present (not that that’s their business.) I’m lying because I do not fit the image of Teh Queers that some people apparently have.
Put aside that my identity is my choice and my business. No one can tell me who I am or how to do ‘me’ right. They can point out that I am privileged over a full-fledged transsexual. Such people are people whose bodies are utterly at odds with their minds, who cannot hide it from others yet are forced to, and whose safety may be at risk if they are found out. Such an observation would be 100% true.
I’m still queer.
Back to my main point, I am queer and a cross-dresser regardless of how I present because it is an *internal* experience first and foremost. One of my favorite outfits is my traditional Catholic schoolgirl outfit. I put my hair in pigtails or ringlets. I might even wear the chapel veil. Despite the fact that this outfit is very much in line with my biological sex, I feel very much like I am cross-dressing when I dress like that. My presentation as the Catholic school girl is very much at odds with my internal gender and I feel like I am playing pretend.
The aspects of my gender that get highlighted when I present as a Catholic schoolgirl are the hyper-feminine ideals of innocence, chastity, classic beauty, sweetness, and obedience. I have hyper-feminine qualities, but they do not constitute all or most of my gender identity. On some days, I feel at home in my plaid skirt and in others, my skin crawls because it is not natural for me to be wearing this.
A more outright cross-dressing experience is when I dress in man drag, either as a business man or a bishop. I embody the personality traits of strength, dignity, and frankness. I like the image of the smart, classy masculine ideal more so than the butch one (not that there is anything wrong with preferring the butch ideal.) I like it because it in itself defies the ideal for a man. It proves that a man does not need brute strength to be worthwhile and that having an agile mind and noble character is more important.
Of course, feminine women can be dignified, frank, and strong, but there is something about the symbolism of the bishop, or the businessman, that conveys those parts of me better than any feminine costume could.
Cross-dressing has been a passion of mine for much of my life and I love everything about it. But if I had to choose what I love most, it is knowing that, at any given time, no one knows my real gender. At the same time, every time you see me, you get a new taste of my real gender. I am not a doll you can put back in its box but rather a free-flowing energy (if you want to wax poetic.) You can literally be anything you want to be and that is so freeing. No one can guess at me or have preconceived ideas of me, no matter how much they might want to. For those who do not cross-dress, an overwhelming feeling of “special-ness” is the best way to describe it, your own special little secret.
For me, having an obese BMI and being somewhat visibly larger than average has that effect. No one would guess that I have an obese BMI, but I feel a combination of pain and amusement when I hear the typical tropes against fat people right in front of me. They have no idea who they are talking to. When I go clothes shopping, and the salesperson tries to guess my size, I get a similar feeling. When I try on the clothes, other people might not see what the big deal is and might even think I look fabulous. On the inside, though, I feel lousy. I know what size I am really wearing and it is something that I cannot share with other people. I cannot share with others what I see when I look in the mirror.
That’s on a bad day.
On a good day, I see a star that other people have not discovered yet. I sense the power that comes with having a larger than average body that can do some pretty cool things that, again, other people cannot fully appreciate yet. I feel I deserve clothes that do it justice.
FA should center around those who are most stigmatized by fat hatred, namely those who are most fat. However, especially in an age where weight and health hysteria is hitting people at lower and lower weights, lower and lower health indices, and younger and younger ages, FA is for everyone. Fat people are conditioned to feel doomed and to do anything to avoid that doom. Thin people are conditioned, similarly, to feel a sense of impending doom and to stay vigilant. They are fat on the inside because they are taught that, if they aren’t careful, their inner fat will consume them (pun intended).
If I were to lose weight for any reason, part of me would be happy and part of me would be sad. I am okay with whatever my natural weight should be, but I don’t want to lose weight. I have become comfortable in my own skin and am really starting to like it. I also know that I am a bad food or a pound away from being a pariah again. No matter how thin I got, I will remember the abuse I endured for being larger than average and that will always cloud the way I feel about myself and the way I interact with others. No matter how thin I got, people who knew me when I was fat will never let me forget who I used to be and who I should never again become. In that sense, I am fat on the inside.
In order to understand EDs, thin people with body image issues, or to understand anyone who has ever struggled with feeling fat, it is important to remember: fat is an internal experience. Fat is loaded with cultural and emotional implications and there are whole philosophies and lifestyles which are dedicated to avoiding fatness. Fat becomes you, for better or for worse, often because society requires it of you.
Fat may be part of you, but it does not have to define you. If you choose to reclaim it, you can do so on your terms. When I cross-dress, I reclaim and adapt the hyper-feminine ideal. Why not do the same with fat?