Updated: Aug 22, 2022
anti-fatness shows up in a variety of ways. in the fashion world, through the medical industry, through the diet industrial complex and gym culture, through the media and so much more. to gym-bodied and otherwise thin people, this term often rings hollow. for fat folks, however, even if we don’t necessarily have a fat politic, we know that the way in which the world responds to our bodies looks vastly different from how the world responds to those smaller than us.
in this way, one of the greatest—whereby i mean biggest—ways anti-fatness impacts us is through the sex industry and desire capital. there is no doubt that the ones who experience most of the brunt of these harms are fat Black women, specifically trans women. that said, i believe it’s important to talk about the disregard fat Black nonbinary people who are masc-of-center also experience. desire capital demands all of our bodies to act as a form of currency; it requires you to be a literal piece in the pleasure economy. to be “desirable,” systemically, is to be white/lightskin, thin/gym-bodied, cisgender, male, non-disabled. and the more of these you are, the more capital you have. this is where desirability politics comes in, which i define as “the methodology through which the sovereignty of those deemed (conventionally) attractive/beautiful/arousing is determined. Put another way, the politics of desire labels that which determine who gains and holds both social and structural power through the affairs of sensuality often predicated on anti-Blackness, anti-fatness, (trans)misogyny, cissexism, queer-antagonism, and all other structural violence.”
this means that desirability politics deems fat Black trans/nonbinary people as undesirable, rendering us often powerless—especially in an industry predicated on desire and fuckability. but the reality is that it’s not just in this industry; it also peeks its head through how you conduct yourself in your own sex/romantic life. who you have sex with; who you desire to love; who you desire is also dependent on your own desirability politic. to state it more plainly: if sex and/or love are your thing and you ain’t tryna fuck and/or love fat Black trans folks, you got some anti-fat (and transphobic/anti-Black) bullshit to unlearn.
does this mean that anti-fatness is only about sex? absolutely not. in this house, we recognize asexual AND aromantic people as valid, and we send a big ass ‘fuck you’ to anyone who disagrees. however, as sabrina strings so eloquently writes in “fearing the Black body,” so much of anti-fatness as it relates to Black people is built upon how much people did not desire fatness after seeing it on Black flesh—more specifically, Black women. what was once seen as “beautiful” quickly shifted our language around fat bodies* to “beast” and “monstrous.” and by thinking of fat Black/& trans folks as undesirable, you carry on this legacy of anti-fatness that not only roots our existence in sex but also requires us to be your burden bearers. don’t fetishize fat Black folks. instead, interrogate what leads you to seeing our bodies as undesirable. and then get to know fat Black folks. specifically as it relates to fat Black AMAB-nonbinary folks and fat Black men/masc people: we are more than a carnival prize you get to take home and sleep with at night, also known as a teddy bear. we aren’t your personal chefs, and we are more than your taste testers. engage us all as the humans we are; as the sexual beings (some of us) are; as the romantic beings (some of us) are. don’t misgender us as a way to ease your mind around fucking a trans person—or paying a fat Black trans person for sex. the sex industry and desirability can include us, too.
*”bodies” is used intentionally here as to name that our bodies were and are not engaged as “people’s bodies,” but rather things to use, scorn, and berate.
- Da'Shaun Harrison