Recently, the editors of xoJane informed me that a group of, ahem...people who shall remain nameless, declared it National Fat Shaming Week on Twitter.
In processing my response, I sat back and imagined a line of straight, fit-bodied, white men holding a disappointed fatherly stance, their collective pointer fingers pulsing in 4/4 time at my friends and me as if to say, "Tsk, tsk you lovers of life, damn you for experiencing joy in the present. I curse the day you were born into a belief invested in living a life of equality and access that is rooted in a practice of love, passion and kindness. Stop being a beacon, a leader out of the dark, and climb back into the shadows we are all held in."
To this I say, "Seriously?!?!?! You have got to be kidding me! Don't you know the world is at war? Don't you know people are without homes, scraping your over-full trash cans for unsoured leftovers? Disease is rampant, violence is around every corner and in nearly every home, welling in our institutions and the most impactful thing you can think to do in relationship with the world is to start a week to hate FAT PEOPLE?! What a ridiculous waste of time, energy and resources. Damn, we foxy fierce fatties must be doing a great job being exactly who we are and the best thing we can do is keep stepping into our light, keep renaming our bodies as what we really are: impeccable survivors, seekers of joy, lovers of life and beautiful works of art.
On September 16th, I published an article on The Body is Not an Apology talking about my experience taking nearly-naked photos of my 311 lb. body and sharing them via social media for 30 days. The article and my photographs have now been republished all over the world. As a writer and artist, I feel blessed to have my work received in such a fantastic way. As a 311 lb. person having moved through the world with socially prescribed invisibility, I feel overwhelmed and surprisingly shy.
That said, one of the greatest gifts that came with sharing my body and my story so openly is that I learned I am far from alone and all six feet and 311 pounds of me is seen and experienced as desirable and beautiful.
Prior to doing this project, I spent years existing in community with radical body activists like founder of The Body is Not An Apology's Sonya Renee Taylor, who move through the world in such confidence, compassion and grace. It was in sharing community with people like Sonya that I learned how to honor my body exactly as it is and know that I have the ability to impact our cultural understanding of beauty and work to redefine what it looks like.
Please let this serve as a CALL TO ACTION inviting all large-bodied people and those in active solidarity with us to exist radically and unapologetically exactly as you are!
Here is a list of five radical steps to show how to start being beautiful:
1. What You Put Out is What You Bring In
How you experience the world is directly relational to how you perceive yourself. Take time everyday to look at your body. Invite the belief that you are beautiful exactly as you are. Be mindful of the company you keep. Someone once told me, "We are a reflection of the five people we spend the most time with." Prioritize your heart and time with people who are invested in helping you live as your most powerful and brilliant self. Believe them when they tell you that you are powerful and brilliant. Know when you move through the world with an expectation of visibility and respect, you will attract those who want to appreciate the most uniquely beautiful aspects of your identity.
2. Don't Borrow Trouble from the Future
My friend Amani Ellen Loutfy always says this and it is true. While your history absolutely informs the ways in which you move through the world, it need not decide the realities of your greatness, nor solely inform what is in fact possible. To be clear your possibilities are infinite! Don't let the experiences of your past or the people who raised you dictate what you will become. Surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you to become the person you dream of being.
3. Know Whose Definition of Beauty You're Choosing
Think about what you are watching, reading, listening to. How is your body represented in these mediums? Consider how that impacts your presentation in the world. Ask yourself what it makes you believe about you, and what does it make you believe about others even and especially, the people you attracted to.
About 10 years ago, before coming out as queer, I realized I had a pattern of being in relationships with cisgendered, straight, white men who physically resembled abusive men from my childhood and who consistently dated or slept with me in secret. Thanks to therapy and great friends, I learned I was not dating or having sex with them, I was recreating and trying to work through my historical trauma in partnership with them. Having learned this, I now only exist in relationships and lover-ships with those who desire all aspects of my identity. I highly encourage you to do the same, your love and sex will become infinitely better!
4. Live Like Love and Possibility are Abundant
One of the hardest and most covert aspects of dominant American culture is collective destruction through a passive means of hate. Which is to say, we are socialized not only to hate, but also destroy each other and ourselves. The simplest and most direct way to interrupt that destruction is to move through the world in love and kindness. Apply that kindness to yourself as often as you do to those around you.
5. Unapologetically Take Up Space
Learn your wing span, sweat out everything your body holds on the dance floor. Make your way down the street singing with your headphones on. Speak with the intention of being heard. When someone is silencing you, get louder, call your friends invite them to scream with you. Share the prayer that is your body with a lover through the night into dawn. Live as though your body was built for joy because it was, is and will always be.
This post originally appeared on xoJane.