We constantly talk about what it’s like to date interracially. How to navigate the complexities of dating someone from a different religion. Or how to explain to our friends why we’re in a relationship with someone long distance. But what does it mean when we date some who is a different size than us? I’m not talking about in the cute way where you and your best friend have matching outfits but one is a size small and one is a size large. I’m talking about what it means to be a person who identifies as fat dating someone who is very clearly thin.
I ask this, because as a fat femme I recently found myself in this exact predicament. Throughout my life i’ve always dated people my own size. When I was thin, I dated other thin people and when I began to gain weight I found myself gravitating to dating people my own size as well. Whether it was when I was dating men, and when I finally gave that up, (honestly thank creator for that) the women I’ve dated have all been relatively close to my size. My last relationship was with a woman who had lost 300 pounds but was still a fat femme, so the conversations around weight were usually had between the two of us or between her and her friends and always concerning her own body. Lately however, how weight is discussed, and particularly my weight, has changed due to who I have now decided to love. I am, what those in the fat community would call, small fat. While I am considered “obese” by doctors standards, and my Trinidadian grandmother as well if i’m being honest, I am still seen as not “that fat.” My stomach is large and hangs but I have large breasts and an ass so people would commonly say that I’m fat, in the “right places.” I am also still considered desirable fat and couple that with my light skin privilege and you can see where I fall on the fat people have humanity spectrum. That being said I have faced my fair share of fatphobia. My grandmother continuously points out how big I am, and my weight is a topic for discussion almost every time we talk. I went clubbing 3 weeks ago and a man who was far from cute, even by cis hetero standards, decided to comment that I needed to step on a scale as I left the establishment. Of course there’s the casual “You’re a fat Black bitch anyways” that I receive when I turn men down. But for the first time in my life i’m experiencing a new kind of fatphobia and I don’t know how to feel about it.
My new partner is amazing. As someone who has dealt with abusive relationships, physical, verbal and emotional, has had her heart broken more times than I care to count and who has clear abandonment issues, she never makes me feel like i’m too much. She is supportive and loving, gentle and kind and she allows me to be me. No walls or facades, just me. I’ve waited my whole life for a love like this and now that I have it I have no idea how I could have confused anything else for it. We’re both Black women, her African-American and Bahamian, me Trinidadian and Grenadian. She lives in the United States and I live here in Canada. She’s dark skin and i’m light skin, which means we understand that we both navigate this world differently. Our experiences as Black women are not the same. She’s masculine while I’m femme which means her hypervisibility is so much more than mine. If I could shield her from all of the people and things that would take my favourite parts of her and punish her for them, I would. With all of these intersectionalities you may be surprised to know that none of these seem to be the biggest worry for people. Its my weight. Or should I say my size. My very visible identity of being a fat woman seems to be the hottest topic for discussion and in a way that has me scratching my head and wondering why.
I’ll preface this by saying that my partner is a thin woman. Most would describe her physic as muscular slim. While I’m round and fluffy, she’s edges and angles. But not in a harsh way. They’re soft and catch the light in a way that causes me to lose my breath and just stare at how beautiful she is. That being said people have continuously been questioning her as to why she is with someone like me? And by someone like me they mean a fat femme. I’m sure you have heard the jokes before about why people date fat femmes. The seasonal meme’s appear about needing a fat body to keep you warm in the winter. And who can forget the tax season one? Black men dating fat women because her tax cheque has come in and he needs a place to stay. Images will flood your timeline of jokes about fat femmes giving the best head because we like to eat, but not being able to ride you because we’re too heavy. Most of these images and jokes are saved for fat white women. They’re still seen as desirable even in their fatness. Fat Black women aren’t afford the same luxury, even though fetishization isn’t actually a luxury. But nonetheless we’re not the fat bodies folks want to curl up next too, even if they’re too cold. We’re the mammies cooking fried chicken in the kitchen, loud and obnoxious. So it was important for me to showcase that we were more than that. So when my partner and I decided to become public with our relationship I chose to share that message. I talked about how she loved me for me and for all of the reasons that society deems as legitimate causes to date a fat woman. I wanted us to be visible. I wanted the world to see that fat, Black and queer women were out here being loved, and yes even by thin people.
It was overwhelming the amount of support we received. So many people were messaging us to tell us how our love touched them, how it gave them hope, how it was the representation they needed. Queer love. Black love. A fat woman being loved. My partner and I cried on several occasions because we were so moved. Yet there was something else that also came a long with that visibility. People started messaging her to discuss our relationship and also, my size. Folks wanted to know why she had chosen to date a fat woman. Would would make her, a thin woman, want to date someone of my size? We’re in an open relationship and even potential sexual partners questioned her for choice to be with me. It somehow became more of a mystery than how she started dating someone who lived all the way in Canada. And what was stranger is others began to congratulate her on dating a fat woman. As if she needed a round of an applause or a ribbon for choosing to date the fat girl. Now this is all new to me. In the past no one has ever questioned partners about my size and their choice to be with someone of it. It’s been unsettling to say the least and I haven’t necessarily been able to pinpoint how it makes me feel. I know that for someone they mean no harm. Society has conditioned people into believing that fat folks are undeserving of love and especially from what society deems as attractive people. TV shows and movies throw images of skinny ugly men with low levels of intelligence and living in poverty as being the ones who want us. Or Black men looking for a quick come up and easy woman to manipulate. And when they decide to show us actually and truly being loved, it’s always by another fat person, and always a man.
There are no positive images of fat Black women being loved by other woman on a large societal scale. Same sex love involving women identifying folks is saved for skinny “hot” white lesbians or goth chicks with a dangerous edge. And I’m tired of that image aren’t you? Show me the fat Black femme who’s being loved by another fat Black woman. Show me a disabled fat Black woman being loved by another Black body. And show me. Show me, a fat, Black queer woman being loved by another Black woman. And stop wondering why fat Black women are being loved, just know that we have been, we are and we will be.
- Shanese Indoowaaboo Steele