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Fat Traveling – Being A Spectacle

February 18, 2018

Fat Traveling – Being A Spectacle

February 18, 2018

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Fat traveling is a trip

So I made a pretty big move this week y’all. I went from progressive Western Massachusetts to rural Kansas. I do shit like this now:

There are some serious differences. Less mountains here, more snow there etc. Another noticeable difference has been how often people have been staring at me in bewilderment here in Kansas. Please note – this isn’t new to me. I sure as hell have experienced this many times before. I’ve only been in Kansas for a few days and I’m feelin’ those awkward standing out vibes. Fat traveling is quite a trip.

Is it my size and shape as a super fat? Or my androgynous appearance that has caught their eye? Perhaps both. Probably both in fact, but my size is the more immediate trait to be noticed and inevitably judged. In these moments I’m reminded of a harsh reality; when traveling while fat, you run the risk of being treated as a spectacle.

Until now, I’ve spent nearly all of my life in a beautiful bubble of progressive activism. Sure, Western Mass is running significantly low on racial diversity, which should not go unmentioned here. But it is rich in religious, gender, and sexual diversity. The education is pretentious and the confederate flags are few and far between. The conservative, right-wing, republicans totally exist, but they tend to keep quiet – the silent minority.

Being a liberal, fat, queer, non-binary person, this felt very safe. My community of fellow queer and trans friends, as well as allies, was abundant. As I travel more I’m learning how misleading this bubble has been to me. The rest of the world isn’t like that. I always sort of knew that I lived in an uncommon oasis and that the unexplored world around me would look and feel vastly different. I didn’t quite understand just how different I would seem to the rest of the world.

I was on the flight to Kansas when I realized how much I am going to stand out to this new crowd. They aren’t really big fans of the super fats here. I was cuddling with my partner on the plane (who is also a person of size) thanks to my comfortable seating as described in my previous article, 6 Tips For Flying While Fat. I looked across the aisle and found a passenger trying to snap a quick pic with his phone on the sly. Once caught, he slowly lowered his phone and pretended to be distractedly looking behind him at the back of the plane. There’s no getting out of this one Mr. – I know what I saw, and I sure as hell know there isn’t anything but people on laptops and sleeping kiddos in the back of this plane.

I told my partner about it and she was trying to decide what should be done. Do we let him get away with this, knowing he has invaded our privacy, taken a non-consensual photo of us, and plans to share and laugh with his friends at our expense? Do we call him out on it angrily? Or play it cool and try the “kill him with kindness” approach? Alerting a flight attendant in hopes of their support for the rest of the flight may have been a safe and comforting way to go, but we decided to laugh it off. Neither of us are new to this kind of thing.

Feel your feelings…then move forward

There’s no doubt that this feels awful. I have had my fair share of instances like this where I’ve burst into tears with gut wrenching shame. Children at the swimming pool point with laughter, the hostess at the diner sees me as a burden to try and seat comfortably, and a man with a camera on the plane decides he cannot help but to share my fat body with his friends for a good laugh. This doesn’t feel good. It’s understandable to want to fall apart and I will always encourage folks to feel their feelings about a situation like this. You’re allowed to be hurt. You’re allowed to be angry.

Once we have felt all these feelings, we really need to start talking about these situations with one another. The more we verbalize this, the more power we take out of the hands of those harassing us and the better we can prepare to respond in a way that protects our inner peace. The shame and hiding ourselves away for the rest of our lives is understandable, though it doesn’t serve us in the end.

Sure, I hope for a world where this doesn’t happen anymore. I want super fats to roam free and explore new places without fear of harassment for being different. Until then, can we talk more about what to do in these situations? Let’s prepare ourselves. Let’s arm ourselves with comebacks, plans of action, and reactions that suit our needs. We must stop hiding. We deserve to take risks. Because in the end, my fat ass will still be here.

I wish for a life just like the rest of you – full and vibrant and fulfilling. Representation of fat bodies living our lives out loud and proud is important and can truly enhance lives – both fat and thin. This is fat activism. Let’s get out there and make the world a more fat friendly, accessible, and comfortable place for us. 

Check out our fat travelers carrying card for self affirmations and a response arsenal for public fat shaming. Print it out and carry it with you in your fat travels!

Download the printable version here


  • Pammie March 21, 2018 at 4:02 am

    I’ve never really thought about what to do if someone is taking a photo of me. I’ve never even considered that someone might do this — and I am super fat. Thanks for pointing out what can be done if it happens.

    • JAprileo March 21, 2018 at 4:08 am

      Its hard to believe that there are people out there who would even be this awful. Im hopeful that this article is helpful to those of us that this happens to, and that it doesnt ever happen to you friend.

  • Betty April 9, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Hey, Welcome to Kansas! I live in the metro Kansas City area with my wife. I grew up in the Washington, D.C. metro area (Maryland). Coming to Kansas was great, but the culture shock hit hard. My wife is from Western Kansas. I actually LOVE western Kansas! It’s gorgeous! We were thinking of moving out there at one point, but we were deterred by the (mostly) unspoken discomfort of the folks who live there.

    I feel like my job here is to live a quiet testimony to folks who have never met a lesbian. A fat lesbian, who gets called “sir” a lot because of my haircut and my clothes. Anyway, I have been able to show people at work and in the community that we are great folks to know and have around. I hope in time, the acceptance we feel here moves west. It just takes folks willing to live there and be visible in a friendly way. Great article, by the way.

  • Ana April 16, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    When ever I read something like this it makes me feel som much better, like I’m not alone. I live in a small country in Europe and I’m a spectacle when ever I go outside, so I mostly spend time in my apartment and have so much anxiety when I have to go out. Even to the point of having a panick attack. And imagine not being able to buy jeans for the past 10 years, or anything nice. So I mostly walk around in yoga pants and that sets people on another level of fat shaming.

  • Jasmine May 27, 2018 at 3:44 am

    I swear, the absolute worst feature to have been added to the cell phone was a camera. The cell phone by itself was good enough.

    Whenever I catch someone taking pics/video taping me, I take pout my phone and (making it obvious) pretend to take pics/video of them. This usually makes things awkward for them and they stop.

  • Victoria July 26, 2018 at 2:37 am

    I just found your site and I love it! Thank you for putting yourself, your experiences, tips for dealing with the negative, and examples for enhancing our lives out there. Lots of love! <3 <3

    • JAprileo July 29, 2018 at 12:17 am

      thanks for reading!! <3

  • James October 25, 2018 at 11:51 am

    If you want to take comfy fat to the next level, maybe consider taking a writing and grammar course at your local community college. You’ve mentioned on YT and twitter that you want more jobs in creative writing, but quite frankly you’re not at the level you need to be at in order to be successful. While I understand that higher education is a luxary that many can’t afford, maybe its something to invest in for your future.

    • JAprileo November 5, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      I’ve excelled throughout all of my English, writing, grammar, and literature courses in college. And while I definitely have plenty that I could improve on, as far as grammar is concerned, I don’t think thats what you’re picking up on here. There is a specific style of writing that has proven to be successful for blog style. Its supposed to sound common. Please look into blog post writing style versus creative writing and even research style writing to see why I write the way that I do. In addition, this space isn’t meant to be combed through with a fine tooth comb, for grammar. Its a blog. I’m not necessarily too concerned with proper grammar, especially since this space is about sharing my experiences to raise awareness and sharing resources. Proper grammar and more professional language is not always accessible to everyone and therefore its not a huge priority for me in this context.

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I mentioned it to Corissa, saying I was “feelin that internalized fatphobia right now.” I can feel how my presence makes people uncomfortable and when I name it, like I did today, it reminds me that my body is not at fault. Its not a problem, an inconvenience, nor an eyesore. Its purely a vessel for me to get out and enjoy my life in!
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    • I wrote the piece “Advocating For Yourself At The Doctor As A Fat Person Isn’t Easy - Here’s Where To Start,” (link in bio) because I want others to feel empowered to stand up to medical professionals. I don’t want us to be afraid of seeking help anymore. We have a right to individualized care. We have the right to be seen as people and to be treated holistically, as opposed to being seen as a statistic and doctors initiating fat protocol on us without even listening to our concerns.
For anyone who thinks Ive got it all figured out, I don’t. I still avoid seeking medical care because Im afraid sometimes. I have to work myself up to it. Its a struggle that I have yet to master. Had I worked on this before, I would have had my knee issue checked out and dealt with 6 years ago when I injured it.
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    • Greetings friends! Im approaching 20k! So for those who may not know, Im J. I use they/them pronouns and I create fat positive content on the internet
I have a blog called Comfy Fat where I write about things like gender and fat activism topics. I recently wrote a piece called “Advocating For Yourself At The Doctor As A Fat Person Isn’t Easy - Here’s Where To Start.” You can check out the link in my bio to take a read❤️
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I try and keep it pretty transparent. I have good days and bad days. Im honest about that. I don’t have it all figured out. Some things I do know a heck of a lot about. And its okay to ask questions, I truly want to be a resource to y’all. I just ask that you keep it respectful👌🏼Thanks for joining me and of course for all the love! 💕🌈
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