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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