It starts with a fatphobic comment: “I don’t want to date someone like… obese, you know,” they chuckle. The assumption is that I would be in agreement, as most people are Goldilocks. They are seeking someone who is not too thin nor too fat, but someone who is just right. The reality is that any potential connection we may have shared up until now has disappeared. If something as fluctuating and vapid as body weight holds as an important criteria for your dating standards, maybe you are not ready to date a human.
At this early point in this blog post, some would already claim that I am accusing others (or themselves) of harm that they are not committing. It’s not fatphobia. They’re my preferences. You can’t force someone out of their preferences, right? Don’t you have any? Well, when the societal norm is that fat is nobody’s preference, we enter a systematic isolation of certain individuals from feeling desirable. When preferences become a standard norm, they become prejudice. Preferences are personal; they randomize from person to person. They are as vast and varied as there are people on this planet. The odds that a majority all naturally prefer a certain type of person is quite low.
When preferences become a standard norm, they become prejudice.
However, the justification behind the fatphobia or our fatphobic society is irrelevant here. It’s the hurt that it causes to others that isn’t. Feeling constantly excluded from the dating pool is exhausting, particularly when attempting to convince oneself that not all will push you away. The reality is many will and they even do so in hurtful ways, whether they realize it or not. It also changes the mindset for any new people, causing a fear that they will judge you even before anything is said. It’s a poisonous thought to believe that your identity, your body, yourself is undesirable. No one likes rejection and even less when we find it to be a predictable outcome. The pain of succeeding rejections is one that only strengthens self-hatred and self-inadequacy. Love, at its core, was built through your parents, which means your first feeling of love was received from another. The withhold of others’ love reflects a tragically childhood-like type of rejection, one of unworthiness, of neglect, of complete dismissal. Therefore, it makes complete sense that the risk of rejection pushes people away, particularly those who have more to fear than others.
It’s a poisonous thought to believe that your identity, your body, yourself is undesirable.
Being fat is one of a myriad of seemingly unpopular preferences among the general population. The same goes for people of color, disabled individuals, gender minorities and many others. There is actually a lot of ways that someone may not fit the traditional beauty norm that everyone seems to desire in a partner. There are words used to describe those exclusions made possible by destructive norms: it’s racism, it’s fatphobia, it’s sexism, it’s ableism, it’s homophobia and transphobia. Not all of these identities are visible right away either; there are plenty of people who appear cis-gender but in fact identify as transgender. People who seem white visually, but are actually a person of color. People who seem perfectly healthy, yet struggle enormously some days due to their chronically disabling diseases.
As hard-working activists push for the recognition of the differential treatment of many bodies excluded from social circles, whether it be dating, professional, legal or casual, those same people’s beings have become highly politicized (some were way before the activists, to be clear). Politicians carry views that target specific people, and don’t affect others. Usually, minorities, or those who have been left behind in the hierarchic societal ladder, require specialized support for their unique struggles as a community. Their issues become political issues that others can agree or disagree with. Those bodies are inherently affected, valued or erased by politics.
It leads to a Goldilocks situation for the politicized body: finding someone who isn’t repulsed by you, someone who doesn’t fetishize you but someone who can simply love you. Let’s break that down. Obviously, someone whose “preferences” do not make room for your existence will not work, no matter how strong the connection or the will to transform into being the right person for them. They fundamentally do not accept, tolerate or respect you as a being. The second, represents a new kind of danger: those that are so passionate about their right-doing or rebelling against social norms that your presence becomes their political prop. They can protest via you. You have become an object of their political views, for them to feel secure in their own vision of the world. In both of those cases, the center of the conversation is not you, it is your identity. You do not count as an individual, but as a representative of your minority. Last, is someone who includes you in their vision of their ideal person and recognizes your humanity as a unique person. You are neither a thing to reject or shame, nor one to show off to the world. You simply are. And they simply do. There is simply love.
In both of those cases, the center of the conversation is not you, it is your identity. You do not count as an individual, but as a representative of your minority.
How do you find those people? The ones that simply love?
Dating has not become easier or harder with online possibilities, it is just different. Meeting someone in person right away, testing the mutual connection and appreciating direct human contact is traditional. Many would say that it is a preferable way of getting to know someone new. You unfortunately do not receive a summary of the other but the excitement is in mystery. This same mystery though can represent a true danger for certain individuals. Remember those, mentioned earlier, that may appear one identity but actually identify differently? A straight cis-gender man conversing with a passing trans-woman represents true danger for her if the revealed mystery is unappealing to mister. A white passing Jewish person meeting an actually extremely conservative person, holding anti-semitic views puts them at risk. The list of examples continues but the point is clear. Dating in person doesn’t allow for disclaimers, for warnings that if someone will judge you based on your identity, that they can stay away from you safely. In order to avoid the Goldilocks bowl of repulsion, you may not choose to meet people face-to-face directly.
So, online dating is the next option. There are tools provided by the platform for the disclaimers. It’s called a bio, a self-description to alert all others of the type of person they will be talking to. A sense of relief and security can set in. Those who hate can avoid and be avoided. Those who enjoy may interact. It also goes both ways: you are also in control of the information disclosed, whom you choose to converse with and the type of qualities necessary for a connection to occur. Then, among the first connections, a slew of scenarios may happen. After all, people feel much more courageous to spew their opinions online. A mix of repulsion and fetish may come your way and must be sorted through. Among them, there is maybe a few that aren’t asking an invasive question, are curious about a deeply private experience, or wondering about your opinion on how the world rejects you, all sentences that tend to lead down a route of hate or over-enthusiasm about your being.
When that doesn’t work, what is left? Nothing really. Time and life may bring you closer to the right person, but it isn’t as easy as “putting yourself out there” as some would call it. But, let’s be optimistic here: say you do find someone who you truly connect with, online or offline. Another layer takes a big importance: even if they accept and love you, will they support and fight for you? Finding someone who can simply love you is hard enough, but finding someone who you can do that while fighting for and with you is harder.
Another layer takes a big importance: even if they accept and love you, will they support and fight for you?
As minorities, you cannot accept the love of someone who is non-political. In this case, not being interested in politics is not being interested in my advancement and my improvement of my treatment in society. Politics cannot be separated from the politicized body. When your rights become backed and opposed by authorities, which limits or broadens your life choices, a partner that truly loves cannot ignore this. Loving a minority should be as political, radical and defiant as being a minority in itself, as that this the current state of today’s world. It takes time and effort to learn about the downfalls of your significant other in society, where they struggle, where they need support, where they need your privilege to step in.
As minorities, you cannot accept the love of someone who is non-political.
I can wholeheartedly say that a partner for me, a trans black man, must be political. My entire life is contingent upon politics, of me transforming my body as I desire, of my protection, of my opportunities, of my outcomes. A non-political partner is a partner that won’t understand me. Understanding me is the first step towards simply loving me. This is why that fatphobic comment matters. It’s a lack of understanding of body weight shaming, of body positivity movements and of this partner’s obstacles in living a fulfilling live in a fatphobic society. That lack of understanding affects people. Your lack of effort in trying to hear those voices hurts people.
They’re not preferences; it’s misinformation.
They’re not preferences; it’s micro-aggressions.
They’re not preferences; they’re politically charged comments.