The following is a draft of a theoretical “coming out as fat” letter I might send to people who know me.
“Hi Family and Friends!
I’m fat! In case you haven’t seen me in a while and are still picturing me in a thinner state of being, here’s a recent photo of me: [insert current photo of me laughing happily] . Why am I telling and showing you this? A few reasons:
1. Sometimes people say negative things about fat or fat people, and sometimes these things are said near me or directly to me as if I will agree and as if I were not fat. I am not interested in censoring your speech, but I would like you to be aware that I am fat, and that saying these things affects me negatively, even if that wasn’t your intention. Likewise, when I don’t nod my head in agreement, I would like you to know that it is because I do not agree. I do not think negative things about “fat” and “fat people”. I also don’t think positive things about “thinness”. I feel mostly neutral about someone’s body size, but probably more sympathetic towards fatter people.
2. I am not dieting, will not ever be dieting, and am completely uninterested in hearing about anyone else’s efforts to lose weight (this includes any talk of the amount of calories anything has). More than uninterested, I actually feel really uncomfortable when thinner people than me (as they often are) discuss their efforts to reduce the size of their bodies. The implication is that bodies their size and larger are unacceptable, and while I know the majority of them would say “it’s not about anyone else’s body”, it cannot be denied that the message is there. I am not less than anyone else because of the size of my body, and I despise being placed against my will on a spectrum of acceptability by multiple small comments that add up to a culture of hierarchy and negativity. I don’t expect that other people will give up dieting (although that would be nice, and if you’re interested, please feel free to ask me for more information) or talking about dieting, but I would like you to know that it makes me uncomfortable. Please don’t assume that I will be receptive to weight-loss talk (I won’t be).
3. Exercise has a life outside of weight-loss. So if I’m exercising, don’t assume that it is because I want to lose weight (it isn’t). Related to diet-talk, I am not interested in hearing about any way in which exercise may or may not be related to losing weight.
I understand that a lot of the things that make me feel uncomfortable and isolated are things that most people don’t even think twice about–they are things that are part of our everyday culture. But this is why I am writing to you all. I would like to be able to participate in daily life without feeling like the people around me are contributing to the general negativity I receive for being fat. I just thought it might be worth mentioning to those of you who know me, so that you at least have the knowledge. You can do what you like with it. Feel free to ask me questions if you’d like to know more. : )”
What do you think? Have any of you done similar things? Have you confronted the people around you with your fat acceptance? Have you tried to define boundaries or at least desired boundaries?