YoungGiftedandFat: Performing Transweight Identities

With my interests and various identities in mind, I developed questions: How much of my offstage fat identity is informing the textual creation of my slender performative identity? When I write my slender voice, am I writing first through the voice of my fat self? I am also thinking about the performance of identity in relation to space. What does it mean to create a textual space (border) in which both bodies simultaneously exist? What does it mean to have both voices speak through one organism/body? My goal is not to provide universal answers but to share one woman’s attempt to suture these two selves for a unified performance. By addressing the aforementioned questions, a malleable, yet tangible script emerged. My script is a testament to the trials and tribulations of fat women and a call for critical conversations about insecurities and oppression projected onto the fat body.

Though my script is an autoethnography, I also consider it a testimonial. Regarding the history of testimonials in Latina feminist tradition, Chandra Talpade Mohanty has argued that “testimonials do not focus on the unfolding of a singular woman’s consciousness (in the hegemonic tradition of European modernist autobiography); rather, their strategy is to speak from within a collective, as participants in revolutionary struggles, and to speak with the express purpose of bringing about social and political change.”28 My collective consists of fat women, slender women (however brief my encounter with this culture), and the voice(s) in my head.

My story is told through the voice of my fat identity (Fat), my slender identity (Skinny), and my liminal identity (Sharrell). ‘Fat’ often speaks from the past, when she lived in the fat body, but Fat recognizes that she is trapped in a slender, unfamiliar body. ‘Skinny,’ who lives and experiences the world in a slender body, is a purposefully under-developed character because she is relatively young, existing only a little over four years. ‘Sharrell’ is the character who straddles the border. She represents the fat psyche coupled with the premature slender psyche who both live in the slender body. By writing the voices of my fat body, my slender body, and my liminal existence, I work to disrupt the “solo” versus “multiple” cast dichotomy, an artistic trait of other solo performances by black women that highlights experiences with race and gender.29 In my case, however, I am highlighting race, gender, and various size identities, making this disruptive dichotomy even more complex. For my present body houses the lived experiences of both a fat and a slender person, as well as the psyche of a bordered identity.

The characters are created through prose, movement, and poetry that aims to express the complex mental reality in which I exist. In “Fat’s Lament” I struggle with my desire for the sexual gaze of black men. I’ve always wanted my black brothers to be curious about my sexual prowess so when my slender body afforded me sexual freedom and an abundance of newfound attention from men, I found myself in virtual spaces, places, and relationships that I had ‘no business’ being in. In a slender body, I am no longer sexually invisible, and I have a difficult time negotiating sexual advances from my male counterparts. This poem was born out of my new sexual identity and the agency I was afforded in ‘pullin’ attractive men.

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