My aunt once told my mom, “When you’re fat, you’re invisible;” a truth that I have lived for almost all of my life. Jessica Hoffman’s article Who’s That Wavin’ That Flag? and Terre Thaemlitz’s Trans-Portation solidify this point to me by stating that to pass is not just a way to be seen as belonging to a particular group, but to pass can also mean to not be seen at all–especially when passing is more visual than mental (ie: a visibly fat body vs believing in the trans “born in the wrong body” narrative). A lot of times, to pass means to assimilate oneself into the status quo, through any number of means: such as subscribing to homonormativity, putting down other marginalized groups to make oneself look better, as well as knowing that to not pass deems oneself as morally inferior to those that do.
I bring up fatness in terms of passing because of my own experiences with passing in this sense; I had long since learned to pass as a “good fat”, before I had ever questioned my gender or sexuality. To be a “good fat”, and pass as human in a society that views fat people as subhuman, one must acknowledge that their larger size makes them a bad person, as well as that they must be constantly striving to be thinner, otherwise they are a “bad fat” and in the eyes of the most fatphobic, probably don’t deserve to live. Unfortunately, transphobia, homophobia, and general queerphobia have a similar effect on people. To be transgender and not seeking/already have medical assistance to transition means that one may not even be a “real trans.” To truly be gay, one must be striving for a single monogamous, long term partner, with the intention to settle down and act like any other “normal” couple. And to be non-straight but non-gay as well is often met with phrases like, “You have to be one or the other,” or “What else is there?” because society largely ignores identities such as bisexuality, pansexuality, and asexuality. Nikki Lee Diamond’s Behind These Mascaraed Eyes shows a real life example of how being marginalized can cause one to be perceived as subhuman; in her article, Diamond details specifically how she was constantly harassed and threatened for being openly transgender, and how only once she literally saved the life of another person, was she seen as and treated as human.
Continuing with the notion that there is something inherently wrong with those who do not or who are not trying to pass, I want to reference Priya Kandaswamy’s Innocent Victims and Brave New Laws: an article discussing the movement to support battered women and how it transformed from a movement striving to empower abuse survivors to one almost founded upon victim blaming. Through the years, as this movement gained traction, it also began to support mostly only middle class white woman who had been abused by their husbands, and while these people certainly should not be ignored, the notion of what a “real” and “innocent” victim came into play. Like fat people not dieting or trans people not transitioning, domestic abuse victims who are anything other than white middle class women are seen in our society to somehow having deserved their abuse, namely because of whatever axis they are marginalized on (ie: a latina woman “deserves” abuse by her husband because the stereotypes around latinas suggest that she may have “had it coming”, or an asexual was “asking for it” by being a “prude”). These rationalizations and justifications for not only abuse, but all oppression as well, only serve to reinforce the status quo through the processes of victim-blaming and shaming people into conformity.
When I was growing up, and still to this day, my dad has always told me to “be a chameleon,” to blend in and be normal, so that I can reach opportunities and such that I may not have access to as someone who doesn’t pass as “normal”–all at the expense of my individuality, of course. But I stand with Dean Spade and Nico Dacumos in my argument that I will not let shame bring me down, and I will continue to be all of me at once, in every space, every day.
^^^^Because inside every fat person is a beautiful thin person, just trying so hard to get out and be free!!! ~~ as in, the only way to pass as human and deserving of worth as a fat person is by subscribing to this narrative and striving to achieve it. And the same goes for any other marginalized group. There’s a Normal person inside their marginalized and different body, just trying to be free and normal, and if they weren’t different, then they wouldn’t be marginalized!
^^^^This basically sums it all up.