Note: Denarii Grace uses both she/her and they/them/their pronouns.
As someone who is Black, disabled, and fat, Denarii Grace runs into a lot of spaces that aren’t welcoming or accessible to her. They have used that discomfort to teach others about what our identities mean and that just because we don’t conform to the status quo doesn’t mean we aren’t still worthy of self-love. Her activism runs through the intersections and asks us to consider what we can do to lift each other up.
I was very lucky to snag a few moments of Denarii’s time recently to talk about what why she’s working on a Fat Acceptance Month.
1. What do you feel is the most common misconception about being fat and the fat acceptance movement?
I think that the most common misconception is the idea that fat people – especially fat people who adhere to the fat acceptance movement – don’t give a shit about our well-being.
Health is relative and there are many of us who will never be what an ableist society considers “healthy.” “Health” should never be a marker of a person’s value. This is how ableism and fat antagonism go hand in hand. I’m a multiply disabled fat person. I’ve been fat pretty much my entire life. For me personally, I measure my “health” (if we wanna call it that) primarily on metabolic stats: my blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, liver and kidney function, that kind of stuff. Based on that, I’m super healthy despite the fact that I’m 5’7″ and weigh about 275 lbs in a society that claims that, at that size, I’ve got one foot in the grave.
Of course, as someone living with seasonal depression and PTSD, among other things, and living in a society that hates me for my size, race, skin color, disabilities, sexuality, spiritual practice, and a host of other identities, I also measure my “health” based on my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. None of these things can be separated from each other: so-called physical “health” is tied up completely in our mental well-being and our experiences with oppression.
2. What is the difference between body positivity and fat acceptance?
Like so many movements, body positivity was co-opted by thin privileged people (and so-called “small fats”), and turned into a movement about our “feelings” and our looks (which is part of it, but not the be all, end all), and then capitalists did what they do best – exploit and water it down until it’s practically meaningless.
Fat acceptance is about liberation from harmful, oppressive ideas about beauty and health. It’s about a “healthcare” system that acknowledges the painful, traumatic relationships that many fat folks have with food and our bodies and treating us as whole beings instead of shoving diet culture down our throats. It’s about representation in media and politics. It’s about creating spaces that are physically and mentally fat-friendly. It’s about creating a society in which size diversity is both celebrated and inconsequential, which sounds like a paradox, but I believe that that world is possible. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do the work that I do.
3. I know you’re working on creating a Fat Acceptance Month in 2019. Can you share a bit about that?
It’s in the beginning stages. I want it to be observed every January. In a Christian, Western context, the beginning of January is seen as the “new year” season, a time to dedicate ourselves to setting various goals and hopes for the upcoming year. In a fat antagonistic society, this means being bombarded with diet and weight-loss messages.
My hope is to counteract that messaging with healthier messaging about weight-neutral wellness, discussions about systemic thin privilege and fat oppression, and various other issues that we face that are rarely highlighted, even in so-called “progressive” communities.
Right now, I’m looking for folks to get involved in different ways. It would mostly be an online, digital, social media campaigns, infographics. Hopefully, I’ll get some articles written, interviews like this one, etc. I’m hoping for in-person events, too.
4. What do you wish you could tell your younger self or a teenager struggling with their weight?
“Fuck diets. You don’t need them because you’re perfectly fine and fabulous just the way you are. You aren’t on a collision course with death and, even if you were, your life holds value way beyond the numbers on any scale. Fat and fabulous is the way to go, love!”
I never heard any messages of this sort until I got to graduate school in my mid-20s and discovered Health at Every Size. That’s a long time to be starved (pun intended) of self-love and bombarded with erroneous ideas about the body you live in every single day.