Q: How would you introduce yourself?
I’m Barry Deutsch, a cartoonist who does graphic novels and political cartoons. I sometimes do political cartoons with fat acceptance themes (and I want to do more). I’ve been very hesitant about doing fat-acceptance political cartoons, because it’s such a personal subject for me.
Q: Are you comfortable with the word “fat” for yourself?
Q: How would you describe your body size?
I’m fat enough so that anyone looking at me would say I’m fat. I’m fat enough so that people have sometimes yelled derogatory comments about my weight from cars as they pass me.
But I’m thin enough that many of the ways society routinely exclude fat people don’t really effect me. I can get through turnstiles (occasionally with a struggle), sit in theater and airplane seats (although sometimes that’s a close thing), and once in a blue moon I find clothes that fit me in stores. I need an extension to buckle my seat belt on an airplane, but usually I don’t need an extension in a car. And I simply face less frequent and less vicious anti-fat discrimination than my fatter peers. I think Caleb Luna would describe me as having a “smaller fat body.”
Q: How has being fat affected your life?
Well, aside from pragmatic inconveniences – difficulty finding clothes, being careful not to sit on delicate chairs, and so on – the main effect is that I’ve been taught to carry around a great deal of self-hate, which I struggle to leave behind.
Q: How did you encounter fat lib/fat acceptance?
I read a book questioning everything I’d been taught about fat and about weight loss diets. I’m not sure which book it was – it might have been “Big Fat Lies” by Glenn Gaesser, published in 2002, or maybe it was an earlier book that’s since been lost down the memory hole. Whatever book it was, it completely blew my mind.
Later on I had a job at Oregon State Health University, and so had daily access to a medical library. I’d haunt the stacks, reading journal articles, and I confirmed for myself that something that everyone I knew had always accepted as uncontested fact – being fat is deadly, diets work – was actually a subject of enormous controversy among researchers and experts.
Q: What’s the worst part of being fat for you?
Having been taught to hate myself; that I am gross; that I’m not worthy of being loved.
But also, sometimes the realization that people I love are carrying around a great deal of anti-fat bigotry. I once wound up seeing a fat suit comedy with a close relative (bad idea, I know, I know). The movie was bad enough, but what was a thousand times worse was my relative sitting next to me, cracking up at every anti-fat joke. I don’t blame them – they were raised in this society too. But the memory stays fresh, many years later.
Q: What’s the best part of being fat for you?
Finding solidarity with other fat people.
Q: What’s your favorite place to buy clothing?
I don’t have much money, so I frequently look for clothes on ebay. I’ve splurged on a couple of t-shirts from Rage On that I love (their sizes only go up to 5x, though).
My new favorite item is suspenders with a musical note pattern, which I got from Amazon; I’ve been getting a lot of compliments when I wear them. A couple of years ago I decided to wear suspenders all the time, and I’m so glad I did – I like the line better, and I feel much more comfortable. (And, oddly enough, it’s made me more comfortable wearing body-hugging shirts than I used to be).