Kivan Bay is an artist and writer who uses Twitter as a way of connecting to his audience and sharing his work, as well as an opportunity for open discussion and continued learning
We’re seeing a lot of improvement when it comes to the way the world speaks of body types, appearance and what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ look like. But while improvement is good, body shaming is still something many people experience every day.
Kivan, or Kiva, is a fat liberation writer and this week, one particular thread made the headlines. "Being fat is..." was the beginning of a very long thread, in which he spoke of the many common scenarios, feelings or experiences fat people have to live through.
Being fat is…
“Being fat is looking at the accessories while your friends shop for clothes.”
Being fat is the act of squeezing yourself into a corner and hugging your arm to your side to take up less space.— Kivan, Spider Daddy (he/him) (@KivaBay) June 10, 2018
Being fat is every act of eating in public becoming a performance, being aware of every eye on you as you chew, trying to guage how much you can get away with leaving on your plate so they think better of you— Kivan, Spider Daddy (he/him) (@KivaBay) June 10, 2018
Being fat is recognizing revulsion in a stranger's face when you just want to get through your day— Kivan, Spider Daddy (he/him) (@KivaBay) June 10, 2018
“Being fat is deciding to ignore the fat hate on your favourite TV show because you tried giving up all the media that hates fat people once and there was nothing left.”
Each tweet was being shared in the hundreds, with people who relate to the scenarios pleaing for people to read the thread. “Just scratched the surface” writes one user. “Read for an honest depiction of the shared fat experience. This is why when thin people say things like ‘I feel fat’ it always puts me at a loss for words” said another.
When speaking to Kiva, even just for a few moments, I can feel his passion and want for helping people. He is not tweeting for likes, but to educate; to connect with people, to share his work and to continue to learn and teach about fat liberation.
So, what’s your story? Why fat liberation?
“I write about fat liberation because as a fat trans man who came out later in life, I’ve experienced a lot of different facets of fat stigma,” he says. “Thanks to generous donations, I have a very extensive library that includes a lot of fat studies books, and through those I’m able to bring theory into my writing.
While I try not to focus too heavily on negative feelings about my body, to deny them is to be dishonest in my work
“I break down those books and studies with other people on #fatstudygroup, a hashtag I started in order to create a horizontally organised classroom for people to engage with fat studies.
“The thread in question is a piece of ‘fat scar literature’. While I try not to focus too heavily on negative feelings about my body, to deny them is to be dishonest in my work” he explains. “By sharing them, I can communicate to fat audiences that what they are experiencing is not just an isolated incident. In this way, the audience can experience catharsis and begin on a path of healing and fat liberation.”
What about feedback? Do people share their experiences with you?
“Oh yes. For one, I find that the Twitter thread allows people to engage with theory in bite-size chunks that are easier to take in, and it encourages people to respond and share.
“The horizontal organisation allows me to occupy the role of teacher or student, and allows the same for them, so they know their words are valued and important, and that they do have the authority to speak on their experience” Kiva says.
People know their words are valued and important, and that they do have the authority to speak on their experience
“Most of the responses I get are from people who are also fat and learning about fat liberation. I do get the occasional wave of hate, but I think I’m just unknown enough and disinterested enough in the harassment that I get less than other people who do this work, in particular fat women who tend to get a lot more hate than me.
“I get the usual ‘you’re going to die’ messages that any openly fat person receives on the Internet, but for the most part these things don’t bother me” he continues. “If they start to bother me, my husband David just goes through my mentions and removes stuff so that I don’t have to see it.
“Oh and I’m extremely mentally ill, so I do try to monitor how upset I’m getting and disengage where I can. It just keeps me safer.”
I can’t help but ask more about Kiva’s husband, and say how pleased I am that he has a supportive partner in his life who can help him deal with these things.
“He’s the best” says Kiva. “He’s my editor, my sounding board, and my best friend.”
What advice do you have for people looking to learn more about fat liberation?
“For people I try to also figure out what will interest them the most,” he says. “People into fiction may do better with work from @shiraglassman or @sarahhollowell. Stat nerds should check out @ashleighthelion and the Fat Census. There’s always #fatstudygroup and the incredible people on there, including @FOMNZ.
“For artists, I challenge them with the #augustadipose tag” he says. “There are just so many fantastic resources out there.”
Finally, is there anything you’re currently working on?
“My current job is helping Sofie Hagen with her book, and it’s going to be great. I’m really proud of the research I’ve done there.
“Eventually I’d like to put out a book that explains things like abjection and social capital in ways that younger readers can understand” he continues. “But for now, I just do my threads and my Patreon. I’m pretty boring.”
In just a short conversation, I can confirm that Kiva is far from boring. He is passionate, strong, intelligent and honest, and I look forward to seeing what he does next.
To read more of Kiva’s work, you can follow him on Twitter on @KivaBay.
For mental health information and to find a counsellor near you, visit Counselling Directory.