Technology has revolutionized many aspects of daily life, one of the biggest being how people date and how relationships initially form. We are no strangers to Tinder, Grindr, Bumble and the other hundreds of dating apps that flood society and greatly influence our love lives. On Wednesday, the Rainbow Center welcomed Joe Baez to discuss his lecture, “In My Dreams I Am Being Held: Queer, Fat Bodies of Color and the Politics of Desirability.”
Baez conducted his undergraduate research on the experiences of “queer, fat people of color” on online dating sites. He found many works that discussed homosexuality, the body and gender expression, but Baez wanted to incorporate the factor of race into his research as well. For his thesis, Baez conducted six 60-90 minute interviews with a concentration on the experiences that his interviewees had on dating sights. He received various different responses: One man had to reassure that he, in fact, does not paint his nails, others were told they were neither too feminine nor masculine and one person was even shown the tools someone was going to use to commit suicide. Whether it was never being good enough or being used as an emotional burden, these interactions forever influenced the sexual interactions of those individuals. This is the same concept that Baez successfully proved throughout his undergraduate career.
Understanding the digital landscape is critical in Baez’s opinion. After reading numerous scholarly articles that delve into the topic of dating apps, he found that many of them center around the content analysis of the app, its functions and how successful it is. He was disappointed to find limited research done on people’s experiences with dating apps and analyzing how they impact and reflect upon society. For example, “No fats, no femmes, no asians, no blacks.” This movement that recently gained traction started out as “a profile description with the attempt of warding off people that have these identities.” In response to this, Grindr created Kindr, however this does not stop the disgusting slurs. It is needless to say that many people in the community reacted very negatively to these bio fillers. One specific person, Fatima Jamal, created a documentary called No Fats, No Femmes. Baez played the introduction for the audience, where they watch Jamal read “Litanies to My Heavenly Brown Body” by Mark Aguhar. This poem serves as a confrontational message to the societal constructs that are affecting the daily lives of many people. The “blessed” statements are blessing the identities that are surviving against these constructs.
Baez works to analyze the systems of oppression and racism through the lens of sexual and intimate interactions. He defines sexual desire and embodiment separately, and then joins them in an overall definition of “a construction of a person’s identity that is formed by their sexual desire. Likewise, sexual desires that are informed by people’s lived experiences and identity.” One of his interlocutors shared that their now ex once said, “It’s hard for me to go out in public with you because everyone is staring at us and wondering why I am with you.” These are the exact types of interactions that can shape one’s future sexual desires and relationships. It is an example of the constant fat-shaming and ignorance that is still very prevalent in today’s society.
In a world that is constantly trying to evolve for the better, it is imperative that society as a whole is aware of these microaggressions that many people have to deal with throughout their entire life. There is always more room for education and more room for knowledge, which will in turn create more room for healthy, socially-aware interactions.
Joe Baez is a graduate from CUNY Brooklyn College where he received his BA in Political Science and Women’s & Gender Studies. He completed an internship at Institution for the Recruitment of Teachers, is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate fellow and a former CUNY Pipeline fellow. Baez is currently in the application process of doctoral programs focused on Women’s & Gender Studies.
Jordana Castelli is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.