Images of couples welcoming in 2018 are flooding our social media feeds. “I wouldn’t want to do 2018 with anyone else,” is a typical caption alongside a photograph of two smiling people, posing in their New Year’s Eve best.
Problem being, for Melissa Gibson and her partner Johnathan, who kissed in front of the camera before the midnight countdown, it’s not a typical post. It is, as Gibson said later, “political”.
Why? Because of Gibson’s weight.
Unlike others’, their ‘Happy New Year’ post did not attract likes and hearts and ‘love you two’ comments. No, it attracted hate.
People called their relationship “abnormal”, and assumed Johnathan must have a fetish. Others suggested Gibson, from Louisville in Kentucky, “doesn’t deserve him” – as if what we ‘deserve’ is in any way dependent on our outward appearance.
Now, Gibson’s hit back at the haters, shaming them for shaming her, and reminding all of us: there is enough discrimination in the world. Surely, 2018 should be a fresh start.
“When taking a picture in a sparkly dress next to the man you love makes people comment about your body, question your relationship, make judgements about him for loving you,” she wrote alongside another image of the two of them, taken again on New Year’s Eve.
“Our relationship is political. Even though we both know how natural and right it feels. And if the world won’t just let us be, we will keep fighting for our love, for our space, for our right to be seen, accepted without question, and celebrated.”
She is speaking out for other people, too. Because relationships like hers, she says, are too often “erased and delegitimised”. When one person is big and the other is thin, there’s a misunderstanding that means the world looks past the couple, searching for an explanation or a ‘reason’ for the union.
It’s an experience wryly described by author and columnist Lindy West.
“He is thin and I am fat,” West wrote about her relationship with her now-husband in a 2014 column for The Guardian. “He is conventionally desirable and I am a ‘before’ picture in an ad for weight-loss tapeworm eggs.”
“It is women’s job to be decorative (within a very narrow set of parameters) and it is men’s job to collect them. My relationship throws off both sides of that equation, and a startling number of people find it bewildering at best, enraging at worst.”
Lindy West isn’t afraid to take up space. Post continues below.
Gibson agrees and she’s tired of it.
“While you insist on yelling your insecurities and bigotry at me, realise I’m not playing the game you play any longer,” she told her haters via Instagram.
“I’m not playing by your rules. And it’s honestly sad you still are. 2018 is the year for love that is not defined by weight, age, ability, genitals, gender, sexuality. Not defined by race or ethnicity or religion. We’re having more fun this way, anyway.”
Hear, hear, Melissa. May you and Johnathan’s 2018 be utterly wondrous. Filled with love, acceptance and bugger the rest.
Oh, and she’d like you to know her dress is from Deb Shops, “FOR ALL THOSE WHO ASKED!”