I tried to get on a Southwest Airlines flight last year, and it didn’t go too well. I had just done a podcast for the International Bear Rendezvous, which was a big gay get-together for dudes who look like me. It was a fantastic feeling because I was in a room with people who for the first time were sexualizing me. I boarded the plane, and the stewardess showed me to the only available seat on this flight. It was between two petite women. Then a lady from the front desk told me to get off because there were "safety issues." And I said, "Ma’am, please don’t make me leave this plane because you’re saying I’m too fat." After I left, I tweeted about what happened. My mistake was thinking the story was going to be that I caught a lousy corporation that f--ks with people. But instead the story became "fat guy in a little chair."
I was at the top of Google News for three days, and all the articles said I was fat. It was horrible. It was like being publicly naked.
I know what it feels like to carry a lot of weight in a society that’s very image-conscious. It’s a thin person’s world, and we try to navigate within it without being made fun of. A lot of people say, "You make jokes all the time and call yourself fat." Yes, as a defense mechanism. You call yourself fat before someone else can because it’s always more painful when somebody else does. For three days after the Southwest incident, I was paralyzed. I didn’t want to go near an airport because somebody sent me a link to a paparazzi blog where there was a price listing offering $5,000 for a photo of me seated in an airplane, and $10,000 for a photo of me eating a sandwich on a plane.
So I rented a tour bus to go to Austin and do Q&As. And that trip made me think it would be cool to get more people like me and do a tour. We developed a network of shows, and that led to a tour to promote my film Red State. I thought, "I’ve got a $4 million movie and a direct-to-fan relationship. Maybe I’ll just take it out myself." If I didn’t unfairly get kicked off that flight by Southwest, this never would’ve happened, which in turn has kicked off two TV pilots for me.
When the whole world calls you fat and you can stand there in the face of it and not open your wrists, my friend, you are tempered in the cosmos. Nothing can stop you at that point.
Interview by Marlow Stern