Greetings from Michigan! I had such a cool day at Olivet College. I gave a talk about Body Privilege to the Sociology/Anthropology students, then a talk about working with athletes, as well as general populations, of every size to the Health and Human Performance students. Lunch was originally going to be with students, but ended up being with some of the coaching staff and Olivet faculty, and Cea Noyes who has been my completely fabulous guide through this trip.
Then I gave my Positive Body talk to students, faculty, staff, community members, and some amazing teen girls from a student group that works with at risk high school kids at a nearby juvenile home.
I had people tell me that I helped them see themselves differently and improve their relationships with their bodies. I had people tell me that I helped them see cultural bias and make the decision to change the way that they are going to treat fat people. I had people who plan to work in fitness tell me that I changed the way they are planning to work with fat people. In an incredibly touching moment, one of the teen girls used the Q&A to tell me that she loved me. I love her right back! It was the kind of day that makes me deeply grateful that I get to do this work and reminds me that it’s worth whatever nonsense I have to deal with.
After dinner with Cea and some students, I had the privilege of attending the LBGTQ students Coming Out Monologues. It was incredibly touching, the students, faculty, and community members who spoke and put the event together were amazing. Several of the speakers tonight reminded me how important it is to come out and keep coming out, because the way that people treat queer people, and the way that they feel about our Civil Rights changes a lot when people know how many of their friends, family, co-workers, heroes etc. are Queer and Trans. It also reminded me that this applies to being fat.
Obviously I don’t typically have to come out as fat, but coming out as a happy fat person, and a Size Diversity activist, as someone who is not trying to lose weight, is important. Many cultures – often led by their respective governments – encourage people to make assumptions about fat people based entirely on our body size. Those assumptions include everything from the idea that we hate our bodies, to assuming that we are trying to lose weight, to assuming that we agree with a culture that suggests that fat people should be shamed and stigmatized “for our own good” and that the only “good” body is a thin body.
It’s easier for people to buy into this bullshit if they don’t know (or think they don’t know) any fat people who don’t feel this way about ourselves. Nobody is obligated to talk about their relationship with their body of course what I’m saying is that every time we come out as fat and happy, as Size Acceptance activists, as unwilling to perpetuate and participate in our own oppression we help people see that what they are hearing about fat people isn’t necessarily what is true about fat people.
Every time we point out the issues with suggesting that fat people should feel obligated to solve social stigma by changing ourselves rather than by fighting social stigma, we give people the opportunity to see the situation with more clarity. Every time we explain that we’re not “suffering from obesity”, but we are suffering from the way that people treat us for being fat we give people the chance to see the issues with our culture’s treatment of fat people, and become part of the solution.
Every time we tell the world that we love our bodies, that those bodies deserve our full-throated support, and that we refuse to participate in a culture that suggests that our bodies are anything less than the amazing bodies that they are, we make it more difficult for people to replace our actual experiences with their stereotypes and preconceived notions (or profit-creating stories) about what fat people are like and how we feel about ourselves. Of course we can never know how our actions will affect others, but I find that every time I “come out” I reaffirm my gratitude for my body and feel better about myself.
So come out, come out wherever you are! Or don’t! It is, of course, entirely up to you. But know that you have every right to celebrate, and stand up for, your body!
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