KYLA: Thank you Healthy Weight Week for helping me keep my sanity this New Year’s Resolution season. With everyone whining about holiday weight, the 15 pounds they’re determined to shed this year, and the oh-so-annoying weight watchers commercials, a fat girl needs something to hold on to! I was particularly dismayed when I first saw the Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers commercial with this former fat girl role model singing about the “miracle” of weight loss. Guess I’ll go back to Camryn Manheim and her fab “this is for all the fat girls” Emmy acceptance speech. Oh, and cling to the message of Healthy Weight Week: “Our bodies cannot be shaped at will. But we can all be accepting, healthy and happy at our natural weights.”
Truth told, I thought I’d put all this body hatred behind me when I came out and embraced queer culture. Surely this community that trumpeted acceptance, gender fucking and whole-selves rhetoric would understand the beauty of bodies? Apparently not. Or at least, not as universally as baby dyke me had hoped for. At one of the first gender studies conferences (read: queer nerd breeding ground) I attended, I encountered the patronizing, shaming “concern” for the health of “our women” (i.e. fat lesbians) that I have since run into repetitively. According to promulgators of this message, we need to be concerned about the health of lesbian women because they tend to be fatter than straight girls. What they see as a health risk for the community, I see as the beauty of size diversity, which apparently is oh-so-threatening.
This refusal to accept and celebrate size/body diversity is hurting our communities and our movements. When we start internalizing the phobia of society at large, we start policing each other. And rather than creating radical communities with new norms (or where the idea of “normal” is abandoned all together), we recreate the oppressive forces from which many of us were trying to escape in mainstream culture. It’s sapping energy away from fun things—like flirting and dancing and changing this world. As a community, we queers are already battling messages that there is something “wrong” with us. Our bodies don’t have to be another source of wrongness.
AVORY: It’s interesting that you had that experience at a conference, Kyla, because I sort of have found the opposite–and yet, I’m not surprised, given the queer community’s tendency to both celebrate diversity and forget about it simultaneously. I’ve found a lot of fat-positive fat queers out there, particularly in femme queer female and genderqueer circles, something I attributed to the similarity between those two identities. Both queer people and fat people have to deal with a lot of community-enforced shame and stigma, and both of those communities have groups of people who like to be stand-out and fabulous about their identities.
However, the queer community also does tend to brush aside other identities in favor of the big queer umbrella, and the “concern” for fat queer women seems to fall in with that. I’ve seen similar trends with acceptance of kink and polyamory in queer circles, while at the same time some queer folks are claiming that vanilla and monogamous sexualities are being ignored.
The fact is, we’re never all going to be the same. The message of Healthy Weight Week is that bodies vary, “healthy weight” varies, and we should celebrate that. The concern-trolling that sometimes crops up in the queer community may be in some way tied to the very idea of a “community”–that a queer person should look a certain way, relate a certain way, and too much diversity will hurt us somehow. Of course, that’s bullshit. It’s not healthy for the most privileged members of a huge, diverse community to try to create community identity through policing the community’s boundaries. And ultimately, I don’t think that they can succeed.