Fat People and Gay People and Black People, Oh My!

Boy if ever a post was going to get me in trouble right? Just hear (well, read) me out is all I ask. I made several posts on Facebook about how happy I was that gay marriage passed in New York.  One of my blog readers messaged me on Facebook and said “I love your blog and I think everyone should read it.  I noticed that you talked about transgender rights a few posts ago and I saw that you are FBing about supporting gay marriage.  I agree with you but I’m worried that your open support of gays and transgender people will lose readers who might otherwise like your blog.”

Huh.  I hadn’t really thought of that.  But there was no time to think about it because I was going to see Hairspray at Zach Scott Theater with my friends – a gay couple and a lesbian.

Hairspray is a musical that deals with oppression.  It takes place in the sixties in the midst of desegregation.  It also talks about fat politics – the main character is a fat, white girl who is a great dancer and makes it onto a television show.  After befriending some of the black students from school she begins to work for desegregation, even being jailed for protesting and risking her dream of being on television.

One of my favorite songs comes from this movie.  It’s called “I Know Where I’ve Been”.  It’s sung by a character who is both black and fat, and it is the story of the journey to that point in black civil rights and the journey yet to come.  The full song is below, my favorite lyrics are:

There’s a road
We must travel
There’s a promise
That we must make
But the riches
Will be plenty
Worth the risk
And chances we take

There’s a dream
In the future
There’s a struggle
That we have yet to win…

I know where i’m going
Lord knows i know
Where i’ve been

I’m not sure that there was a dry eye in the house when the song was over.  As I looked around at a diverse audience that included (among others) fat people, gay people, and black people and people who were some combination of the three, I realized that we were all crying a little for ourselves and our journeys, and that a lot of us were crying for each other.  And that is as it should be. Obviously I can’t know what it is like to be black during desegregation (or ever) but I hope that I would have had the courage to do whatever was in my power to help at that time, whether or not it lost me the sixties equivalent of blog readers.

So the answer to the well meaning Facebook message is that I believe that even if my readers assume that I’m straight, they understand me when I say that fat people are a better witness to our own experience than people who seek to oppress us, that studies show that I couldn’t change (lose weight) even if I wanted to, and that I don’t believe that I’m a gluttonous sinner.  And whether or not they agree with me, I think that they wouldn’t expect me to by a hypocrite who turns around and uses those same tools of oppression on gay people (or anyone else for that matter).  As a bisexual woman I’ve had to deal with gay people who get completely pissed when someone says that being gay is a choice and that they could be straight if they want to, but then tell me that bisexuality doesn’t exist and that I need to “pick one”, but that’s another post for another blog.

Oppression is a horrible thing and rather than spending our time trying to decide who is more oppressed (or worse, arguing that we don’t deserve to be oppressed but those people over there do) let’s spend our time seeking out oppression and destroying it every chance we get, each in our own way.

Here is that song.  Enjoy.  (This is the full scene, the song starts around :50)

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 5:16 am  Comments (36)  

36 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ragen, I can’t even make my typical declaration of love for you right now. It’s not because I don’t, because I do. It’s not because I don’t agree with you, because I do. It’s not for any other reason than the simple fact that being silly after a post like that seems incredibly counter-intuitive. Seriously, my respect for you has grown leaps and bounds. So many of us face battles that many people never see and never know about. We read or hear things that shoot an arrow straight through our hearts and we hope that we have the strength to stand up for our beliefs and our heart’s desires, but sometimes we fall short. So thank you. Thank you from the top, bottom, middle and all around my big fat heart. Thank you for having the strength to say what you believe and not fearing losing your audience. Thank you for not even really writing for your audience, but for writing because your heart tells you to. I count myself extremely lucky to call you friend.

  2. I want to read that blog about bisexuality. You could likely sum up all of my frustration over that topic and clear it up for those who don’t understand, quite a bit more eloquently than I.

    As always, a fervid agreer,
    Cap’n Kyrie

  3. It’s interesting to me that the marriages of my lesbian couple friends and my gay couple friends have lasted longer than any of the heterosexual marriages in my peer group, including my own. (I was married for 11 years.) Maybe it’s because they are actually marrying for love and not because it’s what’s expected of them. I’m pleased that gay marriage has been given the thumbs up in New York. Now it’s time for the states that haven’t been so progressive to follow suit.

  4. Another fervent agree’r here. I won’t lie, I rolled my eyes when I read the initial comment from Worried FBer. As another fat bi woman I would also like to read that blog entry.

  5. I…well….just speechless really. I don’t have the words to articulate my thoughts coherantly right now but BOY am I glad by some weird fluke I happened across your voice on the internets.

  6. \o/

  7. “I agree with you but I’m worried that your open support of gays and transgender people will lose readers who might otherwise like your blog”

    There have been a scant number of occasions when I have faced the decision between maintaining a relationship or sticking by my principles and ideals, and – in my opinion – there simply isn’t a choice to be made.
    I will not betray my convictions for the approval of bigots, and I don’t expect the people I look up to to do so either.

    Any readers you lose with your support for non-slim, non-white, non-straight, non-cisgendered people aren’t hearing the message anyway: everyone is fine to be whomever they are, and whomever they want to be, and that’s no-one else’s business but their own.

    Congratulations to New Yorkers – of all creeds, colours and sexualities – on a big win for civil rights.

    • “I will not betray my convictions for the approval of bigots, and I don’t expect the people I look up to to do so either.”

      well said =)

  8. Please don’t censor yourself. We need your voice just as it is. You’ll always have at least one reader in me. And I rather guess you’ll have quite a few more than that.

  9. Hairspray. One of the few, if not only, work that has ever written fat characters so brilliantly. So jealous you got to see it.

    Anyway, moving on, I’m glad you stand by everyone. I’ve seen one too many other people who claim the rights for one group and then look down on another. I remember an LJ post where a fat girl shared her experience of a girl bullying her for her weight. That girl in question? She was in the LGBT Alliance and I believe was an officer there. Yeah, hypocrisy is never fun to witness.

  10. We must speak out against all types of oppression. I, for one, am with you 100%.

  11. What? You mean you’ve been blogging about acceptance this whole time, but you didn’t just mean for your own group? Outrageous! Not to mention my “natural” assumption about your sexuality does not match up with my cisgendered/cissexual view of the world? Scandalous!

    (A duh, people. A duh)

    Sarcasm aside, I am actually pretty saddened that someone felt the need to suggest that notion to you. Lame.

    • Sabrina, I love your comment. :-) Spot on.

  12. All I can do is agree. I hope you never feel like you have to censor yourself. The readers you want are going to be the readers that allow you to be yourself.

    I don’t even know if that makes sense. Maybe I should have stopped at “I agree.” LOL

  13. “I agree with you but I’m worried that your open support of gays and transgender people will lose readers who might otherwise like your blog” ??? This has the whiff of concern trolling about it. I doubt anyone who enjoys your blog would be surprised or upset that you support acceptance for gay and transgendered people too, but even if you lose a reader or two over it – would that really be a loss?

  14. Ha ha ha!! What an ignorant Facebooker! Does he/she even read your blog or understand what your wonerfully enlightened view of acceptance? Sheesh, good for her for agreeing with you but poop on her for missing the bigger message (hey, hey, did ya like my play on words? Har har ;)

  15. I’ve always loved your posts on FB about queer issues. I love support for gay, lesbian and transgender issues by straight people or people most assume are straight. Without straight allies, gay marriage would never have passed in all the states that it did. I’m a straight ally of gay marriage myself. One doesn’t need to be bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender to want all people to have the right to marry.

  16. Ragen, thank you as always for your insight and conviction. As a bisexual fat woman, I would love to hear more of what you have to say about that. And thank you for expressing something I had never quite been able to put my finger on: the frustration with the gay & lesbian community so often telling us bisexuals we have to “choose one or the other” when their message to straight society is that sexuality is *not* a choice!

    Brava.

  17. I am a new subscriber and fan, and I just wanted to stop by and say I love you for this post.

  18. I am honored to be your FB friend. White, straight, pleasingly-plump, grama that I am. I look forward to every post.

  19. “I agree with you but I’m worried that your open support of gays and transgender people will lose readers who might otherwise like your blog”

    Some of the best advice I ever got was: if your message doesn’t turn SOME people off, it probably a pretty weak message.

  20. If I learned one thing from my grandfather, who had black friends, attended a black church, and formed a brotherhood association to address racial tensions in his city before the civil rights movement really gathered steam (the late 40s and early 1950s) its that when you stand up in support of others, and you defend both the beauty of the other and their right to equality no matter what that otherness is, you don’t worry about the people who don’t agree. Showing love and solidarity is what matters.

  21. ” And whether or not they agree with me, I think that they wouldn’t expect me to by a hypocrite who turns around and uses those same tools of oppression on gay people (or anyone else for that matter). ”

    You’re wrong, Ragen. Something I’ve read time and time again in the week or two I’ve been reading your blog is that people constantly praise you for yelling against the oppression of fat and overweight people, but throw rocks at you for defending other people (e.g., women shaped liked boys, gays, ppl that are fat but not chubby). Our society feeds and lives off of division and oppression. You don’t. I love that about you. Yes, I’ve been with you less than 2 weeks and I love you. Keep on being an ever better version of your highest self. Or, as the church folk used to say, “Keep on keeping on”.

    (((((HUGS)))))

  22. ” And whether or not they agree with me, I think that they wouldn’t expect me to by a hypocrite who turns around and uses those same tools of oppression on gay people (or anyone else for that matter). ”

    You’re wrong, Ragen. Something I’ve read time and time again in the week or two I’ve been reading your blog is that people constantly praise you for yelling against the oppression of fat and overweight people, but throw rocks at you for defending other people (e.g., women shaped liked boys, gays, ppl that are fat but not chubby). Our society feeds and lives off of division and oppression. You don’t. I love that about you. Yes, I’ve been with you less than 2 weeks and I love you. Keep on being an ever better version of your highest self. Or, as the church folk used to say, “Keep on keeping on”.

    (((((HUGS)))))

    p.s.- I love the title of this entry. how could i NOT read it?!

  23. I think you just are super awesome. I personally as an armchair activist about a lot of things(mh, lgbt acceptance AND equal rights,anti-wls,fa,size acceptance issuesgender,religious,race and ethnicity prejudice), think sexuality between mutual consenting beings whether, lgbt, poly, is people’s own business. I think human sexuality is unique to each one as the same as the human body and soul you never know what one’s story is just by looking at them, I kind of am pro-acceptance of anyone, unless they shame people and are bigoted or hate promoting, that I don’t have a lot of patience for.
    I am curious though to what your take is on people who fight for equal rights as only to things they relate on? You elaborate somewhat on this blog but I am curious of it further. I am a straight ally for lgbt acceptance and rights, I normally don’t feel the need to announce it because I could care less whether or not someone is going to make any assumptions about my sexuality maybe because so many people have made assumptions about my weight my whole entire life and were wrong, they can pretty much assume what they want, if the want to know something ask, and if you can’t accept at least tolerate peacefully, is my opinion except hate action or speech. I personally believe everyone is bisexual to a certain extent, I own my sexuality if I was bi curious I would explore it, but more power to anyone who owns their sexuality and is ok and non judgemental. I think those are the most repressed try to cause repression and opression in others.
    But what I am getting at, is I cannot stand the prejudice that people in the categories who I advocate for have with each other. Meaning there are a lot of fat phobic people who are gay. There are a lot of fat phobic people who are formerly fat. Size acceptance people like you say so eloquently aren’t truly into size acceptance if you bash thin people.I don’t have to be afflicted with any one prejudice, cause or condition, to have empathy for others. You can get away with saying things,about size acceptance, I’ve said similar things in the fat acceptance community and been nailed to the wall for it, Maybe because you are a much more effective communicator then I could ever hope to be.
    I guess I will ask you this again, so I have a chance of being clear,and that’s why I’ve earned the name LisaWordyAZZ is what do you think about the hypocrisy that goes on in people who say they are for equal rights, but in only in cases where it’s relatable to them and how is any one group of people know the hatred of being in one of the categories but hate something they can’t relate to ?

  24. Little uncomfortable with the bashing going on in the comments. :/ Some people come from very repressed backgrounds and it’s difficult for them to express strong convictions if those statements are likely to elicit hostility. We should educate and encourage, not reprimand.

    Anyway, I always loved your very matter-of-fact references to gay rights. I love anyone who discusses sexuality like it ISN’T a big deal, because that’s how you really change people’s minds. You make them realize that the issue is not nearly as controversial as others make it out to be.

    (Also, I feel the need to mention that I did a small fist pump at your “coming out” portion. It’s getting filed away as evidence of my uncanny ability to pick out fellow not-strictly-heterosexual women. :p If you’ve mentioned it elsewhere and I’ve just forgotten, don’t tell me. I need these small victories.)

    • Hi Ellie,

      I’m just getting around to making that point on a lot of the comments. The person who sent the message was absolutely well meaning and I understand the question for sure. As far as coming-out, you completely deserve your small victory. It’s a weird thing for me because I’ve been completely out since 1995 when I was 18 and so I sometimes forget that I have to come out. Since I’m bi, I have a tendency to use non-gendered pronouns since someone I’m dating could be a man or a woman etc. It’s something that I intend to be better at since I think it’s important that people know that they know someone queer. Unfortunately it’s such a part of my daily life that it’s often not until someone makes an assumption about my sexuality that I realize that I haven’t done a great job of being “out”.

      ~Ragen

      • It’s an odd thing about being bi, one (ooh get me being all fancy) has to come out all the time. The world appears to assume that everyone fancies either girls or boys, not both or anyone outwith those little categories. So if you’re out with a woman, you’re lesbian, out with a man, straight. We’re kind of invisible that way.

      • I do the same thing with the non-gendered pronouns, which is probably what tipped me off if you’ve used them in other blog posts. I consider sexuality to be a very personal thing, so I’m definitely not very “out,” but I never intentionally hide it. What’s always strange to me is the way people feel that they have a right to know. Unless you’re interested in me or looking for support or insight, I don’t really see why it’s any of your business. I’m always tempted to respond with what I see as equally invasive questions (“So what’s your favorite position?” “You like things rough?” etc.), but I bite my tongue.

        And the invisibility thing is so true. I mention one gender and it’s automatically supposed to preclude the other. And in my case the omitted group is often women, so when I identify as part of the LGBT community, everyone thinks I’m just an “ally.”

      • It’s funny, but while I noticed that about your pronoun use, I think I ascribed it to “she’s aware and sensitive” and didn’t consciously make any assumptions about your orientation. And yet, even with that (and with me living in the SF Bay Area all my life, and having a number of gay/lesbian/bi/trans/genderqueer/various-flavors-of-other-than-het friends), when you said you were bi I had a moment of “oh? Ah. Cool enough”.

        It’s good to be reminded of how pervasive some assumptions and expectations are.

        • I’ll totally take “aware and sensitive”, that sounds like something I would like to be thought of as :)

          ~Ragen

  25. Queen Latifah sings that with every pore of her being. It’s a beautiful song with so much meaning.

    Great post on intersectionality Ragen.

  26. I am a straight, white, fat practising Christian, I find that other people, including friends are fine about me standing up for the rights of gay people, and the rights of non-white people, and the rights of people of other faiths. But standing up for fat people – that is just one step too far for many people I come across.

  27. What a priceless message.

  28. WOW, as a woman who identifies as bisexual, I cannot believe how much crap I get about it being a “phase” or being “selfish” or needing to “pick a side.”

    A couple years ago at the SF pride parade of all places, as a float with a banner reading “BISEXUALS” came by, a guy in front of me said to his partner, “they’re just selfish.”

    I was shocked and offended that even PRIDE isn’t a safe environment where every group of people is accepted. I said, “you’re just jealous that we have more choices than you do,” but what I was thinking was, “how dare you judge others when you expect to be allowed to live your life without judgment. That’s a disgrace to the queer movement and to human rights in general.”

    Whether it’s “oh that’s hot” from straight guys or a queer girl I was dating who told me it was just a phase (because she had a thing for dating straight girls – that’s a whole other set of issues) or another gay friend who told me “oh I had a “bisexual” phase too. One day you’ll grow out of it and admit that you’re gay.” ARGH.

    I’m in a relationship with a man, so 99% of the time I’m assumed to be straight and even in the queer community, it’s hard to figure out how I fit in. I would totally read a blog of yours about sexuality. :)

  29. I don’t even UNDERSTAND how bisexuality might be considered selfish.


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