Love for the Real Person

Ragen Chastain has a fantastic post called Hate the Fat, Not the Fatty about how you can’t claim to like or respect someone while not treating them as a credible witness to their own experience.

While I appreciate someone treating me well, what I truly value is people respecting that I am the best witness to my experience. So when I say that my body is fine, that I’m happy with the path to health I’ve chosen, the proper response is “awesome”, not “Well, I don’t think you should be treated badly, but I do want to eradicate everyone who looks like you from the Earth and make sure that there are no more.”

When you try to separate people from parts of their identity, to love the fat person but not the body that they live in, or to love the gay person, but not their sexuality, you’re not really loving them. You’re loving a pretend version of them who only exists in your head. Actual, real love accepts the other person as they are. You don’t have to like or understand everything about them, but you can’t pretend that you know them better than they know themselves, and you can’t try to make them into something that they’re not.

Something I see a lot aimed at both fat and LGBTQ people is tolerance without acceptance. “Oh, I don’t think you should be bullied or discriminated against. I just think your lifestyle is sinful/unhealthy.” What irritates me is that the people spouting this always act like they’re doing us a favor. Oh, wow, you don’t actually want me to be thrown in jail for my sexuality or be mooed at on the street. You’re such a paragon of love and acceptance. Do you want a cookie?

I mean, yeah, sure, I’d rather have grudging, “But I still think you’re wrong,” acceptance than to have someone actively fighting against my right to exist. But it’s the bottom of the barrel baseline of being a decent person, not some extra special compassion for which you deserve an award. Especially not if you cry that you’re being branded as a bigot for telling people they’re going to hell and/or driving up insurance costs and going to die horribly.

But not actively harming people isn’t love. It isn’t even like. It’s just not actively being a jerk. It doesn’t merit any special praise.  Acting like it does just reinforces the idea that the people you disapprove of are broken—look what a good person you are, letting them exist in your space and breathe your air, how hard it is to accept their existence.

To really love someone is to see them and appreciate them exactly as they are.

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