Struggling

I can’t say it any better than Caitlin Stout does.

If I’m being honest, I have been struggling quite a bit lately. This past year has been marked by a depression diagnosis, lots of sleepless nights, a new patch of gray hair, and a noticeable dip in my academic performance. I am weary, in the most profound sense of the word. And I am so scared to admit that, because I know that people like my professor will hear it and say to themselves, “Well, that’s just what happens when you give in to sin.”

I think he might be right.

I think maybe depression is what happens when you are constantly told that you are inherently broken. Maybe anxiety is a natural response to multiple anti-gay harassment incidents. Maybe stress takes its toll when the responsibility of speaking on behalf of an entire community is placed on your shoulders. Maybe joy feels elusive when you spend your evenings comforting friends who have been rejected by their families. Maybe it’s difficult to concentrate on homework when you’re busy meeting with school administrators to ask them for equal rights. Maybe it’s fair to be tired when you’re constantly made to fight.

Maybe this is just what happens when the Church gives in to the sin of homophobia.

“Maybe this is just what happens when the Church gives in to the sin of homophobia.” A-freaking-men.

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My fat acceptance/feminism/anti-racism/LGBTQ activism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

So, the last time I posted something about LGBTQ issues, I got a comment criticizing me for bringing them into fat acceptance, because fat people are the majority, and LGBTQ people are “fringe” and their rights are a “far left” ideology.  Apparently allo/cis/het fat people are supposed to ditch LGBTQ folks so that centrists and right wingers will be better disposed toward us.  Yeah, fuck that.

And today was the Women’s March, and apparently some TERFS decided that instead of protesting the President’s ill treatment of women and minorities, or any of the current crises, they needed to use their time and energy at one of the marches to hold up a sign about how “trans women are men.”  Look, sweetie, the fucking President sees you as either a pretty young sex object to be used, or an ugly old bitch to be ridiculed or ignored.  It turns out that a bunch of the dudes in the media who relentlessly trashed Hillary Clinton were sexual predators themselves.  People are getting murdered by Nazis and white supremacists. The HHS just created a new division dedicated to making sure your pharmacist doesn’t have to fill your birth control prescription, or your Catholic ob-gyn can stand around and watch you die from sepsis rather than complete your miscarriage.  Flint still doesn’t have clean water, Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power, and our President keeps flirting with all-out nuclear war over Twitter.  And you looked at all of this crap and decided that the biggest threat was trans women?  Are you shitting me?

Like, seriously, if you don’t like trans women, you’re not obligated to have trans friends, or eat lunch with your trans coworkers.  I doubt they’ll miss your company.  You’re totally free to leave the restroom or locker room if someone you deem “insufficiently feminine” shows up. The primary thing trans people as a group ask of you is that you leave them alone, and stop getting them killed.  Don’t falsely accuse them of being sexual predators, or assault them for using the restroom. Don’t make stuff up about sex changes on little kids in order to scare parents out of acknowledging that their kid is trans.  If you want to go further along the path to “not being a total asshole,” you could also abdicate your position as the gender police, and call people by the names and pronouns they ask you to use.  To misquote Thomas Jefferson, it neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg for someone to identify as a gender that you don’t approve of.  It costs you nothing to take people’s word on their gender and treat their genitals as need to know.  (And you don’t need to know.)

I’m not even asking you to work together with them on common issues, because they’re at enough risk as it is, without choosing to associate with someone who sees them as Public Enemy #1.  But it would be awesome if you could drop the anti-trans crusade and focus on one or more of the many actual catastrophes that could use that level of passion and activism, rather than continuing to kick a tiny and extremely vulnerable minority.

Every single progressive movement, every single movement for the rights of any group of people, needs to be intersectional.  Women’s rights has to mean black women, queer women, disabled women.  Fat acceptance has to be for poor fat people and gay fat people and trans fat people. Gay rights can’t just be for the white, cis gay dudes—it has to be for the whole alphabet soup of LGBTQIA, and the whole spectrum of race and class and gender and ability.  Because it’s all one interconnected fight.  And when we try to kick people out of the club, we dilute our power.

I’m not saying everybody has to get along and sing kumbaya.  I am saying that we’re all minorities by ourselves, but a majority when we work together, and that it would be good and useful to focus on the people who are actually trying to harm us.

 

The Fantasy of Flying While Thin

Last week, I flew home from my second ever trip to Alaska.  My brother-in-law moved up there, so that’s where the big family Christmas was this year.  I got to see my adorable nephews, which is definitely worth 12 plus hours on a plane. Each way.

Some time between the previous flight and the last time I’d flown, I reached the size at which I need a seatbelt extender.  On that previous flight home, I was miserable.  In theory, window seats are a good thing, but I was jammed into a space with not enough leg room, the armrest poking me in the hip, and my shoulder against the wall (right on a fibro trigger point, of course).  There were also one or two flights where I was too embarrassed to ask for the damn extender and just sucked my gut in hard and tried not to breathe too much. (Don’t do that; it sucks.)

I actually broke down crying on the flight, not just because I was so miserable, but because I was figuring that the only way to actually see family in Alaska was to diet myself down to a more flight-friendly size.

And then, there was the puking.  I occasionally get carsick, but this was the first time I’d been sick on a plane.  I can only apologize profusely to the poor soul who had to clean that bathroom, as well as to anybody who had to wait longer to pee than they otherwise would have.  On the second flight, I at least realized that I was about to puke in time to avoid defiling any lavatories.  (By the way, if you want to see how fast a flight attendant can move, ask for an air sickness bag.)

At some point on the trip, I realized that the level of misery I was experiencing had nothing to do with the size of my ass and everything to do with air travel being generally craptastic and with my actually being ill.  I’m not sure when exactly this dawned on me.  The vomiting was a good clue, as was sitting in the airport shivering, and realizing I was probably running a fever.   (I ended up missing a day of work when I got back, if I needed any more confirmation that I was actually ill.)

As I thought about it later, I realized how insidious the idea that losing weight is the magical cure to any and all problems really is.  I mean, I blog about fat acceptance for pete’s sake.  And yet, there I was, jumping straight to the conclusion that everything would be better if I were just thinner.  And this wasn’t even something caused by my size.  I mean, yeah, if there were less of me to fill the seat, there would be less pressure on trigger points, but it’s not like the fibro would magically go away if I were thin, or like things wouldn’t hurt for no reason even if they weren’t pressed up against a wall or an armrest.  And since even a successful diet wouldn’t make me any shorter, the lack of legroom would have still been painful.  I’m also pretty sure that weight loss does not prevent either air sickness or sinus infections.

It wasn’t until the second trip, which sucked a lot less, that I fully realized how untrue that was.  I had a little fibro pain here and there, but nothing horrible.  (One of the crappy things about fibromyalgia is that the pain feels pretty much like the aches and pains that come with the flu, so it can be hard to tell getting sick from having a flare.) Same me, same size. I still needed the seatbelt extender (that I was actually smart enough to ask for and use on all six flights).  The whole difference was not being sick.

(The title of this post is inspired by Kate Harding’s classic post The Fantasy of Being Thin, whch is worth a read if you missed it ten years ago. Yeah, it’s really ten years old.  Now if you’ll excuse me, apparently I need to tell some damn kids to get off my lawn and go to bed at a reasonable hour.)