A little 101 – I get to exist.
It’s come to my attention that not everyone in the world takes for granted many of the things I’ve come to accept as truth about health and weight.
I forget that sometimes. And when I am reminded, it is not always in the kindest terms. Usually, it’s in terms like, “But your body is not okay because it’s fat and I find that gross! I mean, unhealthy!”
Comments like these question my right to bodily autonomy, and even my right to exist.
I find it stunning that in a country — the US, where many of my commenters live — that is supposed to be so staggeringly individualistic and freedom-oriented, and which, by the way, does not have universal health care yet, commenters will so readily lean on the notion of costs to the state as an excuse to strip away someone’s bodily autonomy.
Commenters also question my right to privacy, by asking me openly about confidential medical information — which might seem reasonable at first, but consider whether someone else in a similar position, but who is thin and promoting the popular view would be asked the same questions.
Probably not, even though the questions would be just as relevant. Maybe we should start asking Dr. Oz about his blood glucose and cholesterol numbers. It’s only fair, right?
In short: shaming people based on physical impairments or medical conditions is wrong. Treating someone as less of a person, or presuming that they are stupid, illogical, or not worthy of listening to because they have physical impairments or medical conditions is wrong.
I have worked with health care professionals who had diabetes. Did it make them less capable? No.
Was it any of my business? No.
Was it the business of their patients, most of whom were being treated for diabetes?
No. Not even then.
Refusing to engage with the logic of someone’s argument because it might be easier to attack them for the way they look, or for the way their body functions, is not only wrong but transparently foolish.
Engage with the argument, not with the arguer’s body.
I used to be willing to talk about my metabolic health indicators as a way of stereotype-breaking, but I’m not going to do that here. It is a way of throwing “unhealthy” people under the bus. It implies that it’s okay to be fat only if you meet X criteria.
You know what? No.
It is okay to be fat, because fat people already exist.
Fat people have existed for a very, very long time.
Even if all of us tried, not all of us would become permanently thin.
Fat people exist. We have existed. We will continue to exist. So to say that it’s not acceptable to be fat is to deny our right to exist.
Weight is not a behaviour; it is a physical trait. You don’t get to decide that people with certain physical traits don’t get to exist, no matter how distasteful you may find them.
And despite popular belief, you cannot presume to know a person’s behaviour based solely on their weight.
If you are fat and you don’t want to be, that’s fine with me. Do your thing — I’m not going to stop you.
But you do not get a say in my right to exist as I am, or to treat my body the way I think is best.
I am fat and I do not participate in intentional weight loss for various reasons, both personal and professional, and I still get to exist. The fact of my existence makes it okay, because whether or not you like me, or agree with me, or find me gross to look at, or “worry about my health,” I still get to have human rights. I don’t need you to find me appealing, or to agree with me, in order to have civil rights.
I still have the right not to be subject to appearance-based discrimination. I still have the right to exist.
My fatness is not an attack on anyone. And those of you who want to complain about how many “health care dollars!!!” it costs to help fellow citizens fallen ill need to re-examine your priorities. Nobody wakes up and says, “You know what? I just want to get really, really sick and use up lots of health care dollars!!!”
Thin people get sick too. What if I refused to fund medical care of thin people because they were thin? Because I assumed they all had eating disorders, or smoked cigarettes, or were heroin addicts?
I’d be a complete jerk, that’s what. Because you can’t assume behaviours based on weight.
Also – I am happy that some of my tax dollars go to help people with eating disorders and people who develop addiction-related illnesses. I’m not glad those people got sick in the first place, no, and I wish they hadn’t — but I can’t possibly wish it more than they do.
How much do you value Health Care Dollars ™ above the most intimate, basic forms of bodily autonomy? Above the right to eat and move in the way you want? Above the right to exist in the body that is naturally yours?
Your money doesn’t give you any rights over my body. Since I don’t live in the US — and even if I did, I would be denied the privilege of paying for my own private health insurance based on my weight* — you can stop worrying about it anyhow.
Don’t be such a willing little proto-fascist, playing games of who gets to exist and who doesn’t, based on weird appearance-based prejudices — you might end up on the wrong side of someone’s aesthetic preferences one day and find your own right to exist called into serious question.
Because fat or thin, you get to exist, too.
*Edited to Add: lol Affordable Health Care Act was upheld by the US Supreme Court minutes after I published this.