Sunday, June 30, 2013

Big Old Lady Who Stands Her Ground

Today is New York City's annual LGBT Pride Parade.  I wish I could be there.  I'd love to see Edie Windsor as Grand Marshall.  As George Takei says, "Rosa Parks, Edie Windsor--never underestimate the power of a little old lady who stands her ground."  

I wanna be an old lady who stands her ground, too.  At forty-two I've got just a few more years til I get to label myself as old, but I've got another obstacle in my way toward little old lady greatness:  I don't have the body type.  Rosa Parks and Edie Windsor, yes, you can call them little.  Not me.  I'll be a big old lady who stands her ground.

It's OK that I can't make it to the parade.  I can stand my ground while sitting in a comfy chair: I've got a good book to read.

I've longed to be a progressive activist since ninth grade when I first read the book Black Like Me.  It spurred my interest in the Civil Rights Movement.  After reading The Color Purple and Rubyfruit Jungle my interest in feminism and lesbian rights grew, too.

The world is far from perfect, but the work so many social progressives have done is creating positive change.  Today African-Americans, American women, and LGBT Americans are trampled upon far less than they were back when I first started paying attention in ninth grade.  There is much work to do still, but things are getting better.

Another oppressed group has caught my attention in the last three years: fat people.  Since I read Dr. Linda Bacon's book Health at Every Size, I've become interested in fat people's health.  My own health in particular, since I've been told since I was in third grade I need to lose weight.  Except for when I was told to gain weight in fifth grade when I had developed anorexia.  My body has been at both extremes, fighting other people's judgment.

I've long spoken out for the underdog.  Sometimes I don't fit inside the group I speak out for (African-Americans) and sometimes I do (American women, the B in LGBT), but never have I felt like I belong so strongly to a burgeoning social movement.  I'm speaking out for myself.  This is personal.

I am fat.  I am healthy.  My body is mine, not yours.

I'm here, a big old lady who stands her ground, telling fat phobes to get off my lawn.  It's not just about health, it's about oppression.  I'm sick and tired of so-called authorities such as the AMA calling obesity a disease.  Telling all fat people that they are diseased is not just untrue, it's discrimination based on a person's appearance.

For example, high blood pressure.  Some fat people have high blood pressure.  Some thin people have high blood pressure, too.  I'm fat, but I have lowish blood pressure.  I'm friends with people whose bodies carry much less fat than mine, and they take medication for high blood pressure, but I don't.  Is it genetics?  Diet?  Exercise?  Who knows.  Just because I'm fat doesn't mean I'm not healthy.  Precisely because we can't tell by appearance how healthy a person is, size and weight needs to be taken out of the equation when assessing an individual's health.

The best health advice for people of all sizes--tall, short, fat, thin, and everything in between is this: eat a variety of real food (primarily plants), move your body in pleasurable ways, and love yourself. That's Dr. Linda Bacon's advice in her outstanding book.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

If you can't make it to the Pride Parade today, I have an alternative plan for some progressive activism you can do: read.  Books have always gotten this big old lady ready to stand her ground.