Friday, June 15, 2012

Living Large

Although I don't have a strong presence in the comments section of this blog, for reasons I've explained several times, I do read every comment and am often prodded to think harder or more deeply about what I wrote, I like that. Rarely do I pull a comment, or a part of a comment out, and highlight it in a blog post. But I am going to do this today. The comment was about the fact that I mention, with some regularity, my weight here on this blog. The suggestion was both that I was 'hard on myself' because of this and that maybe I had a prejudice against 'heavy/fat folks.'

I will admit that this comment stung.

No, that's not true.

It hurt.

I don't know if others feel the way this commenter did, but in case that's true, I'd like to address the issue.

Put simply, I mention that I'm fat, because I am fat.

I came out of the closet in every way possible a long time ago and refuse to live with silence about who I am and how I exist in the world. To speak about my life without mentioning something that is immediately obvious to everyone, would, to me, be shaming myself. Also, if I am talking about my life out in the world, I have to mention that my weight is an issue for a lot of people. Strangers make comments to me, teenagers drive by hanging out of a car window and make piggy noises, unsolicited medical advice flows my way with unceasing regularity. It's an ISSUE for others, therefore it is an issue for me.

I hope, though I didn't research my archive, that I haven't written self loathing things about weight, I don't think humorous remarks are the same thing, but that my focus has been on others more than myself. I have received any number of private emails from other large people thanking me for being so 'out' and so 'honest' about living large in a society where fat is definitely not where it's 'at.' I'm pleased by these letters, pleased to hear that others who've experienced weight prejudice find community here.

Too, I wondered, why the person who made the comment focused on that one aspect of my writing. I also write about being a wheelchair user, and make comments about it regularly, but I wasn't accused of being shamed by my wheelchair or prejudiced against other wheelchair users. Consider as well that I write often about being gay, and mention Joe with regularity, and I wasn't accused of being a self loathing gay man who had a hate on for the gay community. No, the issue was that I talked too much about my weight. I was asked why it was such an issue.

Well, it's an issue because it is an issue. I don't know what more to say.

It strikes me that years ago, I was asked why I put such an emphasis on my sexuality. And it took time but I realized that what people were really saying was, 'shut up about it.'

I have also been accused, more recently, about putting too much emphasis on my disability. And I realized more quickly that I was being told to 'shut up about it.'

Well, it didn't take me long to realize that I've just been told the same here.


I'm not going to.

This is my blog.

This is my life.

I have every right to discuss my life as I live it and bring forward issues that I want to confront. Weight prejudice is one of those issues. I believe that shame seeks to silence voices. I do not choose to be silent.

I live large.

Get used to it.


Anonymous said...

From another large person, thank you, Dave.


Anonymous said...


you live large and I live blue (lack of oxygen. It is a visible issue and it will always be something I am feeling the need to talk about or even sometimes forced to talk about.

It is a part of me. And I always thought that I gave it to much space by bringing it up again and again even to my close friends who know.

But it is an issue in my life.

So I talk about it.

Thank you for showing me, that it is alright to talk about it.


CL said...

For what it's worth, I have never thought that you sounded ashamed of your size or prejudiced against fat people. And I think talking about how people treat you due to your size and disability is important. Ever since you wrote about the man at the airport who mocked your size, and how nobody came to your defense, the image has been stuck in my mind -- it's something I'll remember for a long time, and I hope I remember my resolution to speak up if that ever happens in front of me.

Glee said...

Never never never shut up about it Dave cos if you do "I will pop round yer 'ouse and rip ya bloody arms off"!! lol (quote from Aunty Jack)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post (from someone who is overweight - the term I use instead of "fat," since it seems to have fewer negative connotations).

But it left me with a question. Clearly it's fine for you to talk about your weight, disability, sexuality, or whatever aspect of life you'd like. But in what situations is it appropriate for others to bring it up? I'm not asking about you in particular, but honestly wonder when it is or isn't appropriate for me to make a reference to someone's weight, sexuality, medical condition, disability. I'd like to communicate that I accept this part of them, that I'm not afraid of it or uncomfortable with it, that I'm willing to help, etc. But it's still really deeply ingrained in me that it's rude to bring up - even with close friends and family members.

I suspect that this may be one of the things that keeps me from offering help, for example, even when help would be appreciated. I'm thinking back to your post about the elevators, and the response from a reader who couldn't leave home in the winter without help. In such cases, I suspect I would have been one of those who did nothing, since saying or doing something would have meant drawing attention to something personal (a disability), which feels rude, especially with someone I don't know well.

So the dilemma in my mind, anyway, is whether to be rude by bringing up something personal that's none of my business, or whether to be rude by ignoring what might (or might not) be a real problem.

Mary said...

Like any other bully, they try and pick on you for the things they think you might be insecure about. That way the niggling little voice on your own shoulder will do most of the work for them, and if anyone challenges them, they can just point to their comment and say "what? I never said he should be ashamed about it, only that I was concerned he might be..."

It's trolling 101.

For some, "the disability thing" would be the obvious angle. Well, you write specifically about disability and you work in the disability pride/advocacy field, so in your case that's a non-starter. Trying to plant a seed of Disability Insecurity in your head will not result in a bountiful crop.

For others, "the gay thing" would be considered a good area to attack, a lot of people have an inner wobbly bit about that. Except once again, you write specifically about your secure, mature gay relationship, your acceptance as a part of a gay couple, your participation in gay pride events. Implying that you might feel ashamed of being gay would get only a nonplussed look and an "er, what?" because it's clear you're quite the opposite.

But the weight thing - it sometimes causes you to experience discrimination. Personally I don't recall you ever sounding the least bit insecure about it, but at the same time I don't recall any repeated, passionate, ongoing defences or explorations of it. The impression I get is that your weight simply is what it is.

So imagine now, you're the kind of person who gets their kicks trying to upset people online. You're going through the checklist and finding that your favourite, most often-used targets, such as unemployment, low income, high income, singledom, promiscuity, and the way a person is raising their children, are Not Applicable for Dave Hingsburger. Disability is too well-defended, as is sexual orientation. What to do, what to do? Aha! He's mentioned being fat! Not much of an opening, but let's take a pot shot and see if it stings him...

Anonymous said...

Loved that blog Dave! People visit your blog because they want to hear what YOU have to say.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you don't have to worry what others say - unless it is true. Since it isn't - move on. I guess when you are so apt at holding the mirror up to others - some react to the reflection. I believe you said before that you do like to consider the comments of others, chew the meat, spit out the bones and keep doing the great job you do.

GirlWithTheCane said...

I have never heard you sound insecure about any aspect of your life.

I'm sorry that someone put that on you.

Anonymous said...

So many times the thoughts and experiences you share about being fat echo my own. You are the only person I have ever heard say (write) these things "out loud" and I for one can never say thank you enough for that.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I have never thought your comments about weight were shaming. In fact I appreciate that you write openly about it - especially about it being other people's issue. Some people feel free to be openly prejudiced about weight. You rightly note that the problem is theirs not yours. As a woman who is overweight - thank you. There are many ways to be and this one would not be so bad if it weren't for the self-righteous prejudiced folks out there.

Tamara said...

I don't think your writing ever shows self-loathing over your size or any indication of any prejudice against people who are overweight.

I knew exactly the comment you were referring to as soon as I read your first paragraph. Even though the poster started out saying s/he understood the fear, the rest of the post made me think of someone who really doesn't acknowledge the right of someone else's feelings. I'm glad you chose to address it.

When I first started reading your blog, I thought you had something in your profile about being a fat, gay and disabled guy - didn't you? I loved that because it was like - I am who I am - period. And I immediately felt like I was going to get a lot of honesty here - and I have.

It seems to me that most of the comments here that seem to dig at you in a personal way or posted by "anonymous". I think that means something ... :-)

Louna said...

Homosexuality and disability are now accepted civil rights issues - at least in some circles, and probably in more circles for homosexuality than for disability. Weight is usually not, although fat/HAES-activism is growing. So the commenter might have understood that you write about homosexuality and disability because they are civil rights issues, and not have understood why you write about weight. One more reason to do so.

Andrea S. said...

I had somehow missed that the person was somehow reading "shame" and "being hard on yourself" into the mere mention (even repeated) that you are large. Though I had never read you as ashamed of it. Bothered by other people's prejudice about it and the way they sometimes mock you, yes. Especially when Ruby (and Sadie) are around since you know they are sensitive to it.

Mary has brought up one theory for why that person said what they did. And perhaps she's right. But I raise another theory. Perhaps he/she was projecting his/her own uneasiness about weight onto you.

I know that on occasion, when I happen to acknowledge that sometimes my speech is difficult to understand (because I was born deaf and speak clearly only because I grew up with 15 years of speech therapy) some hearing people seem to think it is their job to rush to reassure me that my speech is "fine." I do not need reassuring: I do not feel any shame or insecurity about the fact that some hearing people find it difficult to understand my speech some of the time. It is merely a fact to be acknowledged and (when needed) planned and accounted for. For example, if I am placing a complicated order in a restaurant, I tend to write down the order to minimize misunderstandings. When I travel to a country where people are not only unaccustomed to "deaf speech" (as are most hearing people in any country, including at home) but also with American accents then I try to bring paper and pen around with me more often so I don't have to keep repeating myself and then maybe still not being understood. (American accent plus deaf speech seems to sort of compound comprehension difficulties that most hearing people don't seem to have when they only have to deal with one issue at a time)

I do respect that people mean well when they try to "reassure" me about my speech but still get annoyed by it. Partly because I don't see why they assume I am automatically insecure about it. As a deaf person who uses several modes of communication in my daily life, although I do value being able to speak well when it works for me, I simply do not invest the same value in my speech as most speech-dependent hearing people do (ie people who depend so much on speech that they freeze in a situation where speech suddenly isn't going to work so well). It also annoys me because it assumes I'm not able to judge how well others understand me. I not only can judge this (by observing how often a person needs me to repeat or write things down) but also can judge to some extent the patterns in who is more likely to understand me or not.

I think people assume I need "reassuring" about my speech (just because I happen to mention it without ever expressing any insecurity about it) for possibly the same reason this person somehow read you as being ashamed or "hard on yourself" or prejudiced -- he/she may be dealing with his/her own issues in these areas and projecting them onto you may be his/her way of processing this.

Becca said...

Interesting - I've never gotten that impression from you. You mention it because it's relevant, just as everything else you write about in your blog is relevant. I never got the feeling that you were prejudice or even hard on yourself about it. I do wonder how others manage to read so much extraneous and incorrect stuff into what is written. I would never think you should "shut up" about it. It's your honesty you give to your readers in your blog that's so refreshing.

Andrea Bastien said...

I read that person's comment yesterday, them telling you how hard you on on yourself. I love your blog and I among others do not feel you need to 'shut up'. I wouldn't want you to change your blog and I am glad you write so freely. This is YOUR blog and YOUR life, I read it because I enjoy it. Too bad other people are seeing what I see when I read your blog.
It was a pleasure to attend your seminar in June on Behaviour Self, by the way! I am glad you loved the gift also! Hope to see you again soon at a seminar!

D~ said...


I want to thank you for writing about what it is like to be a fat person in the world. It means a lot to me because I see this behavior directed at people I love - a lot - and I resent it.
When you write about it, it helps me find language for myself about it. That language helps me be an advocate for them when they need it - and sometimes they do.
My mother-in-law was very large. She had chronic health problems (not weight related), and doctors, nurses, etc. were dismissive and disrespectful. When we found out, my husband and I began to accompany her on every doctor visit. It made me angry that they would listen to us, but not to her.
I have also been very angered by well meaning people who opened every conversation with questions about her weight and what was she doing about it. It was so hard to keep myself from butting in and telling those people where to go.
Speak on Dave. Please. The way that large people are treated in society is appalling.

Claire said...

As we were chatting the other day, a very large co-worker of mine cheerfully remarked "I'm pretty healthy for a fat chick!" and went on to talk about her excellent cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Another co-worker (a thin young man) overheard the comment and interrupted her with "Don't say that! You shouldn't say that!" I was puzzled at first, then realized that he objected to this woman referring to herself as "fat" because he saw the term as an insult.

CapriUni said...

Here's a snippet of what I wrote on my between-friends journal, tonight (this realization came to me this morning after thinking about your "elevator behavior" post):


The noun "Shame" is the emotional pain you feel when you believe (either correctly or incorrectly) that something you've done, or something you are, is Wrong.

The (transitive) verb "To Shame" is what other people do when you don't feel pain about what you've done, or who you are, but they feel you should, so they do everything in their power to convince you to change your mind. And it takes a lot of practice and a good circle of kith and kin (mostly kith) to withstand all that.

On the flip side of that, "pride" is the pleasure you feel when you believe you are, or that you've done something, Right.

Too bad we don't have a transitive verb form of that word, too. Maybe we should start making one?

Moose said...

People still get offended when they're called fat... even when they are fat.

There's nothing wrong with being fat. Despite what the mass media tells us, being fat is not a guaranteed way to get diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, or to drop dead tomorrow.

I'm 5'2"(ish) and I weigh about 425 lbs. That puts my BMI at about 39235832. And, yeah, I'm disabled. If I had a dime for every armchair doctor who explained to me how I'd be able to walk again if I would only lose weight, I'd probably have my food budget for a month or two. But I've read enough medical research to know the difference between "cause" and "exacerbate" when it comes to health issues, and to make my own decisions about my own damned life.

It's still in vogue to shame fat people. It's still popular to use the word 'fat' as an insult. It's still commonplace for strangers to feel the need to tell fat people how to live their lives, in public settings. It's still acceptable for magazines and websites and tv shows to mock people who might carry some so-called "extra" weight on them. And the worst part is, it's all done in the name of "health." "Being fat is unhealthy!" is the war cry of the people who perpetuate this kind of societal abuse.

It all boils down to the way we treat each other -- mostly, like crap. It doesn't matter if it's about gender or sexuality or religion or (dis)ability or weight or height or skin color or ethnicity or anything else you can name.

Society still encourages us to make fun of people different from ourselves. Until we as a society start accepting people as they are and stop trying to fit them into mythical molds, trying to change them into some non-existent ideal, society is going to grind to a halt.