jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

At the Corner of Fat & Queer

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Today is International No Diet Day. I used to write a lot about such things, before I went and got all queerified. And I thought today might be a good day to go back to that.


You see, my queerness and my fatness have a lot in common.

Being fat and being queer are both frowned upon by society. In most spaces, it’s only X markes the spotokay to be fat if you are ashamed of it. You have to talk a lot about how hard you’re fighting it, or how hard you will fight it, after you have this one last piece of cake. Excuses are given, resolutions are made. It becomes very performative, very competitive. A lot of energy is expended hating who you are.

Similarly, society in general, and the church in particular, teach queer people to work against who they are. Lots of theories are posited in an attempt to explain why we are the way we are. We’re supposed to fight it. Our own experiences are dismissed in favor of the newest bestselling book on the subject.

Having spent a decade being “out” as fat with no intention of losing weight, or letting my size get in the way of living life to its fullest, or hating myself because of it, or believing it makes me unlovable was good practice for living as an openly bisexual person.

Being a fat person who does athletic things has meant existing in hostile territory, and contending with disbelief. How can I possibly be fat and do a 12k? Or bike to work? Or this, or that. And if I am doing those things, then I must be doing them to change my size! Being queer and Christian is much the same. Hostile territory. Disbelief. And surely, if I’m in church and talking about being queer, it’s because I want my queerness “fixed,” my struggles prayed over.

Science is awesome but it hasn’t yet given us all the answers. A lot of money has been spent trying to pinpoint what went wrong in fat people that led to them being fat. It’s viewed, by science, as a type of brokenness in need of healing. A much better, much healthier, way of viewing body size is as a spectrum with no right or wrong or good or bad attached to it. I’ve written a lot, and others have written a lot, about this. We’ve talked about how research is beginning to show that the detrimental effects normally associated with fatness are actually associated with social ostracization, attempts to force the body into an ‘acceptable’ size, dismissive health care practices, etc. Fat people are in better health if they’re treated as, you know, people. Respected, listened to, trusted, treated as legitimate.

Science has also failed to provide an explanation for queerness. We’re certainly learning more, like how individual genes behave differently in different people, and can be affected by other biological factors. What we do know, though, is that sexual orientation is not changable, and that the life of a queer person can literally depend on whether the people surrounding that person are supportive or not, especially if that person is young. The church tends to view queerness as a type of brokenness in need of healing. But sexuality, like size, is best viewed as a spectrum. We are not all alike, and that’s a beautiful thing–not a bad one.

There’s another side to all of this, though, and that’s joy. I have found great joy in liberating myself from self-hate and fighting my body. Joy in 12k races and bike rides and hula hooping. Joy in buying clothes that fit me now instead of waiting until I became the ‘right’ size. Joy in being comfortable in my own body. I have also found great joy since coming out. Joy in being known for who I really am. Joy in liberating my affections. Joy in the community of queer people, and queer Christians, that I’m finding. Joy in being comfortable in my own soul.

And I won’t be letting the world around me steal that joy.

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