Being out matters. It just does.
This was my Facebook status update this morning and within an hour eight people “liked” it. Clearly I’ve touched a nerve.
I should tell you this was prompted by another Facebook friend who resolved this year to be outwardly supportive of gay rights because of some gay bullying her wife is dealing with. That’s right. HER wife. As in, she’s a lesbian.
I don’t mean to criticize my friend’s choice about not being more supportive before the bullying started, but clearly, being quiet about it didn’t make a difference.
We all make choices every day about being “out” in certain situations or not. And this doesn’t just pertain to gays and lesbian. We can choose (or not) to be open about our religion, (dis)ability, income, marital status, weight, skin color, ethnicity, etc.
So then the question is: Why does it matter.
Well: Because it does.
Every time you speak up when someone makes a fat joke or a gay joke or makes someone else feel like crap because of some other difference real or perceived you make a difference. You let people know that it’s not okay and you turn the awkwardness and bad feelings around on the perpetrator. And, slowly but surely, you change things.
Now I’m up to 10 “likes.”
That’s what I wanted to write.
And then I got caught off guard by a blog post written by Ragen Chastain on her blog Dances with Fat.
Chastain is a fat dancer: 5 foot 4 inches, 284 pounds. And she embraces a school of thought called Health at Every Size (HAES). The post, “When Good Friends do Bad Diets,” was about whether she gets annoyed when her seemingly smart friends who have read her blog and seen the research she presents go on crazy diets.
Her answer was: Not at all.
Basically, she says she is taking the road less traveled by, which for her is HAES, and that’s made all the difference – for her. It may not make a bit of difference for her friends. And that’s okay.
Her thought is you can never truly inspire of empower anyone, all you can do is present an option and they have to do the hard work of inspiring themselves. She doesn’t force HAES down people’s throats because she wouldn’t want them doing the same to her.
This is where her issues and mine merge. She sees size acceptance as a civil rights issue, just like I see gay rights. Civil rights are not up for debate, “every body deserves basic human respect, and basic human respect means all humans – not just the humans who behave the way you think they should.”
The HAES issue s not a civil rights issue, it’s a health practice people can take or leave.
So it is (or should be, clearly I need to work on that) with me. Being out all the time is not a civil rights issue, it’s a choice. There are so many reasons people may not choose to be out and that’s okay. I need to respect those reasons – every single one of them.
Being out all the time is right for me. It may not be right for you or your brother or the weird neighbor down the street who you thought just avoided you because you have six cats. Sometimes, my self righteousness just needs to take a back seat. Sometimes I probably just need to chill.
Most times, I just need to let folks take the road that’s right for them.