Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Choices or Otherwise...Why Does It Matter?

Ironically, I've already written about my thoughts on the "choice" of being gay -- back in the spring of 2003 (you'll have to scroll down to the post titled, "Random Thoughts").

Perhaps one of the more pertinent quotes from that long-ago post (IMHO) is from feminist humorist (aka fumorist) extraordinaire, Kate Clinton:

"So what if a gene or a gland causes gayness? Would that make the coming-out-to-parents conversation a health report? 'Mom, Dad, I've got the gay gene.' Would protest signs that say 'we're here, we're queer, get used to it' become apologies - 'we've got the gay gene, we couldn't be more sorry' or 'I wish my hypothalamus were bigger'?"

Is being gay a choice? I guess that's going to depend on individuals and exactly what is meant by "choice." But in the end -- why should it matter? Should the woman who makes a concious decision to become a "political lesbian" be deemed more worthy of discrimination than the girl who "knew she was a lesbian" at the age of 5? Should the bi-sexual who "chooses" to fall in love with another woman be less worthy of protection from discrimination than the bi-sexual who "chooses" to fall in love with a man?

In the end, we may never know if there is some sort of "gay gene" -- and even if there is, there will still be people who may "choose" to live a "straight" lifestyle even with the "gay gene," and those who may "choose" to live a "gay" lifestyle even without the "gay gene." It really doesn't matter.

The same goes for fat people. There are, without a doubt, some people who are fat because of a genetic predisposition to being fat. There are some who are fat because they eat too much. There are some who are fat because they've "dieted" their way up to their current weight (oh yes, they do exist). There are extremely unhealthy fat people and there are extremely healthy fat people -- and you cannot tell just by looking at the person which one s/he is.

As Elkins said earlier:
There's nothing wrong with encouraging people to take better care of their health, but I don't think that's really what anti-fat discrimination is all about. It is an appearance-based prejudice, and it has far more to do with fat itself than it does with "health."

The fact is, when you look at a fat person, you have no way of knowing if that person is healthy or not. Similarly, you have no way of knowing whether a random thin person is healthy or not.

When you see a fat person in McDonalds, you have no way of knowing whether that is the first time s/he has eaten at McDonalds in a year, or whether s/he eats there every day. Same with the thin person who is next in line.

When you see a fat person walking down the street, you have no idea how much they eat or how much they excercise. For all you know, they may have just lost over half their body weight over the course of the previous several years. Maybe they do weigh 250 lbs., but maybe 3 years ago they weighed 500 lbs.

When you see a person -- fat or thin -- you have no idea what their blood pressure or cholesterol level is.

If it's really about a concern over "health" -- shouldn't the emphasis be on whether that person is eating a healthy diet and getting enough excercise; whether their blood pressure is through the roof or at a healthy range? There is absolutely NO WAY to know this by looking at the person.

Shouldn't you be more concerned about the 145 lb. athlete who eats nothing but saturated fat and simple carbs and has a cholesterol level of 300 than the 300 lb. person who eats balanced meals, excercises regularly, has a cholesterol level of 100 and a blood pressure of 100 over 80?

Of course, in the end, you can advocate a healthy lifestyle as much as you want -- but it still doesn't matter. It's not your health or your life.

1 comment:

portia said...


Hey there; I really like your blog.

Living in a place where this question of 'choice' comes up pretty often has taught me that the people asking it aren't really concerned about the answer, either. They know it doesn't matter. They're asking it to make their idea more palatable: that gay people should under no circumstances be gay.

And it *is* a lot like weight-based discrimination, in that it's perfectly acceptable to believe that there should simply be no fat people in this world. Period. And if you can liken it to a "disease" that has a "cure," suddenly you're being "helpful." Who wants to live in a world with polio? Look how *great* it is to not have to deal with that! That was just *terrible*!

And these people just seriously believe that. I don't know how. I don't know how you can believe that it's a better world if some people would not love who they love. But that's what it is, and they hold up the discrimination and bigotry of their own making as hallmarks of the savage effects of the "disease."