Dear Thin People: On Ableism, Fatphobia & Other Intersections of Oppression

Photo by Brie Mainiero

Photo by Brie Mainiero

CN: eating disorder, suicide attempt, sexual assault

Dear "thin" and "fit" people,

We need to have a serious conversation about your perceptions of what good health is in relation to body size. I am not "unhealthy" because I'm Fat.

I am not "unhealthy" because I'm no longer able to be as physically active as I once was. I don't have Diabetes or any of my other Illnesses and Disabilities because I'm Fat. I am not Fat because I am lazy, have low self-esteem, lack self-control, don't know how to eat properly, or any of the other disturbing ideas you have imposed upon me and other Fat bodies.

"My health is worse because of the abuse I've suffered throughout my life."

I have chronic illnesses – including Diabetes – because of genetics, poverty, and the violence I have suffered as a result of the daily discrimination and institutional oppression that people in my communities suffer. I have mobility impairments because my spine and knees were fucked from birth. These issues were made significantly worse partially because of ableism. I was forced to work jobs that caused bodily harm and was never given legally required accommodations. I was forced to "walk it off," "toughen up," and "suck it up" because you all refuse to believe that my pain is real or to help me mitigate it through the simple act of giving me a stool to sit on or an extra 15 minute break.

My health issues were made worse because of the pathetic healthcare system we have in ameriKKKa. I went without insurance for years after college. Even when insured, I didn't have the money to pay co-pays to see doctors, get labs and imaging work done, and to take the prescriptions I required.

I'm even a citizen of a federally recognized tribe and am owed healthcare through the U.S. government because of my ancestors' treaty negotiations with the colonizer, but Indian Health Services (IHS) doesn't have full ambulatory care facilities in the major* cities across ameriKKKa, especially the east coast. Even my people's treaty rights couldn't get me healthcare.

My housing instability has also contributed to my multiple Disabilities.

It's impossible to properly care for one's self, especially if ill and mobility impaired, if you don't have safe, secure housing. I spent years fighting the system tooth and nail, moving to a variety of states, changing doctors, and I even allowed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to officially declare me mentally ill, despite my very real fears of forced institutionalization, so that I could get the apartment I have now.**

My health is worse because of the abuse I've suffered throughout my life. Studies have found that those of us with Chronic Pain a suffer from much higher rates of PTSD and childhood abuse. I've been choked, thrown into walls, slapped, punched, raped, and more. I suffer through rape and death threats on the daily simply for being who I am. It now looks as if I have Fibromyalgia. I can't help but see the connection of this new potential diagnosis with my history of abuse and oppression. Your body and soul would be worse for wear if you lived 38 years of this torture.

My knees and spine are also in worse shape than they could have been at this point in my life because I studied dance for years, ran track, played softball, boxed, and worked out like mad. That's right, this Fat Woman was very physically active and in amazing shape at one point.

Even now I push my body beyond its limits so that I may support my communities and live my values. When you see me marching and locking down in the streets or at rural actions just know it took a lot of pain pills for me to get there. Know that I'm risking further impairment and injury. I'm literally risking my life in a way the able bodied never will. Lazy is not an adjective that I know.

Now let me tell you about the eating disorder that this Fat body still struggles with. I went on my first "diet" at 8 years old. This is also when I made my first suicide attempt. Coincidence this is not. I have starved myself to the point of falling into walls and having such severe pain that I'd double over unable to speak or move. I've starved myself to the point that my blood sugar plummeted dangerously low and yet I felt gleeful that I could drop it that low. Sick, isn't it?

My family, friends, partners, lovers, medical providers, and white supremacists have all told me that I shouldn't eat, that I'm lying about being a rape survivor because no one would ever rape me, or that I should be happy any man would rape me. I've also been told directly and indirectly that I'm ugly and fat therefore worthless.

I've had these very people praise me for losing weight or for once "being thin." They made these dangerous statements even when they knew I didn't eat. They made these comments when I'd sneak away to the bathroom to make myself throw up. They assaulted me with this violence even when they knew my eating disorder is tied to my abuse history and that I restrict my food the most when my cPTSD is at its worst.

Today I had three incredibly intense, invasive, and triggering medical appointments. One doctor after another asked me painful questions. I had to discuss things that I've gone to extremes to erase, one of which was my eating disorder.

I had to sit through a nurse practioner telling me that I need to eat less and lose weight. She said this even after I told her that I still struggle with my eating disorder. She abused me with these words even after I told her that the only thing I had to eat all day was an egg white and piece of turkey bacon. It was at 3 PM that she said I need to eat less in order to control my diabetes. This is the common theme I have encountered while struggling to control this disease. Fatphobia, hatred, and shame from the medical community along with those of you that are "thin" and "fit" pushed me head-long back into severe food restriction. I still haven't eaten anything else today and I'm not sure that I will.

"I push my body beyond its limits so that I may support my communities and live my values."

I tell you this because your fucked up, disgusting ideas of bodies like mine, people like me, make living a healthy life damn near impossible. Your villification of me has nothing to do with my health. It's all about your fatphobic beliefs of which Fat People deserve respect, love, admiration, and joy. Next time you think or begin to say one word about Fat, "unhealthy," or Disabled bodies, think back to my words today and remember the oppressive beliefs you're really putting into this world and how it's killing Fat, Sick, and Disabled people.

Sincerely,

Jen Deerinwater
A Fat, Disabled, Bisexual, Hard Femme, Two Spirit

*Most of our reservations and tribal villages are lacking these health services as well.

**I fear my life everyday as an Indigenous Person and journalist fighting for sovereignty and the end of colonialism. Allowing the government to write me off as so mentally ill that I require their care has given me the housing I need as a person with physical Disability, but has also made it easier for them to throw me away in a padded room for the rest of my days. They have done this to my people, when we become inconvenient, for decades. Just look up the Hiawatha Asylum.

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Image description:

The author is pictured wearing a bright red shirt, long multicolor beaded earrings, and grey plastic glasses. She's looking away from the camera, a slight smirk appearing on her lipsticked mouth. She's light-skinned with brown, shoulder-length hair. The leaves of trees are in the background.


About Jen Deerinwater:

 

 

 

Jen is a Fat, Disabled, Bisexual, Hard Femme, Two Spirit, Tsalagi-citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Read more of her writing on Indigenous Resistance: Crushing Colonialism.