I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again right now: I make mistakes. In fact, I’m pretty good at it. I take a lot of risks in what I do here and on stage, and sometimes those risks are fruitful, and sometimes I screw up. This time I screwed up. I want to take a moment to explain what happened, apologize, and reflect on the experience in hopes that others can learn from my mistake.
I posted the above graphic (without the black bar edits) to the It’s Pronounced Metrosexual Facebook Page with two main things in mind: (1) this will help normalize gay while debunking a common misconception; and (2) this is clever and will work well on Facebook. It was supposed to be a commentary on popular public opinion. What didn’t pop into my mind was (3) and make folks feel targeted and “demonized” for their body weight, or (4) be a really damaging thing to do.
But as you know I know, intentions don’t matter, what matters is what happens. And while I only intended for 1 and 2 to happen, 3 and 4 also happened. And for that I am incredibly sorry. I removed the graphic after a few folks commented and explained the error of my ways to me, but I also wanted to turn this into a beneficial experience. I’m very new to this whole “war on obesity,” fat-shaming debate, so there was a lot to learn.
Why it was fat-shaming
If you don’t see any issue with the graphic, let me synthesize some of the comments from the page into the major points:
- Many folks feel persecuted for being big-bodied and saw this graphic as another form of persecution, or at the very least as passing judgment
- Some people read it as something like “it’s okay to be fat in the US but it’s not okay to be gay,” when in reality it’s not okay to be fat in the US and it’s not okay to be gay (both by general society standards — certainly not how it should be)
- Others received the overall message as it should be okay/accepted to be gay, but it should not be okay/accepted to be fat
What I learned
Beyond simply learning that the graphic above was a poor attempt at a positive thing, I learned a few generally helpful bits:
- Comparing two marginalized groups (or even referring to two separate groups in a manner as shown above) is dangerous business, and is best avoided to not inadvertently spur one targeted group at the cost of helping another
- Tread carefully in waters you’re unfamiliar with. I am not well-versed on the “war on obesity” and fat-shaming stuff, so I was not really equipped to make the decision of whether the graphic above was “edgy” or “over the edge”y
- If you misstep and someone tells you so, don’t run away from them. Take that opportunity to learn why what you did was wrong so you can prevent yourself from doing it again in the future
So, to make this incredibly clear, I want you all to know I do not condone or support fat-shaming. I think that we should be loving and supportive of one another regardless of body size or type, as well as all the other identities one embodies. I believe that the one of the greatest sources of health comes from loving oneself, and it’s hard to love yourself if you’re told by your peers and society at large that an aspect of you is unlovable. As someone who has struggled with his weight and body image all his life, you’d think I’d've been more attuned to this.
Above all else, I want to ensure that this website is and remains to be a safe space for individuals of all identities, and I’m going to work hard to make that the case.One last thing: I decided to do a bit more investigating about this whole health/social issue, and if you’re interested in reading what I dug up I just posted another article with a few considerations about health and body size.