Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Open Letter to George Takei

Dear Mr. Takei:

The first thing that I would like to say to you is that I have been impressed by you for a very long time. I always enjoyed your work, and after I read your autobiography, I was impressed with the grace that you handled life especially considering the steps that you have had to take in order to achieve your goals so far.

That is why it is so hard for me to write this note today. It is never easy to find out that someone whom you admire is human and has faults. We are all aware of this in an intellectual way, but when it becomes so very clear that our hearts cannot help but discover it as well, the disappointment is always a shock to the system.

You see, Mr. Takei, I am fat. I came out of the Fat Closet when I was about 8 years old. I was on my first diet before I was 10. Unlike gays and lesbians, Fatties have no choice about coming out, because the whole world can see who and what we are, so the torture begins early and is vicious. I remember having to get on the scale in front of all of the other kids in my class when we did school physicals, and having my weight announced for all of the world to hear. I remember crying into my pillow, trying to smother the sound so that my parents wouldn't hear because while they are loving and caring people, it would have meant that my Mom would have me on another diet because that was all that she could think of that would "help" and the currently mounting evidence that dieting is more harmful than good was not available then. I remember walking up to my locker in high school and seeing fat epithets including words like "Moose" written all over it in black Sharpie marker.

I didn't go to my prom. No one was going to ask the fat girl.

I hoped that when I got out of high school and went to college that things would change, but they didn't.

I hoped that when I got into the work world things would change, but they didn't. I remember working for a mortgage company in their foreclosures/bankruptcy department. I was an excellent employee. Actually, I was such a good employee that I regularly trained other employees in the policies, procedures and laws relating to what we did in our department. When the Team Lead position came open, I applied because I believed that the fact that I had trained everyone in our department showed that not only did I know my stuff, but that I was a talented team builder and leader. I didn't get the position. As a matter of fact, the person who did get the position was someone I had trained only a few months before and who was new to the industry. What she had that I didn't was a small waist.

Mr. Takei, I have spent a large part of my life believing that I have no place in this world. I spent it believing that I was weak-willed, lazy, stupid and that any success I achieved was through accident rather than accomplishment. I truly believed for a time that the world would have been a better place without my presence, and that I had no right to joy or happiness or pride in myself or the things I'd done. And yes, Mr. Takei, there were thoughts that maybe I should remove myself from the world because of who and what I was. Thoughts that people would mourn but that overall they would be relieved that they wouldn't have to deal with me and my fat self any more, that they wouldn't have to be uncomfortable around me any more.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The kinds of thoughts and feelings that the gay and lesbian teenagers you fight for go through the heads of fat children too. Both groups are told on a constant basis that they CHOOSE to be that way, that the only reason they aren't conforming to societal norms is because they are flawed, weak, and that they want to be as they are. Both groups are shamed in front of others on a regular basis, and are seen as valid targets for abuse by peers and authority figures alike. Both groups have former members who are paraded about by those who believe that it is a choice, former members who loudly say, "I did it! Anyone can!"

Both groups have growing bodies of evidence supporting the fact that they do NOT choose to be as they are, that it is as hard-wired in us as having blue or brown eyes, or being short or tall.

Mr. Takei, you have always struck me as a man who cares passionately about fighting injustice, and with good reason considering what you and your family went through in World War II, and what you and the man you love have had to go through most of your adult lives. That is why it came as such a shock to me that you would seemingly just toss aside the concerns that were raised by Fatties on your Facebook page. I really believed that it was just a misunderstanding, that you just hadn't stopped to think about how what you said could be construed as advocating bullying of another targetted group. And then you posted another fat joke the next day.

I cannot adequately express how much this saddens me. I have looked to you as a role model in regards to what one person can do to help change the way that society in general feels, and then I felt betrayed. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that the others who are actively bringing this disparity to your attention are wrong. I hope that you will take the time to consider my words above, perhaps replace the word "fat" with the word "gay" and see if my story is so very different from that of some of the people that you advocate for, and then realize that those of us who are considered to be among the last remaining groups that it is acceptable to be prejudiced against should stick together. We understand each other, Mr. Takei, and we understand how deeply the words and actions of others can cut into the soul, whether the word is "fag" or "fat", there isn't that much difference between us.

I don't know if this message will even reach you, but I have to write it because I have discovered that I am NOT weak, I am NOT stupid or a waste of life, and I have done so against great odds. I have done so despite moments where that doubt returns, and I will continue to carry that discovery forward and do my best to share it with others who have gone or are going through the mental and emotional turmoil that I have survived. I think that you would understand that as well.

I hope that we can stand together against prejudice and hatred of all kinds, Mr. Takei. I would like that very much.

9 comments:

  1. "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart." I Samuel 16:7

    I think you are an awesome person, and anyone who passes you over because they can only see that there is more of you to love is shallow and does not deserve to have you in their life. Love you, lady!

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  2. I wept reading this....beautifully articulated and expressed......My heartfelt thanks to you Lys for...voicing outwardly, what is so deeply trapped inside this FAT Body....Love & Blessing to you...Domenica

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  3. I am with you. I can never understand it when a person who is lucky enough to be beloved by many sees fit to alienate a portion of their fan base. It's as if he's saying "meh, my fat fans don't matter. They're just fatties. Who needs them?"

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  4. Beautiful letter.... please keep us updated. :-*

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  5. Hi there. I am both gay and fat, and I read the meme that you reposted this, too. I don't think homophobia and fatphobia are the same, and I don't think I've been denied as much being fat as I have being gay, but on some level, I think my experience of fatphobia is worse. (I am speaking only of myself here.)

    When I came out as a lesbian, I had this idea that I was nearly righteous in doing so. I came from a violent, Catholic family, and I was taking a lot of risks in doing so, but I felt that I was right, and I would be okay. I was. No, I can't get married (although I can now where I live), and yes, people hate me even though they don't know me. And that is all awful, but I have surrounded myself with people who love me and believe in my rights.

    I live in NY, and the liberal east coast thing prevents me from ever feeling like having those rights taken away is justified.

    I constantly feel bad about myself, and this has nothing to do with being gay. I look in the mirror, and I know that everyone thinks I just sit on the couch. And you know, they aren't wrong. But I spent 27 years being sexually brutalized, so every action I take that gets me inside that body instead of inside my head feels dangerous and makes me want to die because it reminds me how close I am to having that experience again and for the rest of my life.

    I hear this in particular, "I am not talking about people who are fighting the weight." I am and am not fighting the weight all the time, whether I sit on my couch and hide or not. I've been skinny, and I've been fat. And both times, I was sitting on my couch because I couldn't bear to get inside my body and remember everything that has been done to me.

    Thank you for posting this... for speaking up in an eloquent way about the kinds of active discrimination we go through on a day to day basis... I hope it has an impact.

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