Privilege Praxis

August 8, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — alejo @ 8:39 pm

I got hit by a car last Sunday. The car was taking a turn and wasn’t going very fast, so I wasn’t badly injured; still, an ambulance was called and I gave them my information as coherently as I could. One of the EMTs looked at my information, looked at me, and said

“So, you’re, uh, a male or a female? You’re a female, correct?”

Semi-conscious and bleeding not being my favorite state for Trans 101 talks, I started to nod until I realized that made my neck hurt, and then grunted in acquiescence instead. And that was it.

I got strapped in to a gurney. While strapping one of those blood-pressure measuring cuffs around my upper arm, one of the EMTs felt it was appropriate to note to the rest of the riders in the ambulance that I have lost weight.

“Oh my god, you’ve lost a lot of weight, haven’t you?” She indicated the loose skin on my upper arm. “This is one of the most extreme examples of this I’ve ever seen.” We started moving, and the topic proved irresistible. “How much weight have you lost?” Still in shock from the accident and kind of afraid to not answer – this is a medical person! asking me questions! – I mumbled out an answer. “Oh, wow. Congratulations,” said the EMT. And then that line of questioning was over.

Most of my emotions from immediately after the accident were fairly insignificant against the backdrop of that HOLY SHIT, I JUST GOT HIT BY A CAR feeling, but even at the time, this exchange felt awfully objectifying and inappropriate. And I’ve gotten angrier after the fact, as I confirmed with a medical professional friend of mine that information about my weight loss had no fucking bearing on the whole got-hit-by-a-car thing that was the issue at hand. But it’s seemed to me that the fact of my changing body has been open for comments from pretty much everyone, whether I know them or not, at pretty much any time; it’s suddenly alright to openly describe my body as an “extreme example” while I’m injured and disoriented and in pain. And to moreover expect me to be happy and complimented with this description.

I’ve found it hard to negotiate my changing relationship to fat politics and fat identity. I have lost a lot of weight. I can’t say that I personally identify as fat anymore, because that feels disrespectful to my former fat embodiment and the social hardships and oppressions that came with that. I still feel like I’m chubby; but, really, how many gay boys can say otherwise? – and at any rate I’m very aware that my weight issues now are quite different from the ones I had when I was fat. But my very experience with weight loss has made me all the more invested and committed to a fat politics.

People who would not have not found it at all appropriate to comment on my fatness seem to have no problem openly marveling over its’ disappearance. My weight loss, while it has made my body more inconspicuous and more normative in many, many ways, has also made my body open season for endless comments that let me know that people are damn well noting and policing my size. Weight loss has had a way of stripping away people’s courteous inhibitions about talking about my sized body, either to other people or directly to me. When I was fat (read: bad), it wasn’t so OK to comment on my size (though it happened sometimes, of course, but not generally by people who were trying to be friendly or polite) because it’s not nice to insist on talking to a person about this negative thing about their body. Obviously my body is better now, though; that I’ve lost weight is a great, happy thing, a sign of personal success and strength, and who doesn’t want to congratulate someone on that, huh? No one! And few have failed to avail themselves of the opportunity. The new-found social goodness of my post-fat body have thrown in to clear relief for me the extent to which my body was and is marked and made meaningful by its’ size.

I’ve wanted for a while to write something for an upcoming fat-queer anthology, and I think this may be a good place to start. I’ll certainly be writing more about fat/size politics in the future.

Moderator’s note to readers: Exactly how and why I have lost weight is not really any of your business at all, and if you were thinking about posting to ask about either of these things, I suggest you read my post again until the point that having my fat/loss constantly scrutinized, commented upon, and questioned really sucks sinks in. All posts not respecting this will be deleted.



  1. I never thought about how discussing weight loss could affect somebody. I guess I foolishly thought comment about weight loss would be good. I will be more sensitive now

    Comment by syinly — August 11, 2008 @ 8:52 pm

  2. I think this is really interesting the the context of the “let me give you a tip” narrative–you know, where you say something about yourself/your body that someone else perceives as wrong and then this person whom you’ve met a second ago rattles off a list of things to “help” you. There’s been some interesting discussion of it at Feministe.

    This “help” and “praise” that people seem so free with really can function just as a way to a)reiterate their own body normativity, or b)attempt to regulate other people’s bodies.

    In the context of what that EMT driver said–something that was vaguely medical, in a medical context, yet having nothing to do with what was going on with you–definitely is creepy, definitely connects to the way that medicalization defines normativity.

    IDK–there’s something creepy about it all, something that reminds me of when people are rebaptized at my old church (a concept that doesn’t make much sense), welcomed “back into the fold,” something that reminds me of ex-gayness (but everything reminds me of ex-gayness). I want to think about this idea some more, the interface between moving your privilege/non-privilege around, and how other people interact with that.

    Comment by quiteneil — August 13, 2008 @ 1:42 am

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