I wanted to wait until Pride weekend was over to write this, so that it would not get lost in the sea of Pride-related posts. I hope everyone had at least some really great experiences these last few days.
Anyway, for my second real post, I want to veer a little bit away from typical “queer politics” and talk about something that really directly affects me as a queer person (which means, some much needed time off from any concerns about "infighting!"). This is some information and action steps about H1844, a bill that is up for a hearing regarding discrimination (hate crimes not included) toward people regarding their size. I'm passing on this information because I think that action around this topic is really important. This bill has come up before and if it does not pass this time, the rumor I have heard is that it might not have a chance to again, but don't quote me on that because I don't totally get why, or what that would mean. The hearing for the bill is on Tuesday (June 12!), so please contact your representative or senator immediately if you want to make your voice heard.
If you want to talk to me about either how to support it or any concerns you have with it, please comment and I will do my best to respond, or maybe someone who knows more about it will respond. I know that there can be issues with bills that aren’t immediately evident on the surface and I am open to hearing about that. The reason I support this, though, is that this would make a difference in my life, and the lives of other fat people, in a number of ways. For example, when I apply for a job I am seriously worried every time that I will not get it because I am fat.
What I mean when I say that is this: I could go in for an interview. I could blow everyone away. And I could get a call the next day where someone literally said to me, “Wow, you are really smart and qualified and articulate and passionate, but you know what? I really don’t think you fit with the image of the company, so we are not going to hire you because you are fat.” If that happens, right now, I cannot do anything. I have no recourse.
I also regularly go to the doctor for whatever problem I have and my weight is focused on as the problem, even when it is clearly not relevant. If I switch jobs, even if I get past the hurdle I just mentioned, I can be denied insurance or forced to pay a higher premium because of my weight.
I know that, realistically, this bill will not prevent those things from happening (I definitely know that the whole answer is not through legislative action). I think it will, however, both a) give me more peace of mind that at least this is form of discrimination is validated as a problem, and that possibly the people who do the hiring, the doctors, etc have had some education on it, and b) give people some leverage if they want to call someone out for being actively discriminatory based on size—because, right now, unless I am in San Francisco or Michigan, people can be actively discriminatory on the basis of weight, and be fine under law. That is why I want to get this passed.
That said, i want to warn people, not surprisingly, that if this does start to get press coverage (which, you will read below, is not the goal, because it will spark an anti-obesity backlash), a lot of what the fat activists will say is that "fat is the last acceptable prejudice." And to be quite honest, I think that is bullshit. We live in a horrifyingly oppressive culture and I know that you can not hire people on the basis of other characteristics (history of convictions, gender identity in a lot of places, etc.), but I do think that this is a serious, huge (ha ha! Get the pun? Huge?) problem and I want to do what I can to work against it.
Also! if anyone wants to do other things--like work to build fat community, do fat positive education in the communities/scenes that we are a part of, do some sort of action somewhere that is actively *not* fat positive, I am always down for that and just want you to tell me!
What follows is the original post I got:
I'm Beth Kenny, the legal intern for FLARE, Fat Legal Advocacy, Research, and Education. I'd like to pass along some exciting info...
If you live in Massachusetts or know people there, you (and your East Coast friends) have a chance to make history!
The state legislature in Massachusetts is soon going to decide whether or not to make discrimination based on height or weight illegal.
Here's what you can do to help secure exciting new civil rights for people of all sizes in a whole state...
1. Call or send a letter to legislators in Massachusetts. See the form letter below, along with a link for locating your representatives (if you live in Massachusetts).
2. Testify at the upcoming hearings in Boston. To testify, please contact me, the FLARE intern. I will coordinate people's testimony and will make sure everyone has full info on when and where the hearing is happening. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Try to avoid participating in media coverage of this legislation, as negative press will seriously discourage lawmakers from supporting our cause.
Don't be shy. Help make history!
If you have questions or ideas about how to help get this historic legislation passed, please let us know. Thanks tons for your help.
FLARE legal intern
* * *
Find out who your legislators are:
Or, if you already know their names, find your legislators’ contact information:
* * *
Dear Rep. ________ (or Sen. _________)
I’m writing to ask you to support (or thank you for supporting) H.1844, which will add height and weight to the anti-discrimination law. People of all sizes deserve basic respect, and large people in particular are routinely discriminated against in employment, health care and education.
(If applicable, here you can write, “I have faced discrimination....”)
CO-SPONSORS: Rep. Christine Canavan, Rep. Linda Forry, Rep. Gloria Fox, Rep. Willie Mae Allen, Rep. Matthew Patrick, Rep. Carl Sciortino, Rep. Benjamin Swan, Rep. Timothy Toomey, Rep. Marty Walz, Sen. Susan Fargo
Rep. David Torrisi, Chair, Sen. Thomas McGee, Sen. Pamela Resor, Sen. Patricia Jehlen, Sen. Edward Augustus, Sen. Steven Tolman, Sen. Robert Hedlund, Rep. John Scibak, Rep. Paul Casey, Rep. Colleen Garry, Rep. Demetrius Atsalis, Rep. Barbara L’Italian, Rep. Sean Curran, Rep. Marty Walz, Rep. Thomas Calther, Rep. Paul Loscocco, Rep. Karyn Polito