Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Last Acceptable Discrimination

Bullying is on the rise. All kinds of bullying exist today that didn't exist when I was a kid. I'm so very thankful for that because I don't know how I would of handled it. It was bad enough back then with words, stares, code names, laughs, being pointed at, not being picked, relationshipless aka no dating, and all the horrible things people said, stated, and wrote about my face or behind my back.

Bullying is a horrible thing and it shouldn't be something that is done, but this is reality and this is my real blog and it occurs...still occurring right now somewhere. There is bullying of all kind we all know that but I'm going to talk about obesity bullying because for me that is a type of bullying that has impacted my life - the last 20 years of my life has been one laden with comments, remarks, and points and shaking heads with giggles.

I thought that when I had WLS surgery that those memories, those images, those giggles would stop. They would disappear. All the old would go away, but that was unrealistic. Quite the opposite happened and let me tell you the interesting part of the journey that I've had with dealing with post traumatic bullying. Once I started to lose weight and I could pass as a "normal" size I began to realize how heavy I actually was. I began to realize how many other obese people surrounded me. I realized how others looked, laughed, giggled, and pointed at the "fat woman in the mall" or the "woman in the mobile chair at walmart who couldn't walk."

The first time I noticed this realization I was in a mall watching a group of teenagers gawk and make crude remarks about 2 women walking into Forever 21 holding Lane Bryant bags. Those comments I won't rewrite they don't deserve the power, but here I am standing in the mall and I'm mortified but can't say anything because I'm scared of what the teenagers would say, I don't know if I'm small enough physically to make a claim that I'm not those ladies, and I'm so self conscious that I'm wondering if that is what people used to say about me. I left the mall. I wasn't even done shopping. I came home in tears. I bawled to my husband. I...used to be obese...that fat woman...the person people made fun of and kids used to tease. It was a realization that shocked me. No terrified me. Made me feel in a way that I had never felt before because this was a new revelation of a very old wound. This wound had been with me a long time.

There is a lot of talk about bullying today and some articles have pointed out that obesity is the last acceptable discrimination. This article isn't the best, but draws a good point "bullying is intentional behavior that "hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally" and in which the targets "have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves." Simple but true.

I presented on obesity discrimination earlier this year and I found multiple articles agreeing that making fun and jokes about obesity is acceptable by the public...doesn't bother others...and most people wont' think twice about it. I think twice about it. My husband thinks twice about it. I hope that those that know me and have followed my journey think twice about it too. I know my family especially my little sister have stood up for me when she was younger in retail stores on how others viewed me and that those that have learned about WLS and my journey don't lump obesity and being fat all together anymore, but there is more that WE all can do.

So what can we do?
1. We can fight ignorance.
2. We can stop bullying but sharing our knowledge.
3. We can openly talk about bullying specifically about obesity.
4. We can advocate. Want to learn more? Check out
5. We can teach each other by holding each other accountable when it comes to obesity discrimination and jokes.
6. Don't tell or share jokes about obesity, fat, or overweight people.
7. Don't share or post facebook pictures/memes etc that contribute to obesity discrimination.

If your still reading, will you read a little more. I want to share a personal story with you one that has deeply impacted me and one that has allowed me to fight my own demons. It involves my journey to become a member of a sorority and the impact of my weight in this journey. 

My journey to be a woman that is involved in Greek Life has been over a decade in the making. This journey started at TCU in 1999 when I was freshman in college. I had never been exposed to Greek Life and no one in my immediate family was associated with Greek Life. I was in the land of unknown at TCU coming from Baltimore, Maryland. I was in awe of the spirit of sisterhood, the amazing impact the women had on local philanthropies, the way they held themselves and the excellent scholarship that present in the Greek women. I had many friends during my time at TCU become part of Greek Life, but it never seemed to work out for me. I just didn’t fit at that time. 
Looking back the journey to become Greek was rougher than even I can explain. I was extremely overweight in college. I was nearing 500 lbs and I was not the ideal of anything at TCU, but especially with the Greek community. My best friend encouraged me to go through Spring Recruitment or to go through a “pop” bid process, but every time I was turned down. I had the sisterhood type experience through a Christian organization at TCU called XXX, but the it was always lacking the spark.

The spark that you see on every woman’s face that becomes part of  chapter. There is a spark of being part of something bigger. There is a spark of true sisterhood no matter where you are from, what letters you may wear, the spark of being part of the NPC community is strong, but the spark of each chapter makes it so unique. I’ve wanted to be one of those women for a very long time.
I had the opportunity while working in Student Affairs to be a faculty advisor at MTSU in Murfreesboro, TN for a re-launched chapter of XXX for two years. I enjoyed learning about the Greek Life from an advising perspective, but I was never a XXX and for that reason always felt outside of the loop…the family…the bond. During my time at MTSU I was an Area Coordinator in the Freshman Residence Halls and I bonded with many XXX ladies. These students became stand out students through the recruitment process and I wanted them grow in XXX.

When I moved to TCU and found out that XXX was coming here I was ecstatic. I knew that XXX would be an excellent fit for this campus and that the values that XXX shares aligns with TCU’s own values that have become part of my own brand. I heard through a student worker that they were also recruiting graduate students as part of the XXX colonization and a student sent my name in to XXX. I didn’t know if this was going to be another venture where I would be rejected, but I knew that this group of young women might just take a second look at me. I hope so and so I crossed my fingers. 

I ran into XXX and instantly I found a connection. I talked to XXX back at MTSU and I think we both jumped up and down on the phone when we found out there was an option for me to pursue XXX. 

To share why I want to be an XXX is to share my story in two parts. The first my journey to get to apply to XXX and then the reasons I want to be an XXX. The journey here I mentioned briefly above, but it has a lot to do with me having weight loss surgery in January of 2011. I changed my life on January 10, 2011 and it was the women that I surrounded myself with and the journey to get my life back that has shaped who I am today. I’m an advocate for body image. I’m an advocate for following your dreams, but I am also an advocate for being real, true, honest, and transparent. In this journey that has reshaped my life I went from a woman who couldn’t walk across campus or up stairs to a woman who runs 5Ks, walks across campus, and loves to shop. I went from over 300 lbs to size 14-16 in a year and I have confidence that I’ve never had before. I’ve not changed inside, but my outside reflects my inside. During this year my biggest cheerleaders were my students and XXX had a huge impact on me. She helped me learn to dress my new body, went shopping with me, encouraged me, and told me never to give up. Her sincerity and her cheerleading spirit helped me lose weight, brought us to a very special friendship, and to this day she encourages me as a whole woman. If I had come back to TCU to work and had still been 300 + lbs I would never had dreamed to even walk up to XXX and speak much less pursue this opportunity.

XXX are names and organizations that have been removed.

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