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Cane and Able —

June 12, 2014

Weight LossFat PoliticsFat HealthFat ScienceExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeFat NewsDickweedDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Assholes harassing a fat person for having a physical disability and discussion of weight loss.

To quote Michael Corleone…

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU%5D

Creepy Crawlies

Fat people exist! Feast on the outrage!

Last May, I wrote a post with a Cher reference in the title that I was quite proud of, all about reddit’s disturbing compulsion to perpetually talk shit about fatties. Since then I’ve written about reddit alot. It’s like lifting a giant rock and finding this nest of massive creepy crawlies that both repulse and fascinate me.

The only time I remember to visit those dens of douchebaggery is when we start getting traffic from one of their posts. The one that is burning up the most oxygen in redditland is in reaction to Heather’s post about unfriending a former Fat Acceptance ally who decided to get weight loss surgery and started talking about things that were triggering Heather’s eating disorder. As I said in this noodly comment yesterday, I saw how people read it the way they did, but that I read it completely differently as being about the mentality around the decision and how that manifests in life.

But I honestly don’t care what these people think of Heather’s decision. Why would I? These subreddits are set to Full Outrage every single day, which is ironic given their mockery of the outrage of so-called Social Justice Warriors. Of course they’re going to be pissed about this post. We’ve got plenty of hate readers who troll our digital archives searching for sweet, crude outrage fuel.

There just isn’t that much that reddit can say that will actually surprise me any more. There’s just always going to be a contingent of some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people. And when it comes to shitbirds, I highly recommend listening to the inimitable John Prine:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rwYiBdoWHE%5D

So, I thought I’d seen the bottom of reddit, but boy was I wrong.

Back Bend

Casey performing a layback drop prior to her spinal injury.

Before reddit found Heather’s post, I noticed that someone else went back to Casey’s post from March about how she decided to stop fearing the stigma associated with being a fatty in a scooter because she was having mobility issues on her campus. Also, by using a scooter, she can prioritize how she uses her body for exercise, rather than spending all of her strength and ability on simply navigating campus. Up until then, she relied forearm crutches and a rollator because she is physically disabled.

As Casey explained in her introductory post, she has a spinal injury. Prior to her injury, Casey was quite active. As she explained, “My physical activity repertoire over the years has included triathlons, endurance cycling, powerlifting, CrossFit, fire spinning, and belly dancing.” Yes, “triathlons,” as in more than one. But after her injury, all that changed:

After having a spine fusion surgery in January of this year, I’ve been trying to figure out my place in the world of academe with this fat, gimpy body. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out if I can successfully get back to the physical things I used to enjoy (specifically belly dance, racing, and powerlifting).

The reason Casey wrote about her disability in March is that she needs to raise $2,769 for the scooter, which is why it’s been on the front page since then, and is also probably the reason reddit found her post in the first place. And what was their reaction to a fat woman with a spinal injury attempting to raise money for a scooter?

Casey

Yeah.

Let that sink in.

America has always had a problematic relationship with people who have disabilities — we either infantalize them or mythologize them. Either people with disabilities are poor dears who deserve our sympathy, pity and charity, or else, as comedian Stella Young said in her TED Talk, “We’re there to inspire you to think, ‘Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.'”

But when it comes to fat people with disabilities, the script goes out the window. Suddenly, the disability isn’t this tragic consequence of uncontrollable circumstances, it’s both caused by and exacerbated by the fat person. If you weren’t fat, then you wouldn’t have become disabled and if you’d lose weight then your disability would be healed. At no point is the fat person with disabilities assumed to have that disability independent of their weight — weight is the one and only thing standing between them and recovery.

So, when I saw this subreddit mocking Casey for wanting a scooter, I lost my shit. Normally, I try to stay out of their discussions, but I decided to point out the problem. Their response was fucking amazing:

Logic

Believe it or not, the comments on the thread are much, much worse, including mocking the fact that she’s studying kinesiology (the movement of muscles and joints) and needs to rely on ambulatory devices. This is just the denial and contempt they dish out when confronted with reality.

If Casey were thin with the exact same spinal injury, she probably would not have thought twice about using a scooter to get around campus. Why? Because when you see a thin person in a scooter, your immediate thought is “Person with a disability.” But when you see a fat person in a scooter, your immediate thought is “Lazy bastard.” And not wanting to be perceived as a lazy bastard, despite a preexisting physical disability, is known as stereotype threat.

Being a fat person with a disability is a minefield for stereotype threat. If it’s a physical disability that requires ambulatory assistance, then you’re likely to get dirty looks from the kinds of people who populate /r/FatHate and /r/FatPeopleStories. Of course, if you actually notice people giving you a dirty look and say something, then you’re being paranoid and narcissistic. At no point is a fat person allowed to acknowledge that the hatred overflowing on reddit actually exists in real life. At which point, the fat person with the disability is essentially gas-lighted into believing that judgmental assholes don’t really exist, except as some anonymous, amorphous entity on the internet.

Yet here we are. Here we see the worst of the worst confirming that there are people who know nothing about Casey’s actual situation who take pleasure in mocking her for such a basic act of self-care.

And so, I found myself wondering what the circumstances surrounding her spinal injury. She’s never explained it on here, leading me to assume it was some kind of accident. Curious, I asked her if she’d be interested in discussing it, and she shared that information. She also said that she had toyed with the idea of being more open about these circumstances because of the stereotype threat she’s experienced at her school because others have noticed the fat kinesiology student who has trouble getting around. And so, with her blessing, I’d like to share Casey’s story.

Casey developed hypopituitarism from an aneurysm before she was born, which led to pituitary dwarfism, which explains her petite height of 4’11”. This form dwarfism is slightly different than the kind people are more familiar with, achondroplasia, which is what actor Peter Dinklage has. Casey explained the consequences of her dwarfism to me:

The blood flow was cut off to my pituitary gland (the “master gland” that controls most hormones), one of my optic nerves (so I’m legally blind in one eye), and my hypothalamus (which does a lot of things, like impact sleep-wake schedules, eating, emotions). The main bugger is that I’m severely deficient in growth hormone, which is the cause of pituitary dwarfism. Even more charming is that it wasn’t until the past 10 or so years that endocrinology researchers believed that GH had any impact on adults. So I had GH injections (that’s the only way it can be replaced exogenously) as a teenager, which got me to the fabulously tall height of 4’11”

This deficiency of GH can result in cholesterol problems, as well as symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis, since GH helps repair muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and bones. As Casey explained, “Joints that don’t have tissues that repair themselves properly can have loose joints, particularly people with a family history of hyperflexibility.”

Growing up, Casey was frequently harassed for her weight. As a result, she was frequently active in an attempt to “correct” the problem. In those attempts, she believed pushing herself to the limit was how she would overcome her weight issues, “especially as someone that has always been fat and told that ‘no pain, no gain’ is the ideal course to become not fat.” Casey pushed herself hard, completing three triathlons, one duathlon, and a two-day, 150-mile bike ride for the MS Society. She also became active as a belly dancer.

In 2007, suffered a spinal fracture while performing back bends while belly dancing. As Casey explains, “Since I was really active, the fracture wasn’t a huge huge deal at first because I had the musculature to keep it stable. As I got older, it got worse (both pain and function).” As mentioned above, Casey finally got a spine fusion surgery last year, and has been working on recovery since then. She’s come a long way, going so far as to complete a 5k in her wheelchair without training, but she still has a way to go.

“But what about her weight?” I hear the trolls whining. “If she wasn’t fat, she wouldn’t have injured her spine in the first place and she would have recovered by now.”

Casey could not be more of an archetypical “Good Fatty” if she tried. Hypopituitarism results in a slow metabolism, which she has spent a lifetime fighting by becoming fiercely active and following dietary prescriptions to reduce her weight. As a result of a lifetime of over-exertion, she exacerbated a birth defect that triggered intense pain. As a result, her physical activity has been limited and she’s taking pain meds that cause weight gain (a result of opioid-related endocrinopathy), yet she’s still pushing herself to be as physically active as she can handle.

Again, none of this is good enough for the trolls: Good Fatty or not, the fact that she’s fat is cause for demonization and dehumanization. Being a Good Fatty does not inoculate you from hatred or judgment. So every single day, Casey has to decide whether or not to contribute to the judgment of strangers or to engage in the radical act of self-care.

And now, because she has reached out to us for help with her scooter, she has become a target of reddit’s chronic rageboner (it’s been four or more hours, boys, it’s time to call a doctor).

What Casey needs more than anything right now is solidarity. She needs the support of family and friends in real life, as well as her online family here at Fierce Fatties, to support her as she continues to recover and continues to defiantly pursue her degree in kinesiology in spite of the stereotype threat of being the fatty with a disability. And a major part of that support right now is getting Casey to her goal of raising $2,769 for the scooter that will get her to and from classes on campus.

Now, we have recently seen the Body Acceptance community rally together to raise nearly $10,000 to make Michelle Allison the Fat Dietitian and nearly $45,000 to help Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman finish their documentary Fatitude. By comparison, Casey’s goal is modest and within reach. So please, if you can donate even a dollar of solidarity, please visit her GoFundMe page and show Casey some love.

To that end, I will be including a call for donations at the top of every blog post we share on Fierce Fatties until we reach this goal. So help us shout down the haters by giving Casey the assistance she needs to achieve her goals. She has made the fierce decision to choose self-care over stereotype threat, and the least we can do is give her the resources to follow through on her efforts.

Thank you.

Team Gnomercy

 

 

 

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2014 4:30 pm

    Shared and a profound plea to the Goddess that she apply appropriate Karma to those asshats at reddit.

  2. Miz RW permalink
    June 12, 2014 6:42 pm

    Caseys’ story really touched me. I’ve donated & tweeted in honour of all that FFF has meant to me in the last year since I found you!

  3. calantheliadon permalink
    June 12, 2014 8:24 pm

    I wanted to donate when the post first went up, but the dibs were not in tune. They are now, so donation made! Let’s show Reddit what community really means.

  4. Len permalink
    June 13, 2014 8:14 am

    Just donated. I use a mobility cane from time to time and know about those dodgy looks, mutterings and occasionally people ‘accidentally’ knocking into me and laughing. Casey’s story was great and a good reminder on those bad days that mobility devices are wonderful things that are there to help you achieve your potential and not a sign of limitations. Good luck with the campaign Casey!

  5. June 13, 2014 10:56 pm

    Dear, Mr. “I-Won’t-Be-A-Waste-Of-Resources,”

    Uh, take a look at the company you keep, Sweetiepuss. I’m afraid your good intentions came to naught.

    But thanks for the giggle. I was going to send you a few bucks out of gratitude, but since I don’t know which bridge you live under, I decided to give the money to Casey instead.

    XOXOXO

    ms_xeno

  6. July 27, 2014 12:40 am

    Reblogged this on The Netherworld and commented:
    You know, some people just suck. I’m sharing this because I want everyone to know, first of all, that a good person could use some help, even if just a few dollars. Second, if you can think that there is even the tiniest excuse for the cruelty that some twisted individuals have shown regarding her body and her disability, you really need to check yourself.

Trackbacks

  1. Redditors hit rock-bottom, then break out the dynamite | Kelly Thinks Too Much

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