Friday, 19 June 2020

Suicide [This post comes with a serious trigger warning]

Every day for the past week on reddit.com/r/bodyacceptance, I’ve posted an article about a child who took their own life, partially or in whole, because of fat stigma, such as the death of a Ashlynn Connor, a 10-year-old girl; the double suicide of two 14-year-olds, Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz; Jeremy Wise, a 14 year old boy , and many more.

Why? Because I want people to realize how serious Body Acceptance and Fat Acceptance are. It’s not just fatties trying to find an excuse to keep being fat, which is what so many people perceive it to be. Even people who may agree with many of us don’t necessarily see it as the human rights struggle that it is. I wrote it for my fellow body loving redditors, but also for the trolls that often visit. Here’s what I wrote on r/bodyacceptance:

So, every day I’ve been posting a new link about someone who committed suicide in part or whole because of weight stigma. Why? Because, while we post a lot about dealing with that stigma, experiencing that stigma, and overcoming that stigma, I think it’s easy to overlook the depth of the seriousness of these things. The reality is that people die, people take their own lives, children take their own lives, because of weight stigma. It’s not just, as the majority of sizists would like to believe, some bruised feelings and pride. The vast majority of fat people that I know have, at one point, attempted suicide specifically due to weight stigma and, what’s perhaps worse, many of them were told to do so by thin people who are full of pure hatred of fat people. And I don’t want to hear “but being fat kills too so who cares if a few people kill themselves? It’s less than the people dying of heart disease”. It’s a pitiful and pathetic argument, especially considering that, even if fat did cause heart disease, making fat people miserable and suicidal isn’t making them thinner. You’re not saving anyone by shaming them. You’re just adding to the body count.

People look at the Fat Acceptance movement and think it’s just a bunch of people who want to have an excuse to stay fat. It’s more serious than that. It’s a human rights issue, no different from any other human rights issues. As a member of the LGBT community I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people claim that being non-straight just wasn’t healthy. “Just look at all the gays dying of AIDS” they claim. But stigmatizing gay people won’t make them less gay. Instead the issue of safe sex should be addressed, just as the issue of healthy lifestyles should be addressed instead of shaming fat people. “But fat is a choice!” you say. Except that no one can provide a single method of getting thin that is safe, sustainable, and effective for even a moderate number of fat people, let alone all of them or most of them.

We need to start treating this as the crisis that it is. Not a crisis of fatness, but a crisis of the violation of human rights.

Then I added that I’m thinking about starting a blog specifically for people to submit (anonymously, if they wish) personal stories about fat stigma and suicide (and possibly eating disorders as well, what do you all think?). I wanted to add on that post my own story, but I wasn’t feeling up to facing the trolls, so I’d like to tell it here.

I posted stories of suicides, but we should remember that completing suicide is the most visible part of the problem, but many, many children (and adults) attempt or contemplate suicide due to fat stigma without completing it.

I’m going to go ahead and divulge that I was a skinny, skinny child up until around 8 years old. I plumped up quickly, the reason for which is unclear. What is clear, however, is the stark difference in how I was treated. Skinny Heather was popular, had “boyfriends” (and lots of them),  and never heard a negative word about her body. Skinny Heather had never had a suicidal thought. A year later and Fat Heather had lost all of her friends. The only boys that asked out Fat Heather were doing so for a joke or a dare. Fat Heather was ridiculed by her peers and family. Fat Heather was beat up, had bricks thrown at her while walking home from school, and withdrew so much that she was put into a special program at her school.

Fat Heather, attempted suicide.

Keep in mind, I didn’t spend as much time being fat as many kids who are ridiculed. My son goes to school with a girl, his best friend and (according to him) future wife, and she’s already fat. She’s starting out her school life in that position. I was only fat for a couple of years. Two years of fat and the extreme stigma, bullying, and discrimination that came with it and, at 10 years old, I attempted suicide.

I thought about it for a while and decided that the easiest, least painful way to go about it was to hang myself from a rope that my brother used to swing on and play with in a tree in our back yard. I spent a couple of days wrapping things around my neck just to see how it would feel. I was strangely casual about it. I didn’t plan a date or write a note or take a death walk out to the back yard. I was simply playing outside, looked over and thought, “Now’s a good time I guess.”

I feel like 10-year-olds now have a greater understanding of death and suicide than I did at that age 16 years ago. Media portrayals of death, violence, and self-inflicted harm have gotten detailed and fairly accurate, and there’s always the internet. But for me, at ten, I was pretty terrible at suicide. I did fall to the ground and lose consciousness for all of a few seconds (I’m assuming it was a few seconds), but no real damage was done and no one ever found out. I didn’t make an attempt again for another two years.

So when people feel shocked at how bad it’s gotten when a 10-year-old attempts suicide, I want them to know that it’s always been that bad, you just weren’t paying attention. Recently a string of gay suicides led to extensive media coverage, activists speaking out, and many schools instituting new anti-bullying policies. As a member of the LGBT community, I appreciate this greatly and I think it’s a fantastic testament to just how far we’ve come as a country.

But now I ask, what about the fat kids? Their media coverage (you know, the coverage on how bullying is effecting them, not on how to bully them more)? Their anti-bullying policies? There can be no “It Gets Better” campaign for fat children because it doesn’t get better. As a fat adult I’m still subjected to pranks, verbal assault, physical assault, stigma, and discrimination.

When are we, as a society, going to step up and stop this? When are we, as human beings, going to stand up for these children? And why, why, are the life threatening effects of fat hatred being so ignored?



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