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weight and medical care

April 21, 2010

One thing my excessive reading of all things online has got me thinking about is how we approach weight. I’d been pretty well informed about eating disorders, but in the last year or so I’ve been reading about ideas like Health at Any Size, which is the radical idea that *gasp* it’s not actually your weight that matters, but your health. That, if you’re healthy, it’s okay to weigh 300 pounds. Also, in the general genre of fat acceptance, there’s the idea that maybe we should be understanding that loosing weight isn’t easy for many, and that fat people aren’tevil or lazy.

Exhibit A: a Shakesville post about Melissa’s experiences at the doctor.

Now, before I talk about the shameful way some doctors treat fat people, I want to put in my two cents for why I connect with this. See, as a bisexual in an opposite sex relationship, I’m very aware of the privilege I have when I go to the doctor, especially the OBGYN. Especially in Orange County, land of megachurches and Republicans. See, I’ve been nervous before when they ask about my sexual health, because it so very easily could be different. Right now I’m in a monogamous relationship with a partner of the opposite sex. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I could be in a monogamous relationship with a woman instead, and that would make health care a lot different. When I fill out that intake form that asks about my sexual practices I’d be checking that yes, I was having sex but no, I wasn’t on birth control. And at that point every health care professional is going to want to know why I’m having sex and not on the pill. But remember, I live in Orange County. How the heck am I supposed to know if my doctor is okay with having a queer patient or not? Yes, they still are legally required to treat me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get great care. That doesn’t mean my doctor will be informed on the different risks of male/male, male/female, and female/female sex. That doesn’t mean my doctor isn’t going to say something horrendous to me while I’m there. This are not thoughts you want to be thinking while the doctor is preparing to give you a pap smear…you generally want to know that they’re okay with you.

I have tremendous privilege when I walk into a doctors office because of my opposite sex relationship, but I’m always incredibly relieved when the doctor makes it clear that they’re queer-friendly. I’ve had doctors here matter of fact-ly ask me about my sexual history with women and my sexual history with men, as if they ask every patient that. Which I think they do, because I can’t remember coming out to any doctors. That’s absolutely amazing, but not something I expect or think I’ll encounter often. Thank goodness for universities.

Back to the post I linked above. Fat people don’t get that comfort very often. I have read very many stories of fat people being shamed into not going to the doctor. Many of them are in the comments of that post. Now think about that. We talk about the increased mortality risk of being overweight. Some of that risk is the fat people who have been shamed into not getting preventative care. Think about that. People who just want to get medical care, maybe even talk to a doctor about weight loss, not going because the doctor is too much of a douche. Anyway there was going to be much more to this post but then I remembered I have a job that I ought to do. So I’ll leave it here and maybe pick it up another day.

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