Thursday, November 29, 2007

Riot, don't diet!

Queers have a stake in the war against fat people
PERSONAL POLITICAL / Riot, don't diet

Ariel Troster / Xtra.ca / Thursday, November 29, 2007

My ass has never been so politically unpopular. The fashion industry has despised my rounded belly and curvy thighs for at least 40 years, but it's only recently that politicians have been weighing in, so to say.

If you read the news, you've no doubt heard about the obesity "epidemic" that's been gripping the Western world. The hysteria alone could be enough to convince you that chubby girls like me will be single-handedly responsible for destroying Canada's health care system, creating a future backlog of medical ailments triggered by my inability to resist the urge to eat that second cupcake.

Chubby kids have always had it hard, but the vitriol being directed at fat people these days seems unprecedented. The US Surgeon General has called obesity "a greater threat than weapons of mass destruction," and the British Health Secretary called it a "potential crisis on the scale of climate change."

After a plus-sized model won a recent season of American Idol, pundits lined up on network TV to debate whether or not size-12 Jordin Sparks was too fat to serve as a role model for young women.

Nothing makes me want to dive into a bathtub of pad thai more than the way this debate seems to be placing the blame for a whole series of societal problems — including poverty and lack of food security — squarely on the shoulders of curvy kids. And as queers, we have a stake in the war on fat people, whether or not we wear jeans with elasticized waists.

If you look closely at how discussions of obesity have been framed in the media, you'll notice a faint echo of the way the HIV/AIDS debate played out in the 1980s. Fat people are painted as lazy slobs who are placing an undue burden on the medical system, due to their "unhealthy" choices.

This sounds awfully like the way HIV-positive people were castigated in the media several years ago for sexual promiscuity and drug use — suggesting that they somehow deserved to be sick.

Read the rest over at Xtra.ca.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Gay squared!

The new theme of my column for Xtra.ca and Capital Xtra is "Personal Political" -- uncovering the ways our lives intersect with our politics and the world around us. My editor asked me to focus on sexual rights issues, so this column takes a look at the sometimes prescribed categories we assign within the queer community.

You're gay - now experiment
PERSONAL POLITICAL / When dykes and fags get together, it's gay squared

Ariel Troster / Xtra.ca / Thursday, November 08, 2007

You are who you fuck.

That's been the mantra of the gay rights movement for the last 30 years. And even in the age of metrosexuals and bi-curious women making out in straight bars, many of us have continued to encourage people to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans. Because those of us who work for political change know that by naming ourselves, we create communities for us to live in and organize around.

Coming out is an important milestone in the evolution of our sexual orientation and gender identity. It's a fearless act that creates space for younger queers to discover themselves. And it helps remind us that even though we have very much in common with our straight friends and family members, we also have something different to offer the world — a unique take on love and relationships. I'm talking about sexual freedom.

Despite its buttoned-down reputation, the Ottawa queer community is quite diverse. The circle I hang out with, for example, includes at least two queer-identified women whose primary partners are men, but who also maintain passionate relationships with other women.

A few months ago, I attended a "pre-loved" sex toy party, where we all brought the silicone implements that had fallen out of our favour to trade with each other. At least two straight men in attendance extolled the virtue of being pegged by their female partners, as they traded in their less ambitious dildos that had fallen by the wayside. And all of us — gay and straight alike — engaged in a considerable amount of flirting that evening.

When I first came out as a lesbian almost 10 years ago, the scene I just described would have been unthinkable. Lesbian women partnering with men? Straight men buying phallic sex toys? The queer world seemed very black and white to me at the time. If someone slept with a member of the opposite sex, I reasoned, they must be straight — or bisexual at least. But after a few years, I came to understand that sometimes what — and who — we do, doesn't always fully describe who we are. And in some cases, the gay and lesbian community might be guilty of enforcing the same kind of restrictive norms that make many heterosexual people unhappy.

Read the rest over at xtra.ca
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