Faggot is a powerful word. If you’ve never had it used against you, the full effects might not be apparent, but let me tell you right now — it hurts. It hurts in that way that makes you grab at your chest hoping to claw it out.
Growing up as a young man in middle and high school, I was bullied for being perceived as gay. I still remember the sharp hatred that painted the word faggot as it flew from the lips of my bullies. I hear it sometimes nowadays and feel a brief nausea come over me as memories of high school come shooting back.
My experience was a specific kind of bullying, but everyone who’s ever been bullied knows what I’m talking about. Whether you were bullied for your race, sexuality, gender, weight, religion, lack of religion, or anything else, I feel you. No person should have to experience that.
When I originally saw the post about Sean, the Dancing Man, I empathized with him and immediately got to making a YouTube video in support of him. He was attacked for his weight. I was attacked for my perceived sexuality. For me, there’s no difference. Bullying is bullying. And while bullying is despicable across the board, body-shaming has some unique aspects that we need to look at more closely.
For instance, why did this bully feel the need to make fun of Sean for dancing? Because he’s a bigger person. And why can’t bigger people dance? Because our culture is all about hating fatness. Every company is trying to sell you products to get skinnier, people constantly talk about dieting and wanting to be skinnier, and people put down those who don’t fit into the everyone-must-be-skinny mold.
There’s a long list of things that skinny people can do in our society that bigger people can’t: wear form-fitting clothes or crop tops without being ridiculed, go to the doctor without all your issues being written off as “weight problems”, work out or play sports without being made fun of, eat a large meal without having people look down on you, dance in public without being bullied, and the list goes on and on.
Why does it have to be this way? People come in different sizes, and that’s perfectly okay. I’m as skinny as humanly possible, and it is absolutely out of my control. I couldn't gain weight if I tried. And some people are the opposite from me — they’re naturally big. So what? People can be healthy and big. People can be unhealthy and skinny. Your health is not determined by your weight.
Even if you are big and unhealthy, that’s no one’s business but your own. If you want to work on your own healthiness, that’s wonderful, but shaming big people (who may or may not be healthy) isn't going to make them any healthier — but it will make you a jerk for judging someone only by their size. Insulting someone based on their size is just as hurtful as insulting them based on their race, sexuality, or gender. Please consider that the next time you think about policing the bodies of others.
So, can big people dance? Absolutely. Don’t change your behavior just because society can be full of assholes. When I was in middle and high school, I constantly tried to be less “gay” in an attempt to get bullied less. It never worked, and I realized later in life that I had been taking the wrong approach anyway. If we let the bullies control how we behave, we let them win. Be yourself. Be your real self. Ignore the haters. No matter who you are, you have the right to not be bullied, and there are people out there who will support and love you. I think the Dancing Man campaign and all the amazing people behind it have proven that to be true.
In case you were wondering, I've left my bullies behind and am now a proud lesbian transwoman living my dream writing books and making YouTube videos. (She/her pronouns, please.)
Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you’re worthless. You have all the potential in the world. And please don’t bully anyone for any reason.