People kept remarking on how they were surprised that a gold medal and fame hadn't changed me. I always responded, "Why would I change? Being me is the easiest person to be." I was lying. It wasn't. --Matthew Mitcham, Twists and TurnsJust shy of two years ago, I made the choice to be authentic. I resolved to announce to the world who I am and not be ashamed of it. More specifically, I decided to announce that I am homosexual. But, I also resolved to be open and honest about myself as much as possible. This is not a simple task. I had heard before that it was difficult, but until I started doing it myself and examining my own life, I never really understood how hard it can be. And I admit that even now, I do not fully understand what it means to be "authentic", or how to go about doing it.
It is easy to fit in. It is easy to follow the script. It is easy to parrot the words of those around us. It is easy to be a Mormon in Utah. It is easy to put in mission papers and go out on a full-time mission for the church when everyone else is encouraging you to do so. (Now, I don't mean to imply here that I didn't want to serve. It was exactly what I wanted. I'm just saying that having my whole family and all my friends support me in it made it very easy.)
It's easy to wear what fashion dictates one should wear. It's easy to tell the "mama" jokes and "that's what she said" jokes, and all of the pop culture things that we do. It's easy to watch the Gangnam Style video. It's easy to echo the voice of the media. It's easy to say that there's only one specific body type that all people should strive for. It's easy to conform.
But, at what price does this conformation come? What has been lost along the way? What has been sacrificed? Are we all just to be automatons, doing the bidding of those writing the script? Are we all to become thin, fit supermodels? Do all women need to have large breasts and tiny waists? Do all men need to have strong abs and a tight butt? Do all Mormons need to serve full-time missions? Do all single people need to look for a relationship? Do all relationships need to be monogamous? How much should we conform and how much should we express individualism?
This has been a hard question for me. What shall I reveal and what shall I keep secret? There are things that I don't publish, not because I wish to conform, not because I cannot be authentic, but because I do not feel it would be appropriate. I don't discuss the details of my intimate interactions with Conrad because I don't think that needs to be public knowledge. I also don't talk about how often I clean between my toes or clip my nails, because that seems to be insignificant. So, what things should I keep to myself and what things should I share?
I have come to find that many times we, as humans, marginalize people. Sometimes we do it wittingly and sometimes we do it unwittingly. That is, sometimes we have a motive and other times we are simply unaware. In the intentional case, it may be out of malice or it may be out of (what we believe to be) kindness or wisdom. For example, some people may oppose gay marriage because they actually hate gay people. I don't think many people fall into this category. I think most of the opponents feel like their opposition toward gay marriage is for the good of society. But, the point is that we (gay people) become marginalized because of this policy. I have also come to notice that when enough people stand up for these marginalized people, public opinion starts to change. For the first time in our nation's history, last year marked a victory for equal rights at the ballot. Three states voted (in the general election) to legalize gay marriage. I know this would not have been possible without the thousands (and perhaps millions) of gay people who stood up for themselves, told their stories, and won the empathy of those around them.
I think that a huge factor in this process is empathy. That is, gay people sharing how they feel, how gay marriage bans make them feel, and how equality would make them feel. People care. People love. People feel empathy. This is why it works.
So, for me, one key part about speaking up and being authentic is this very thing. I wish to help curtail marginalization of people in society. I don't want gay people to be marginalized. I don't want women or people from other countries or ethnic backgrounds to be marginalized. I don't want anyone to be. I want all people to feel like they have a place in the world. And I think that the differences among us are what make us beautiful as a whole.
There is something about me that I've kept hidden. I've kept it secret because I know that it isn't common, nor is it popular. I have thought many many times (especially over the last two years) whether to ever mention it. I have come to the conclusion that it would be for the best to do so. Yes, I know I'm being cryptic. I have a lot to say about it, which I'll do in my next post (since this post is already long). It is something that I've known all my life. Ever since I was a young child, I have been this way. It is not anything I learned from the Internet because I have distinct memories of it from before the Internet really existed, and well before my dad bought our very first modem.
I'll mention just briefly right here what I'm talking about. I'll go into great detail in my next post, but I think for those who don't want much detail (which I admit many of my readers may not appreciate), you can skip the next post and just learn here. I am what is often called a "gainer". To be specific, I am a gainer, an admirer, and even an encourager. Most of you I'm sure haven't heard these terms in the context I mean to use them. What it means is that I like fat. I like blubber. I am fascinated by fat people, and by the process of gaining weight. As I said, I'll go into much more detail in my next post.
So, why have I decided to finally "come out" about this? (Announcing that you're gay is often called "coming out of the closet", announcing that you're a gainer is often called "coming out of the fridge".) Why should I make this known? Because I know that the gainer community lives in hiding, just as the gay community lived in hiding just a few decades ago, and interracial couples also dated in secret. Polyamorous people are also in hiding. (I'm not polyamorous, but if I were, I would "come out" about that just the same as I have done with this.)
I want people to understand what it's like. I want people to feel what I feel, to see the world through my eyes. I want you to know how it feels to be marginalized. And I want other people out there like me to know that they're not alone.
This post already being long, I don't want to carry on much longer, but I do want to state many of the hesitations I've had about this--so many of the reasons why I haven't yet said anything. (The closest I've come is my post entitled "Doughboy" from roughly a year ago.) I'll go into much more detail about each of these later.
First, I know that people will be concerned about my health. I am grateful for this concern. And I know the health risks associated with obesity. I am aware of this, and I do what I can to stay healthy and to keep my body well.
Second, I know that people will judge me. Just as people judged me when I came out as gay. In fact, I lost somewhere around 100 Facebook friends the year I came out. And that hurts. It hurts to feel disapproval from another person. I don't want people to disapprove of me. This is why conformity is so easy.
Third, I have many friends who are overweight and who are trying to lose weight to become thinner. I have often felt nervous about them finding out that I have tried to do the opposite of what they are doing. I want to be sensitive to their feelings. I also want to encourage them in their efforts. I am an "encourager" in many senses of the word. I encourage people to fulfill their goals. If someone wishes to lose weight, I encourage them in it. If someone wishes to gain it, I encourage them in that as well.
I suppose one final reason is the power of suggestion. Conrad is not a gainer. He doesn't have any innate desire to gain weight. Certainly, he is skinny enough that he could afford to gain several pounds. His metabolism is too high to allow him to do that. But, after telling him that I'm a gainer, he has said many things to the effect of wanting to get fat too. I am flattered, but at the same time, I do not want him to change himself to please me. And I don't want anyone else to do that either. I want to promote a culture where it is acceptable to be a gainer (and to be fat, whether the extra weight was intentional or not). I do not want to promote a culture where there is pressure to gain weight. In fact, pressure to conform is what I am fighting against. If a young, impressionable person reads my blog (I don't know how often that happens, but it just might), I don't want to be the cause of em gaining weight and becoming unhealthy due to something I've said. But, if ey already is a gainer, I would want to make em feel like ey has an ally in me.