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The theme of this year's NOLOSE conference was "More Than Just Fat: The Intersection of All Our Identities." The conference's concentration on building a complex, coalitional movement recognizing the need to take a variety of identities and experiences into account-- for example, race, disability, trans identity, age, and the experiences of "superfat" people in addition to those who are simply plus-sized-- is, I think, crucial to building a truly effective movement. It is also a timely theme, given the explosion of conversations about race and racism in the fat blogosphere.

I think, however, that in order to build a movement that truly takes the intersection of all our identities into account, we need to be open to the element of surprise. That is to say, we need to be careful not to assume that we can know in advance which identities will intersect meaningfully with the issue(s) we choose to foreground. I think that this year's NOLOSE conference, with its focus on caucuses converging at a Town Hall meeting, potentially began some interesting conversations about the ways in which fatness and queerness intersected with certain other marginalized identities. But I also think that within that structure, there was little to no room for that element of surprise. There was very little room for marginalized identities and experiences whose importance was not determined in advance to make themselves known, and to ask the conference at large to take their experiences into account.

In my conversations with several conference attendees-- but most notably, my conversations with ginilizGini, we perceived two major splits that were scarcely, if at all, taken into account. One such split was the coastal/middle America split: conference workshops and attendees seemed to foreground certain fat activist happenings occuring on America's coasts (the Fat Girl Flea was a particular point of interest) as having special weight (no pun intended) for all fat activists, regardless of their geographical location. This is something that Gini and I-- and, I'm sure, others-- hope to remedy by planning and publicizing more Midwestern fat activist events. It is a work in progress.

But the other split-- and the one I wish to explore in more detail here-- is the urban/rural split: the differences of interest and approach between those queers living in cities, and those living in rural and small town settings. The workshops and conversations taking place at NOLOSE seemed, by and large, to be founded on the assumption that people interested in, and affected by, the ways in which fatness and queerness intersect predominantly hail from urban centers with flourishing queer communities, in which conversations on the politicization of fatness are at least beginning to take place. But this is not true. And in order to build a widely effective, truly intersectional movement, we have to consider geographical location as a valid axis of identity and experience. We need to build a movement that takes the experiences of rural queers into account, that gives them credit as activists and bearers of agency, and that, to some extent, decenters the city as the locus of activism.

Some disclaimers, followed by some analysis. )


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May 2010

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