It’s Time You People Confronted Your Obesophobia

The other day, I was reading an article on a so-called treatment for infant girls supposedly “threatened” by allegedly “malformed” genitalia due to a rare hormone “disorder.” This heterosexually privileged narrative, which hitherto has imperialistically “treated” these children in utero and allowed them to be born with “normal” female genitalia, is now being challenged by the brave vanguard of Tolerance by Any Means Necessary in America’s courageous Gay Community:

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Each year in the United States, perhaps a few dozen pregnant women learn they are carrying a fetus at risk for a rare disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The condition causes an accumulation of male hormones and can, in females, lead to genitals so masculinized that it can be difficult at birth to determine the baby’s gender.

A hormonal treatment to prevent ambiguous genitalia can now be offered to women who may be carrying such infants. It’s not without health risks, but to its critics those are of small consequence compared with this notable side effect: The treatment might reduce the likelihood that a female with the condition will be homosexual. Further, it seems to increase the chances that she will have what are considered more feminine behavioral traits.

That such a treatment would ever be considered, even to prevent genital abnormalities, has outraged gay and lesbian groups, troubled some doctors and fueled bioethicists’ debate about the nature of human sexuality.

Yes, gay groups are outraged, outraged, that parents and doctors should treat baby girls so that their bodies develop “normally.” And who can blame them? I certainly don’t. Because, you see, I have a confession. I need to come out of the closet.

I am Jolly. I can’t help it. I was just born that way. And I am no longer ashamed!

I can’t remember when I first felt Jolly. Maybe it was when I was eating that second bowl of ice cream and watching The Flying Nun when I was eight. Maybe it was that tender coming-of-age moment when an older Jolly man brought Kentucky Fried Chicken to a beach party I was invited to at the age of 15 and I ate half the bucket. I don’t claim to understand everything about the complexities of this glorious and challenging appetite God has given me. All I know is, Jolly is the way God made me, and I have nothing to be ashamed of!


Not that oppressive Judeo-Christian Amerika hasn’t tried to fill me with shame for being a Person of Size. Growing up, I had to endure the cruelty of a culture that does nothing but heap contempt on Jolly Americans. From my youngest childhood — when kids at class used to call me “Shea Fat,” to girls snickering about “love handles” at the pool, to the obesophobic gibes of readers who think they are funny when they tell me I have my own gravitational field — I and my fellow Jollies have had to put up with the discrimination, the jokes, and the pain. O the pain! Insurance companies, modeling agencies, airlines, movie-theater seat designers — these and many more all treat we members of the Lardo/Giant/BrickHouse/Tubby community like second-class citizens.

I thought that, when I became Catholic, surely here in the bosom of the People of God I would find love, acceptance, and celebration of my Jolliness. But instead, I found a shocking replay of the denial and rejection I went through as a young fundamentalist. You see, when I was in college, I fell in with Evangelicals who told me that my appetites could be governed. I was young and impressionable and believed their inhuman religious mind control. They put me through a bizarre and sinister reparative therapy consisting of “eating less and exercising more.” For a time, I drank the Kool-Aid (actually, it was sugarless Crystal Lite) and found myself losing weight and getting to be what they call “healthy.” But something was missing, something fundamental about me was being denied.

That something, I discovered, was lots and lots of food and television. Eventually, my true, God-given nature reasserted itself and I embraced my Jolliness. I resolved never again to let fundamentalists tell me about what was healthy. I swore to reject oppressive temperanormativity. And most of all, I vowed to make sure that I and those like me would never again feel uncomfortable, and to punish anybody who did anything less than cheer for my desires. Realizing my old church was unworthy of me, but still feeling myself to be a deeply spiritual person, I chose to let myself become Catholic in the (mistaken) belief that the Church would realize my true value as a human being with much-needed gifts and graces to give to God and his kingdom.

But once I entered the Church, what a letdown! A bunch of fasting old men in Rome prattle on about the “sin of gluttony”? Lent? Fasting and abstinence on Friday? Fasting before Mass? The “virtue” of temperance? A Eucharist of tasteless unleavened bread in a tiny portion and a sip of cheap wine — when I’m starving? What is this, the Bronze Age? They even have the gall to tell me that my love of “over-eating” is a “disordered appetite.”


That’s why the article struck such a sensitive nerve. I know exactly how these opponents of hormone therapy for babies in utero feel! Some kids are born with a genetic propensity toward obesity. If they get “treatment” and avoid being obese, how do you think that makes me, an obese person, feel? God made me obese. I don’t have to change my appetites or “die to myself” in any way. I totally agree with this person:

The treatment is a step toward “engineering in the womb for sexual orientation,” said Alice Dreger, a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University and an outspoken opponent of the treatment.

If you ask me, that’s the finest ethics money can buy. All medicine that makes me feel uncomfortable is “engineering,” especially medicine that supposedly “cooperates with nature” to “help” others overcome their appetites. Real medicine is about doing whatever it takes to make me feel comfortable about whatever it is I want to do. So is real journalism, such as the fine journalism of that piece, which never once consults with a single parent to see what they think about their children being born with malformed genitalia. It’s not the parents business to decide what’s “best” for this child. That is the job of professional experts and outraged victims of society.

So, say I, stick with expert ethicists and, most especially, with agenda-driven pressure groups in determining how to treat so-called abnormal conditions that might threaten our appetites. An appetite is an appetite is an appetite. And if there’s anything our culture holds sacred, it is the right, duty, and necessity of fulfilling our appetites no matter what. I am as God made me, and it is the duty of parents everywhere to let their “fat” kids be as God made them, lest I feel disrespected. Treatment of childhood conditions like malformed genitalia or obesity shows a lack of trust in God. Americans need to learn how to celebrate, not “treat” these things.

You read me right, America! You have to change your attitudes! You people can’t get by anymore with your patronizing “toleration” of me and whatever I happen to desire. You don’t get off with your polite smiles, your gracious offers of sugar-free Tab, and your wordless willingness to give me the whole seat on the bus. Tolerance is not enough. You must celebrate me and my appetites. I’m tired of standing in the back of the cafeteria line! Your children and religious practices need to celebrate me and the way God made me, if you are going to show you are serious! My Jesus tells me that children should be raised obese and, if they choose to, be allowed to give up Hershey bars, candy, video games, and “junk food” when they are adults and can make their own choices. Stifling their God-given appetites when they cannot even defend themselves from temperanormativity is child abuse!

Indeed, my Jesus calls me to be the Voice of the Face-full and to keep changing the Faith until it tastes just the way I want it to. That’s why, in addition to calling for a boycott on “obesity engineering” for children, I’m calling on all you closeted Jolly readers to join me in the struggle to bring the Church into the 21st century by finally throwing off the shackles of the Dark Ages and facing the need for re-visioning the Sacrament of the Eucharist to celebrate and embrace the gifts we Jollies bring to the Church! When will the Church realize that the gift of Jollity is not about shame-based nonsense like the “sin of gluttony,” but rather about the joyful appetite for wolfing down as much life as possible without regard for dry Dark Age pedantries about “natural law” and “the common good”? The Church’s views on food and eating may have made sense in an era when people were stupid and medieval and poor. But in this day and age, when we are smart and living now and have a lot of food, I can’t see why we need to practice outmoded notions like temperance. All that matters is love, and I love Ding Dongs.

Singing this new Church into being (beer mugs and turkey drumsticks in hand) will require serious changes in our conception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. When will the Church realize that a chocolate éclair and Mountain Dew can validly express the love of God as He intended it in the Sacrament of the Eucharist just as well as bread and wine can? Why do a bunch of fasting old men in Rome get to tell me how I can and cannot love? My Jesus loves chocolate, and He says that I can love it when and how I like! Even on the altar of God! My Jesus says that Mountain Dew is good, and I can’t find a single word in the Bible or the Fathers of the Church where He says that you can’t celebrate the Eucharist with it.


Until the institutional Church finally catches up with me and my fellow Jolly Americans and allows us to celebrate the Eucharist according to our beautiful God-given appetites, I don’t see how it can possibly survive. The old men in Rome are clearly fighting a rearguard action against the Spirit, who is speaking through the people of God. For instance, polling results show that Americans are far more likely to eat hamburgers and Coke at meals than small disks of unleavened bread and a single sip of wine. So the sensus fidelium is obviously on my side.

But the spirit of progress also needs a good push from us to make sure that His will is done. That’s why, until all of you people are compelled to celebrate my appetites by offering your children in sacrifice to them through celebration of natural obesity, I see no future for America, either. Indeed, more than ever, we need the courage of prophetic souls like, well, me, fulfilling the word of the Lord as it is written in the prophet Isaiah: “Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness” (Is 55:2).

God said it. I believe it. That settles it. When will the institutional Church listen to the prophetic voice God is raising up in her midst? Until you people realize that obesity is my God-given gift and start applauding it, you will continue “being polite” and asking the impossible by telling me and my Jolly brethren that we need to practice temperance when we cannot help the way we are. And until you realize that we are what we freely choose to be, you will remain Christianist bigots who don’t let us exercise our freedom to do whatever we want with your overt approval and constant affirmation.

Christianity is a religion of love. Tolerance is not enough. You must love what I love, and you must love me for loving as I love! Or, as my God is my witness, you will one day face righteous judgment for your sinful thoughts and no piece of paper with “Bill of Rights” written on it will stop us.


  • Mark P. Shea

    Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

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