Jan 312012

There’s an interesting new book out called Seeking the Straight and Narrow:Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America. In it, author Lynne Gerber discusses the fascinating correlations between attitudes towards fatness and homosexuality.

In a Salon interview about the new book, she notes “If you think about what fatness and gayness represent, they are similar. One is a sort of excess; the idea that fat people have this excessive desire for food, and gay people are depicted as having this excessive sexual tendency. Excess is directly linked to social efforts to control those excesses, to get fat people down to size and gay people into the ‘correct’ sexual orientation.” (Read full article here.)

Social efforts to control excesses, especially within a religious framework, are generally predicated on the notion that conformity is better than non-conformity. Visible deviance from the norm is often met with disdain; at the least, those who do not conform are treated as less than desirable and at the most they may be openly excluded from a group.

But what I wonder is this: why is conformity so desirable? Do we really want to just see others like ourselves? If I want to see myself reflected back, I’ll go look in a mirror. The universe delights in variety; why should it be any different with people? It is our individual experiences which make us unique and beautiful creatures.

Why, then, is conformity so important?

Belonging to a group confers a sense of security. It provides us with the knowledge that there are people who know us and like us just as we are. In community, we have a validated identity and a bulwark against troubled times. However, that security can sometimes come at the sacrifice of individual identity, as individuals compromise their self-image to the will of the group.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can create conscientious, inclusive community which delights in both the similarities and differences that we, as individuals, embody.

What do you think are some ways we can work to create truly inclusive community?

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