Episode 3

Published on:

27th Jan 2021

Lindo Bacon - On Radical Belonging - Part 1 - 014

I’m joined by researcher and former professor Dr. Lindo Bacon (they/them) for a special two part episode. For nearly two decades they have taught courses in social justice, health, weight and nutrition. They are also the author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, and co-authored Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight. Their newly released book, Radical Belonging: How to Survive and Thrive in an Unjust World (While Transforming it for the Better) , takes their inspiring message beyond size, to shaping a culture of empathy, equity, and true belonging.

We talk about radical belonging, how hearing Audre Lorde speak changed their life, identifying as trans and taking up space, how coping methods serve us and lots more. Be sure to listen to Part 2 after this!

If you haven't already, be sure to join our Facebook community to connect with other like-minded queer folks and allies.

Find out more about Gem Kennedy and Queers & Co. 

Podcast Artwork by Gemma D’Souza


Find out more about Lindo’s work and books on their website

Lindo’s new book Radical Belonging: How to Survive and Thrive in an Unjust World (While Transforming It For the Better)

Follow Lindo on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook

adrienne maree brown’s new book, We Will Not Cancel Us


Full Transcription

Gem: Welcome to Queers & Co. - the podcast on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism for queer folx and allies. I'm your host, Gem: Kennedy. My pronouns are they/them and I'm a transformational practitioner and coach living in the UK.

Gem: Hey folx! Welcome to Episode 3. There are two parts to this week's episode. So we're doing things a little bit differently and it will all become clear why. First of all, let me introduce who my guest is. It's someone who I was incredibly excited to talk to and someone whose books I've really enjoyed over the years. They're a researcher and former professor and for nearly two decades have taught courses in social justice, health, weight and nutrition. If you're involved in fat activism or body liberation of any kind, then you will have heard of their books Health at Every Size and also Body Respect and their newly released book, Radical Belonging: How to Survive and Thrive in an Unjust World, While Transforming It for the Better takes their inspiring message beyond size to shaping a culture of empathy, equity and true belonging.

Gem: If you haven't already read Radical Belonging, I'd highly recommend that you do. It's a brilliant book and it brings together so many important ideas and lots of different research. So my guest is, if you haven't guessed already, Dr. Lindo Bacon. Not only was it great to have a conversation with them, but also I learned so much from it. So just to quickly explain why the episodes are in two parts, we had our first podcast recording on 22nd December and during the interview, it just felt like the energy was not quite there, or the connection wasn't there in the way that it might be. I know that I was pretty burnt out at the end of December and I know Lindo mentioned that they were finding it hard to connect, and they'd had a lot of podcast recordings, I think 15 in the last couple of weeks. So we both kind of finished the recording, feeling like maybe something wasn't quite right. And Lindo asked if they could have listened to the episode, and we could kind of sit with it before we thought about what to do next. And so I sent them the episode, and they got back in touch after Christmas, saying that they would be happy for me to release the episode, they didn't feel that it was particularly inspired, but they feel that it is good enough and they're trying to work around perfectionism and you know, not kind of allowing that to stop them releasing things or to stop them in their work. And all of that resonated with me so much. They said that I could release the episode, or we could re-record the episode in January sometime. And there was part of me that felt really strongly that it was important to release the first part, considering we were both okay with it, just because neither of us maybe felt we were at our best, rather than re-recording the episode and getting rid of the first part.

Gem: I suggested to Lindo that we have a conversation about that experience, and what we may have learned from that, because I know that I certainly learned an awful lot. And I've noticed a lot of shame and a lot of discomfort coming up around releasing the episode because I know when I listen back to the first part that I'm not responding to Lindo in a way that I maybe would like to, and feeling that it's not my best work. And it's really interesting that Lindo also felt that it wasn't their best work. And there's something around allowing that to go into the world and for it not to have to be perfect. So I hope that you get something from it, and that you find it interesting, and I'm sure that you will, because the things that Lindo shares are really insightful. I notice that there's part of me that wanted to caveat the work with like, "Oh, this isn't my best interview, I could have done better. I could have asked different questions, I could have whatever". But, I'm actually going to just be quiet, allow you to listen to it, and encourage you maybe to think about where perfectionism or where the need for something to show you in the right light comes up for you because I know that it certainly comes up for me. And Lindo mentioned in the second part that it comes up for them as well. So the first part is the interview that we had on the 22nd of December. And then the second part is an interview that we had last week, just discussing what happened and what we are taking away from it. If you have any thoughts or there's anything you'd like to share, then please do head to either the Facebook group Queers & Co. or you can drop me an email Gem@Gemkennedy.com. So without further ado, I'll introduce you to part one of my conversation with Dr. Lindo Bacon.

Gem: Hi Lindo, thank you so much for joining me.

Lindo: Oh, delightful to be chatting with you, Gem.

Gem: Yeah, I'm really excited. And I was just saying I've got a page full of notes of lots of things to ask. And I guess the first thing I would say is just how much I've enjoyed Radical Belonging, and I've read your other two books as well, but this feels like a real, I don't know, like a real combination of all kinds of cool stuff so I'm really excited to talk about it.

Lindo: That's awesome. I really put my heart and soul into that book. So I feel like... it's kind of like I'm out there on the line right now. And it's scary having this book out. And, you know, I'm in the early stages of getting feedback.

Gem: Yeah, and I'm thinking about the place that it came from as well. I heard you mention in an interview that actually it came from - and I should mention the title so that people if they haven't read it can actually have like a context of what we're talking about - The book is called Radical Belonging: How to Survive and Thrive in an Unjust World, While Transforming It for the Better. And the thing that's so fascinating is it came from you writing a journal on your history of unbelonging.

Lindo: Yeah. And you know, another way of framing what you just said is, it really just came from trauma, you know, from the first step of the book was just writing about the ways in which I felt left out in the world, and then noticing how that set me up to be distrustful and scared of people. And, yeah, and so the first writing where I was focused on all of that was really hard. But fortunately, I also had a lot of perspective. So I went back and recognised that, hey, but that's not all me. I also... there's a lot of happiness in my life and I feel like there's a lot of stuff that's really extraordinary and unique about me too. And part of that came from the struggles, you know? I had to develop... I learned to develop empathy for others, and feel more deeply, and so there was a lot of good, and so I was able to kind of go back to my original journal and kind of look at what strategies I put in place to survive it. And, you know, then I was able to go back a third time, and use my skills as a scientist to explain biologically how all that stuff gets embedded in us physically, and how we take control and can manage it, and also change our physiology in ways that are amazing, to help us to feel more love and connection for other people. So yeah, I know, that's a really long-winded response, but I suppose I'm just really feeling what it's like to release so much of myself into the world.

Gem: Mm hmm. Yeah. And it's very different, I guess, from your previous two books, which still had the social justice lens, and were still thinking about marginalised communities but there was more emphasis maybe on the science and not so much emphasis on your personal story. And I guess, like queerness is woven throughout this book as well, which is really exciting. So I can totally hear that that must feel very different from putting that kind of work into the world compared to what you may have done before.

Lindo: Exactly. It feels like now if people have problems with the book, it's more personal.

Gem: Oh, I have so many questions about that. But I guess, yeah, I guess let's take it from the top. You mentioned kind of in the process of writing this book around feeling this sense of unbelonging and lots of different parts and times of your life. I wondered, I guess, at what point you got involved in social justice or where you became more conscious of it, or it was on your radar?

Lindo: It was a slow boil. I think I grew up in a very conservative household. And so I suppose pre-college, my politics were probably pretty far to the right. But when I went to college, I think it opened me up to a much wider world. And I started to be much more open to social justice. But I'm not sure that I really developed my commitment to change making until well, actually, that's not true. Soon, soon after college, when I went to graduate school, I was already started to focus on social justice issues. I guess it's really been president for much of your life.

Gem: Yeah. Hmm. And have you seen that shift over time, because I guess now your work, and this is my interpretation, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I guess now your work feels like it's more rooted in your queerness and being trans like you're able to kind of weave that in a bit more, whereas before it was maybe more focused on body liberation, how have you noticed that it's developed and shifted over time?

Lindo: Yeah, it's interesting, because I think the central driving issue has always been body liberation but I think in the early stages, I wasn't really even able to envision trans. I didn't even recognise that that was part of it. And I think that the story that I told in my older books where I was focused more on weight was mainly because that's the only story that we're told in eating disorders, you know, that I was told that I was a girl and I was told that girls want to be attractive to boys and girls fear fatness, because it's thinness that gets you attractiveness and rewards in that hetero normative world.

Lindo: And I, I honestly believe that that was my own eating disorder story, because that was the only thing that I could envision, like, there wasn't much trans representation, there wasn't. I didn't know of another world. And so that's what I was writing in my earlier books. And it was only later in life, that I discovered that my issues around my body had more to do with not ever feeling like I was a girl. And that the world viewed me in that way because that's the designation they put on people that had, you know, my particular body type.

Gem: I'm thinking about one story in particular that you share in your book around when you ended up following a group who you later found out were lesbians into a talk at university or college. And the person giving the talk actually turned out to be Audre Lorde.

Lindo: Right. Yeah, that was a pretty profound turning point for me, although I'm not sure that I totally, or in fact I know, that I didn't totally understand it at the time, but piecing it together later on, Audre Lorde really changed my life. So let me tell that story to listeners who probably haven't read the book.

Gem: Please do.

Lindo: Yeah, it was early college and in college, particularly in the early years, I felt like such a geek, like I was just kind of watching the world, and I never really felt like I fit in. And there were a group of people that were in a lot of my classes that I always admired. And, you know, they had a social life and they were active. And I was always kind of jealous of them. And one day, it was like a Friday night or something. And I was about to just go back to my dorm room and just be by myself and I see a bunch of them wandering around campus. And I was kind of wondering, you know, so what do the cool kids do at night on Friday night? And so I just started to follow them. And I ended up following them into an open room. And not even knowing what was going to be happening in that room. And just as I got in, the doors were closing, I was the last one of the last people let in, and there were very few seats left. And so I had to go sit like front and centre, which is usually something that I avoid, and I wouldn't like to be in the back. And I had no idea what was about to happen.

Lindo: And then the speaker walks in and as you mentioned, it was Audre Lorde, who was someone that I had never heard of before. And honestly, Lorde is a woman that has this incredible presence. She's just this, this large woman who emanates power, and she came out and these bright, colourful robes and really just... Yeah, I don't know what else to say except that like, she just has such a strong presence. And it was so intimidating to me. And the first thing she says by way of introduction was something like, "My name is Audre Lorde and I'm a black lesbian, feminist poet", or something on that order. And then she looks around the room. And out of everybody in the room she just points to me and she says, "You, who are you?" and I'm sitting there and I'm just panicking. And the panic set in for me as soon as I heard the word lesbian because lesbian wasn't something that I had ever considered for myself until that moment. There was something in that word that made me realise that, you know, maybe there's something here, maybe, and maybe, you know, I just came to a talk by a lesbian, maybe everybody in this room is going to think I'm a lesbian. And I was shaking. And I'm trying to get her to, you know, move on to the next person and not talk. And she's having none of it. And she just keeps pushing me and saying "Identify yourself". And I say things like, "Well, I don't like to put myself into categories". She didn't like that.

Lindo: Then, you know, I said something like, "Well, I'm a white woman". And she just looks at me with such disdain. And it wasn't because of my whiteness, or saying that I was a woman it was because, that was so unimaginative. I mean, it was so like... there's so much more to our identities than that. And so she's calling on other... she gives up on me. And then she starts calling on other people in the room, and everybody's throwing out all of these much more colourful adjectives. And you know, some people are homos, and some people are queer, and some are socialists, but the thing is that everybody else with what they were naming, they were saying with pride, whereas I felt like I had to hide and didn't want to show up.

Lindo: And Audre's point in all of that, which again, I didn't really understand til later, was that we have to own our identities. And if we don't own our identities, we give the larger culture, the power to define them and define them as good or bad. And that, you know, she took on the word lesbian with pride. And it was just an integral part of who she was, and she wasn't going to feel any shame for it. Whereas for me, that word lesbian conjured up something that was ugly and bad and wrong. And it wasn't a label I could even consider for myself, because I was allowing other people's definition of the word to get in the way of being able to look at lesbians or possibly myself, with pride. And I also just say that... you have read the book...  that I no longer identify either as a lesbian or as a woman. But at the time, those were... I was moving into seeing myself as a lesbian.

Gem: Yeah. And those shifts in our identity are super interesting to me as well and there's something there around reclaiming words that have been used in sort of negative ways, for example, queer or lesbian, and actually proudly owning those identities. But then also how identity changes over time. And it's interesting at that age that the extent of your identity in that moment, when asked was white women, and how much more colourful and kind of varied, it can become over time if we allow ourselves to actually engage with finding out who we are.

Lindo: Exactly. Yeah.

Gem: Yeah.

Lindo: And I remember too just like how in awe I was of everybody else, who had found identities that not only they felt you know, they can see themselves in, but they were things that they took pride in.

Gem: Absolutely. And there's a quote here that you mentioned in your book... it's a quote from you, where you talk about the tipping point of the pain of not being seen outweighing the potential risks associated with being visible. And I wonder, after that encounter, and maybe other encounters later on, where were the tipping point for you where you decided, "No, I do now identify as for example, more recently, trans.

Lindo: Yeah. And actually, that's only come in recent years that I'm identifying as trans. And it's been incredibly freeing. And I'll give you an example. I go on speaking tour now and then, and when I speak...

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About the Podcast

Queers and Co.
A podcast for queer folks and allies on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism.
Hi, I'm Gem! Join me as I chat to queer folks and allies about self-empowerment, body liberation and activism. My guests are at the forefront of change-making, working in areas like fat activism, sex positivity, intersectional feminism, drag/cabaret, LGBTQ+ activism and children's rights.

I'm a transformational coach, activist and founder of the Queers & Co. zine, podcast and community. Through my work, I support LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.

Find out more about my work: www.gemkennedy.com
Find out more about Queers & Co.: www.gemkennedy.com/queersandco

About your host

Profile picture for Gem Kennedy

Gem Kennedy

I’m Gem. I'm the founder of the Queers & Co. zine, community and podcast, as well as a transformational coach and activist. I’m also queer, fat positive, an intersectional feminist and Mum to two free-range children.

I help LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.