WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU, JUDY!


Judy Freespirit, architect of the fat liberation movement and all-around lesbian feminist activist, died in SF on September 10, 2010, from natural causes. She was 74.

We offer up this space for all the women and allies in struggle whose lives were touched by Judy’s warmth, work and fierce dedication to truth.

A public memorial was held in October, 2010 in the SF Bay Area.

You’re invited to leave your memories and thoughts about Judy here!

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29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alex
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 21:15:17

    I worked with Judy on one of the NAFTA events. She was so kind to me, and so much fun to be with. I loved talking with her and also reading her writing.

    I hope that she has gone to a better and more welcoming place. She was truly a founding mother for the dyke and fat movement.

    She will be missed.

    Reply

  2. Lara Frater
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 21:23:49

    Wish I had a chance to meet her. The Fat Underground taught us to not back down!
    RIP!

    Reply

  3. Elizabeth Keir
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 22:02:10

    Max, I think Judy would have loved the look of this site. And it is a blessing to have it. Thank you.

    Reply

  4. Oriethyia
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 23:57:58

    I met Judy sometime in 1978 or ’79 while doing a cross country trip. We swapped writing off and on for a few years. A Big Woman with a Big Legacy.

    Reply

  5. Toni Cassista
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 07:06:01

    Dear Dear Judy – you will not be forgotten….it has been some time since I last looked into those eyes of fire – you shared your strength, your humor, your truth – you taught us how to stand tall, stand up, you taught us to use our voices and not put up with all the BS that trys to drag us down. I miss yesterday – Remember Judy, FAT Lip Readers Theater – all the amazing women who put themselves in the front lines inspiring all of us to love these big beautiful bodies. Where are all the old fat dykes? We will come together – in celebration of your life Judy, and it is with hope that we build a bridge to each other so the next time we celebrate it will not be about a loss it will be to celebrate each other here and now….. I live in Santa Cruz and remember going up to the city every weekend for years spending time with all of you Judy and treasuring each moment…..we get so caught up in our own dramas that we forget what truly matters…..you mattered Judy to so many…..

    Reply

  6. Judith Stein
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 14:38:03

    Judy and I first “met” in 1979 when we were organizing an east coast Feminist Fat Liberation conference that was held in New Haven, CT in the spring of 1980. We did the organizing (with others’ help, of course) via mail and telephone — this was WAY before email or other hyper-fast means to communicate. We actually met right before the conference in 1980 and we maintained a loving long-distance friendship for those 30 years. We never lived in the same city or even on the same coast.

    I have SO many images of Judy and our friendship flooding my mind right now. Way too many to put in this post but know that they are rich, loving, ass-kicking, shared activist, exasperating, artistic and wonderful, with lots of delicious things to eat running through them.

    Elana told me that in her hospital visit to Judy she reminded Judy that it was Rosh Hashonah and that the Book of Life was opened and that Judy could write her own page. (Nevermind the traditional version where God writes your page – knowing Judy we know she would be very much in charge of her own!) That comment opened up an image of Judy that I find very comforting so I’ll share it here.

    My first image was of Judy’s page in the Book of Life: It’s illustrated — maybe even illuminated like Medieval manuscripts — with gold leaf and flowers around the edges and also with many images of beautiful fat women. Then her page became three-dimensional, like a children’s pop-up book, with a stage that opens out of the page and velvet curtains and tassels and of course lots of lights and props. The stage is in a beautiful, restored old theater, with fabulous decor (and of course, armless seats accessible to all). Judy comes onto that stage — and rest assured she will be out there — to sing, read, to perform. The audience quiets to that full-house hush, each of us eagerly ready to enjoy the magnificence and creativity that was our Judy. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll cry, we’ll cry….

    Judy, I will miss you terribly, but I am grateful for your release from pain and anxiety.

    Love always,
    Judith
    Cambridge MA 9/13/2010

    Reply

  7. Jeanne Mayer Freebody
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 17:20:16

    Judy. Early or mid 90’s at the NAFAA Fat Feminist Conference ( i think)…
    she is reading, i am mesmerized (having known of her writing and her
    activism since the early 80’s)…she is reading about jews and food…and
    mentions her love for a taste in the past…bananas and sour cream.

    The next day, I go into the hotel’s industrial sized kitchen…and i beg….
    and they give it to me. I slice the bananas into a beautiful bowl of sour cream….
    and go over to her table…felt to shy to say much or to hang out longer than the seconds it took to give it to her.
    But what a sparkle of joy i remember in those eyes. She laughed and laughed and thanked me profusely…

    and that’s my own personal favorite Judy story.

    May you be in some heavenly realm Judy, in peace, in ease…

    Reply

  8. Esther Rothblum
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 17:33:06

    Who comes to mind when we think of founders of important human rights movements? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Mahatma Ghandi? Martin Luther King Jr.? When I think of the fat rights movement, Judy Freespirit is the founding foremother.

    Judy was a member of the Fat Underground, the earliest radical movement to question the dieting industry and the oppression of fat people. She also founded Fat Lip Readers Theatre. She wrote the Fat Liberation Manifesto. She continued to be part of fat, feminist, and disability rights groups throughout her life.

    In 1982, I was a young assistant professor in Vermont, and angry at the shoddy publications that described “research” on dieting, full of methodological flaws. I complained about these articles to my colleagues and stated that I planned to do research on the social stigma of body weight. One of my colleagues, a very thin woman, replied “yes, but aren’t they unhealthy?” The word “they” was not lost on me, a fat woman.

    Luckily, I happened to be at the Association for Women in Psychology conference in Seattle in March 1983 when the new Fat Lips Readers Theatre performed. I was transfixed by these powerful women and the issues they raised. I could hardly wait to go back to Vermont and begin my research.

    For the next two decades I published in two areas; one mainstream and one radical. The mainstream area was lesbian studies, where editors vied for my research articles and invited me to submit my work even before it was complete. The radical area was on the stigma of weight, where I received letters with extremely hostile comments from editors and reviewers. I learned to ignore the comments and resubmit each article somewhere else, then somewhere else again. I got so many rejections that I now have a slide show of some of the most blatant, hostile comments.

    In 1989, when Fat Lip Readers Theatre put out their video Nothing To Lose, I finally had an address to contact these powerful women. I sent them my articles and thanked them for inspiring me to do this work in relative isolation.

    When I visited the Bay Area, I was amazed to find pockets of fat acceptance, nearly always with Judy in the center. I became accustomed to seeing Judy rushing by in her scooter, usually dressed in purple. She had the inspiration and energy to organize conferences, come to the Fat Women’s Think Tanks, write a play, laugh and connive.

    As Robin Morgan said “Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.” Thank you, Judy, for founding a movement!

    Reply

  9. Jae Haggard
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 18:51:30

    What a huge loss. Judy did so much to expand our Lesbian culture, community and possibility. ~ Jae

    Reply

  10. Cathy Cade
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 18:51:52

    I want to make sure everyone knows that Judy has an established archive at the GLBT Historical Society in S.F. I will be adding materials from the last two years, but her previous publications, etc are housed there. Be aware that the Historical Society is about to move to a bigger space so perhaps we should collect and organize any additional materials before taking them to the HS next spring when they are settled.
    I’m so glad we have this web site. Cathy Cade

    Reply

    • Lynn Ellen Marcus
      Sep 13, 2010 @ 20:48:38

      Cathy, would you be willing to share the beautiful picture of Fat Chance dancing in a circle on this site?

      Reply

  11. Sage Skog
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 20:37:22

    Hi Max, et all!

    Thanks for this blog, Max. So great to hear of you now and then through the grapevine. We had fun back in the day in Albuquerque.

    I was at a memorial service for my dear friend Judith Stein’s mother yesterday and Judith told me that Judy Freespirit had just died the other day.

    I was so sad to hear this as I have known of Judy Freespirit for years and one time wrote to her to thank her for her activism and her writings. I read “Shadow on a Tightrope” by Judy back in the Eighties and loved it.

    Judy has touched the lives of many lesbians over the years and she was a true pioneer for Fat Activism. She will be greatly missed.

    Thanks for everything, Judy.

    Sage Skog(aka Sage Desertdyke)
    Boston, MA

    Reply

  12. Lynn Ellen Marcus
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 00:13:07

    In 1977 I moved from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, began taking psychology and women’s studies classes at Sonoma State University, and in my anxiety about starting a new chapter of my life, I went on what was to be my last diet. I was 27, I had already spent 5 years in the glorious evolution of lesbian feminism, radical left politics and no aspect of our lives had gone unexamined. Sure I had lost weight, then regained it plus some, and I probably planned on trying again. The following year I went to a gathering for women and the speaker was a lesbian feminist who had just moved up from Los Angeles. I walked in, sat down, and there was Judy Freespirit, wearing a form-fitting tee shirt and loose trousers, but nothing could hide the fact that she was really fat, and really willing to show herself to us so that we could hear her words and feel her authenticity move through her body and into ours.

    Judy gave us data that totally reversed my understanding about why I always regained the weight I lost whenever I stopped dieting. Judy spoke to my feminist sensibilities in expanding my understanding of how fat hatred is a part of the spectrum of the hatred of the female parts of all our bodies (on women and men). Judy realigned my understanding of social justice to include the mistreatment of fat people and Judy offered me a yellow brick road out of the land of endless futile dieting and internalized self-hatred of my fat self.

    Judy stayed in Sonoma County for a few years, and during that time, she asked Barbara “Beep” Penny, a member of the Motivity low trapeze group, to teach a small group of fat women how to use the equipment to discover our abilities to fly and move and love ourselves even more. Fat Chance was born, and Judy, Martha Courtois, Hannah Martine, Leah Kushner and I put together a routine of performances that were deeply intimate, and we shared them with members of the community in Berkeley and Santa Rosa. We got a range of reactions, mostly overwhelmingly positive, but also some derision when we included our teacher in our show (Beep is not fat). However for me, it was such an honor to share the space with these interesting women and put our bodies where our mouths were.

    Over the next 30 years, Judy was a strong presence in the Bay Area, and the body of Fat Liberation politics grew and evolved, and while I was over a decade younger than Judy, I began to feel like one of the old ladies of Fat Politics. Still, I have always been grateful for the opportunity to have been launched by Judy into this field, and I am so glad we are now looking at Health at Every Size from so many angles. I only attended one or two of the Fat Fests (fat conference for women) that Judy tirelessly organized, though fortunately I was there to try on the perfectly-sized brown dress that managed to fit EVERYone in the room, regardless of size or shape. How perfect a metaphor for the universality of our quest to declare the beauty in each of our bodies.

    Judy had joined the Unitarian Church in Oakland and in part as a fundraiser for the church, and in part as a way to summarize her experiences as a founding grandmother of our movement, she wrote a play called Polly’s Phat Phollies in 2003, and I was privileged to have a supporting role singing and acting in an ensemble of wonderful friends of Judy. Though we had not worked or played together for a number of years, Judy and I reactivated our collaboration on the play, and then the following year in pulling together one more Fat Fest, which served to financially revitalize NAAFA and brought together a panel of brilliant minds to speak to where we had been and where we were heading. It also afforded an opportunity for most of the members of the original Fat Underground to be together under one roof.

    I am forever grateful for the foundations of liberation politics that has remained the underpinning of all of my ethical and political decisions. My experience of Judy on that random day in 1978 is indeed an essential part of that foundation.

    Reply

  13. Fabled Asp
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 02:57:59

    Fabled Asp had the privilege of conducting an hour-long oral history with Judy Freespirit last year at the Jewish Home for the Aged. The interview was conducted by Cathy Cade and filmed by two professional filmmakers. The documentary has aired on public television twice and we will set up a film night in October or November so that people will have the opportunity to see some of Judy’s words of wisdom in the last year of her life. It is an amazing portrait. We are deeply grateful to Judy for extending this opportunity to us and we know she would want her words out there.

    If you would like to learn more or help Fabled Asp with the film night, please contact fabledasp@gmail.com

    http://www.fabledasp.com 2010 The Year of Honoring Lesbians with Disabilities

    Reply

  14. Geleni Fontaine
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 05:30:57

    I never knew Judy, except through some of her writing. As with many others “Shadow on a Tightrope” was life-saving for me. I was living in fear and alienation from my body as a teenager and suddenly had this moment, this breath that allowed me to begin considering the crazy possibility that my body wasn’t a timebomb. And it became easier to open to so many other things, my creativity, my sexuality, the worlds inside and outside of me.

    I’m deeply grateful to Judy and her life’s work, and honored to praise her here as a beloved elder. Thank you for the breath *

    Reply

  15. Peggy Howell
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 12:09:28

    I never had the privilege of meeting Judy Freespirit although I have heard much about her in my years of involvement with NAAFA and the size acceptance movement. I am very grateful for all that she did to pave the way for the work we are all doing today. I honor you today, Judy. May your spirit always be with us, leading the way!

    Looking forward, Peggy Howell

    Reply

  16. carole Cullum
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 12:40:57

    There is no doubt about it, Judy changed my life in so man ways. I think I met her in the late 70’s in southern California. She was outrageous! Her presence, words and actions shocked me. What? It was ok to be fat? That’s not possible. And it was a scary thought. But yes, I learned from Judy, from Fat Lip Readers Theatre, from Tightrope and from her directly that I could take strngth and power from being fat, and it was more than ok, it was an important step for me to take and to urge others to join me. It was a difficult path, but I made it. Judy and others in the fat liberation movement were revolutionaries–our fat foremothers. We need to continue to take up the banner of fat liberation and continue the fight against fat oppression .
    I know that I will. Carole Cullum

    Reply

  17. Pat Dixon
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 16:33:09

    Over the years I have had a multitude of Judy Freespirit contacts and sightings, mostly joyous, but sometimes serious and thought-provoking. I will NEVER forget Judy’s reading of “Daddy’s Little Girl (?)” in – was it modern times, was it the 80s? The room was packed and there were people in the upstairs (I for one) leaning over to hear every word. I had no idea what I was about to experience…the brutal honesty and smooth, almost effortless rendering of convoluted situations and complex feelings that Judy talked about/read blew me away! As I write this down blood is rushing to my skin, and my stomach aches a little from the shortened supply. The woman could bare it.

    When I look back on my life as I round out my 64th year, I think about the days I can remember. You know, some stuff stands out. I would have to say the days that stand out with Judy in them are among the most frequent of people that I did not really know or was friends/buds with. That is pretty amazing for an acquaintance. Well, she was amazing.

    Just a little story of how Judy’s influence was felt at even the earliest of years. Back in the mid 70’s I met a fat woman named Shawn. She was persistently tired of being fat, I could relate to that. Every now and then she would begin a diet, which often makes some/many women feel good about themselves (Shawn even relates that on one diet she walked down the street on her very first day, and a man hit on her for the first time in years. So it is in your head?) But, anyway… in this case Shawn felt a little guilty since she was just beginning to get politicized around fat liberation. Shawn told her story to us while sitting around the kitchen table. There was a lengthily preamble about her guilty conscience that I do not remember, but the punch line was she went out on the very first day of her new diet, and the very first person she saw on the street that she knew was Judy Freespirit! The message to not pursue her dieting ways was very clear. At that time I did not even know who Judy was, but other people in the room were laughing at/with Shawn and her amazing karma. I don’t think Shawn and Judy even said a word to one another that day. Judy was a whole book just walking down the street – well, a whole story for sure.

    Reply

  18. Charlotte Cooper
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 08:33:51

    Letter to Judy, August 2010

    I wrote and sent this a few weeks ago. I don’t know if Judy got to see it, I hope she did. It seems funny posting this letter here, my memories of being with her are brief for someone who was a big influence in my life. I often cite Judy’s work in my own work, and I talk about the Fat Underground whenever I can. Memory is quite an odd way for me to think about Judy because she’s so present within my worldview.

    I am currently transcribing the interview I did with her and will publish it on my blog soon.

    Dear Judy,

    It’s been a couple of months since I saw you in San Francisco, and you may have forgotten me. I’m the British researcher-activist that Esther Rothblum brought to meet you in June. We had lunch together, you showed us around the Jewish Home, and then I interviewed you about fat activism and the Fat Underground in the art room.

    Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip to San Francisco. In the weeks following, I went to the GLBT History Society and looked through your archives there. I found this very moving and inspiring, especially your notebooks and diaries from the early 70s and 80s. I admire and respect very much your commitment to social justice, your integrity and creativity. You produced your work whilst holding down a day job and whilst being marginalised again and again by more ‘respectable’ factions in feminism and the left. I am deeply grateful to you for your work and your vision for fat women, and your persistence within very trying circumstances. Thank you Judy!

    I’ve been putting off writing until I had the transcription of your interview all ready to go. I thought that I’d have had this done by the time I went to Australia, but that was wishful thinking. I leave tomorrow for three weeks and don’t want to hold off sending you a package until I get back. So this is for now, and I’ll send the rest later.

    Enclosures:

    1. Fat & Proud.
    This is a book I published in 1998. It is based on my Master’s degree dissertation from the University of East London. I had big fights with the feminist publishers; they would not agree to me calling myself queer, or talking about fat women’s complicity with their own oppression, or mention trans people at all. They threatened me with non-publication unless I removed all references to Fat Girl zine, which they couldn’t support because it ‘promoted pornography.’ Sigh. So I look upon this work as being terribly flawed and painful to produce. But here it is anyway. I think the stuff on the FU is pretty sketchy because I didn’t know very much at that time.

    2. Kick Out The Jams! Fat, Activism and New Ways of Thinking
    I’m going to Australia tomorrow to be a visiting scholar at Macquarie University in Sydney. I’m not really sure what this means, but I’ll be doing some more research for my PhD whilst I’m there. The main reason for my trip is to deliver one of two keynote speeches at a Fat Studies conference called Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue. This is the first of its kind in Australia and it is being convened by Dr Samantha Murray, who wrote a book called The ‘Fat’ Female Body. She’s a friend of mine.

    So my keynote is about why fat activism is important and shouldn’t be marginalised in Fat Studies, or anywhere really. I think of you as being one of the founding mothers of fat activism, without which Fat Studies would probably not exist, and I’m dedicating this presentation in your honour.

    So these are the notes I’m using. There are some Powerpoint slides too, and I will make an audio recording of the talk. Let me know if you want copies of these.

    That’s all for now. Much love to you, Judy, I hope you are okay. I’ll send the interview transcript as soon as I can.

    With much love,

    Charlotte

    Reply

  19. Sara Fishman
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 15:14:28

    Aside from my parents, Judy was probably the greatest influence on my life. I remember first seeing her at the Los Angeles Women’s Liberation Center some time around 1971–I was shy and self-deprecating, embarrassed about my size, and there was Judy, fatter than anyone I’d let myself see before, absolutely radiating charm and kindness, right in the middle of the action. Until then, I had no idea that a fat person could be so strong, so appealing. Judy opened my eyes.

    We were part of the same radical therapy collective. That was where I first explained the ideas I’d formed about fat oppression. Had it not been for her early, enthusiastic support, I’m sure I’d have kept the ideas to myself, and ultimately given them up as a personal self-delusion. Judy was the strength behind this movement that changed so many of our lives.

    I recall a comment by another member of our RT collective, that each person has a gift that enables them to survive in the world, and that Judy’s gift was her personality. Looking back through the perspective of age, I realize that that personality must have been more than a gift; it was something she worked on to develop, to sustain, to advance. We’ve all benefitted from her work. Me, especially. She was, and is, a very great soul.

    Reply

  20. Bill Fabrey
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 16:00:37

    I learned of Judy’s passing from Frances White’s excellent obit in the NAAFA newsletter. I first had dealings with this remarkable woman around 1970, in the early years of NAAFA, around the time that the LA chapter closed and the Fat Underground was formed. She and others in the group convinced me (but not all of my fellow officers) of the urgent need for the radical direction they were taking, and I have always admired her determination, and that of others in that group. I have known of some of her other areas of work in liberation, and admired what I knew of them.

    In more recent years, I spoke with Judy several times by phone, about different matters, and was always impressed with her thoughtfulness. I guess we would have been closer friends if she had lived on the east coast, but what is important is the lasting legacy she gave in all of her work through the years, and her example to other activists!

    Most of her friends apparently were women, but I never got the impression that she held my gender against me…

    Bill Fabrey
    Council on Size & Weight Discrimination
    http://www.cswd.org
    Mt. Marion, NY

    Reply

  21. Mary Ganz
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 18:02:35

    Judy was a prophet. The world will not be the same without her in it. Farewell!

    Reply

  22. G.L. Morrison
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 08:17:54

    More Memories.

    Judy Freespirit.

    In death as in life, she looms huge and magnificent –a spirit flying free.

    Writing, remembering brings up odd stirrings in me. Judy was one of the women who I held closest in the 90s. I frequently traveled to sleep on her couch, to try out her new favorite restaurant, to discuss activism, poetry, whether we should be lovers, dybbuks, the dirt on my fave lesbian icons, and all the reasons I should move to the bay area.

    She took me to her gym where we could swim naked. I spent a lot of time with Judy swimming naked… chunky dunking in the hotel pool at Fat Feminist Fests.

    I was at home staying with her and seldom came for less than a week. I with her the day I got news there was a spot on my lung. We talked about fear and death and our beliefs and our children and the terrible bias in health care that shamed and killed women of size (both by neglect and reckless “treatment”).

    I remember the daily phone calls Judy would make to her co-counseling group. What an intimate connection to have the same hour –to be Judy’s Tuesday morning for (I think she told me their group had been co-counseling for 7 years at the time) Longer than any of my relationships has lasted (at that time).

    Her blueprint for living was an inspiration. Her dream group has stayed with me. Pictures of the life I hadn’t seen. Her model for community –circles upon circles– with a shared goal and clear agenda. She made things happen. She made people want to make things happen.

    We met on a fat lesbian activist email list. I don’t even remember what it was called. Do you Max? Laurie? Fat Dykes I think. Smart funny writers we wove the world together –supporting the tired activists, healing the wounded women who were using the world’s mirror to injure themselves… the group, the community formed there plotted and healed and laughed.

    She recruited me to be the poetry editor of New Attitude, the fat feminist caucus newsletter, which she published. She lured me to my first fat feminist festival where I had the joy of teaching workshops, performing, singing with and making love to brilliant radical women. It was at one of those I met my lover D’nah who when she was remaking herself, renaming herself asked Judy if it would be alright to take her last name. I think she wanted to be sure Judy knew it was meant to be a homage, not an imposition or stalkerish intimacy. She asked for “permission” and Judy said “a free spirit doesn’t need permission.”

    I remember the erotica about the sour cream in the fridge demanding to be eaten. The stories that required a yiddish lexicon for gentile girls like me. The stories about her grandmother, her son. I remember the time of the great condo flood and its neverending repairs.

    There are fissures in lesbian communities. Fissures in lesbian identities. My heart went with the young anarchists and the bulk of my work followed my heart. The year that one of the organizers of a fat feminist conference went in front of the podium to publicly decry my sneaking food from the breakfast buffet to my room -to feed my theater troupe “Fierce Pussy Posse” who had traveled to perform for no compensation and at great (relatively) expense- as “theft” from those who paid entry. That was the last conference I attended.

    I hadn’t meant to leave that community as a protest. I intended rather to return when I could redress the issues that divided us: shelter (an extra suite? space available posting?), food (donated, purchased in the open suite, adjacent restaurant/buffet that would sell a weekend pass –getting a number of passes donated for each however many paid), workshops (open to non-conference-goers by instructor consent) etc.

    But there were always other fires to put out. Controversial times. (Perhaps all times are.) “Lesbians eat their children,” Judy had said.

    We discussed what that meant to our collective history. The past disappeared as if our biographies were written on the beach at low tide. The genesis and foremothers of our struggle(s) were forgotten in their own lifetimes. And this was no surprise because the founding generation refused to yield their hard-won truths to the upstart generations. Judy worked hard to bring in the younger activists, the next wave and was discouraged at the way they were often pushed away with equal fervor. She had neither time nor energy for the one step forward, two step backward crawl. She had urgent fires burning –issues pertinent to disability and aging, the neglect of LGBT elders.

    In a fight for justice where our allies were too often each other’s enemies, we chose not sides but priorities. It was a time of shifting genders and slippery alliances. Lesbians who slept with men. Lesbians who became men. Boi dykes who loved other boi dykes and considered themselves fags. Dismantle the military or support our gay troops? Deconstruct monogamy or legalize gay marriage?

    I love my old garde –women’s lands and collectives but the purity, the exclusivity of it, created clouds of privilege… I chose to stand in the streets with transgender warriors and anarchist youth and sex workers. The dispossessed will always be my first people. My first choice. Judy chose disability activism. She said that it wasn’t comfortable to acknowledge the relationship between fat and disability. Those of us in poor health made poor poster children for fat acceptance since so many people saw “obesity” as its own disability. She put her energies where she felt they were most needed. Where she saw an unserved need she served. With intention, devotion and ferocity.

    At her best, she was everything I strive to be.

    She had turns of depression, fatalism, exhaustion that no one who struggles for justice in an unjust world can fully avoid.

    So many of her tributes involve half remembered poems. I remember that she was enchanted with that acrobat’s quote… “everything else is waiting”.

    Judy, judy, judy. My fat maven. My virago. The nights I spent not sleeping on your couch –that we stayed up all night talking, reading to each other, sharing stories, sharing books, sharing visions. I loved that time and who we were in it. Fat lives, fat lips. I attended a show of Laurie Toby Edison’s Women En Large with Judy. She sent me a postcard that looked wildly like me at the time. “You have a doppleganger. And here she is. Naked.” The resemblance was startling. And flattering.

    I loved those Fat Fest weekends when the waitstaff appeared so small. If there is this “fat epidemic” where is it? Where are we hiding our beautiful selves?

    Judy– I will miss the beautiful way in which you took up space, refused to be belittled, dreamed big and lived large.

    Reply

  23. D'nah Freespirit
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 21:39:17

    I met Judy Freespirit at the Fall Fat Women gather of 1997. I was so impressed with her spirit, that when I wanted to change my name, I thought of her. Being a fellow fat-Jewish-lesbian, I thought in embodied all that I wanted to be. When I had a mutual acquaintance ask her if it would be okay for me to take her name, and she told me, “A Freespirit needs no permission.” I hope I can live up to even a fraction of her inspiration.

    Reply

  24. Elena Moser
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 20:40:20

    I first met Judy in 1980. I had recently moved to the Bay Area to go to graduate school and I called her after seeing a flyer for Fat Lip Readers Theatre. Judy was a beautiful combination of fierce and soft and I always marveled at her capacity to hold her position while staying passionately engaged with the other person. I loved her poetry, especially about food and Jewish food especially. One of my favorite lines from “So, what is Jewish food anyway” which comes after a list of things like bagels and lox and noodle kugel… is “and Pepsi Cola and Clark Bars. Pepsi Cola and Clark Bars? Yes, when you are a Jewish kid whose mother loves Pepsi Cola and Clark Bars that is Jewish food too.”

    I am glad to have been on the planet with you Judy,

    With Love, Elena Moser

    Reply

  25. Kata Orndorff
    Dec 13, 2010 @ 16:50:04

    I met Judy in the mid80s when I lived in Sonama County, CA. and was looking for a place to live She was in a 2-bedroom sublet for the summer and needed a roommate. A mutual acquaintance in the lesbian community gave me her phone number.

    She did not tell me that Judy was a fat women involved in the Fat Liberation Movement. But Judy did just fine educating me about fat politics. It was one of those “aha” feminist moments for me. Judy had such a clear understanding of the way that society oppressed women around body image. As well as the double whammy of then getting many of them on the seesaw between starving themselves to lose weight and then gaining it all back plus more because of the body’s healthy reaction to being starved.

    I reconnected with Judy in the 90s at a co-counseling conference for disabled people. By then I had become chemically sensitive. Judy was there for me during some difficult times in my life. When my partner left me after moving to Tucson she called me every week to do co-counseling by phone on her dime. I was able to travel to the Bay Area to visit and interview bisexual women for a book I was working on because I stayed with Judy in her environmentally safe condo.

    In the last several years Judy and I have kept in contact by phone, talking to each other every few months or so. She knew she could share with me the struggles she was having in her life. I knew I never had to censor how difficult and, at times, painful my life is with Judy. She understood.

    Judy I know you’re fine. I know you truly have no limits now. I know you’re in a state of bliss. So, I know it is for my loss of you that I mourn. I miss you, dear friend.

    Reply

  26. Laurie Ackerman
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 14:41:07

    I dreamed about you last night Judy and heard your soft voice which I am starting to miss. It still lives in my head. I remember going to your appartment when the kids were small and lighting the menorah with you. I remember your wonderful chicken soup and all the good things that sprang from your kitchen. I miss you Judy. We all do.
    Laurie

    Reply

  27. Sharonah Robinson aka Sharon Lia Robinson
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 17:50:57

    Judy Freespirit introduced me to fat feminism at the Women’s Center in Venice, California, circa late 1973. Because of her inspiration, I then joined the first fat women’s problem solving group, circa 1974, in Venice, Ca. Today, I continue to work with body image in my art and writings. Blessings, Sharonah Robinson(aka Sharon Bas Hannah). For examples of my size esteem work and Rubenesque Landscape project, see http://www.sharon robinson.org

    Reply

  28. Sharon Lia Robinson
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 19:29:19

    I met Judy Freespirit in Venice, California at the Women’s Center.

    Reply

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