Elena Moser

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

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D’nah Freespirit

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.

G.L. Morrison

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.

Public Memorial for Judy Freespirit

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The Public Memorial for Judy Freespirit will be

Saturday, Nov. 6th, from 3:30-8pm

Program will start at approximately 4 pm

Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club
1650 Mountain Blvd (at the corner of Thornhill)
Oakland, CA 94611

All are invited.

Anyone who wants to speak is welcome to, though we request you respect a 4-minute time limit.

In the spirit of the ’70s women’s movements, we will have a pot luck – if you can, please bring a dish to share with a card listing the ingredients.

Please, no scents, perfumes, flowers or candles to keep the space safe for folks with chemical sensitivities.

The Montclair Club is accessible through the rear parking lot. Accessible parking is limited (street parking is relatively easy). Please contact Susan at taxmomsusan@yahoo.com to reserve accessible parking.

For any other questions or info, or to volunteer to help, contact Elana at dykewomon@yahoo.com

Mary Ganz

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

Bill Fabrey

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

Elizabeth Keir: Judy’s burial

Judy’s body was buried today on a mountain in Marin County. A small group of loved ones gathered above the valley and the grave to speak about our relationships with Judy, her final hours, her history and her family…both biological and chosen. The day was beautiful, the cemetery natural ground, the view was of other mountain tops and a school in the valley. Children were heard playing and laughing and a hawk flew over her grave. We hugged one another, we who for years had met at Seders and birthday parties, and most recently at Judy’s mother’s memorial service. We covered her coffin with soil, the sound louder than I had imagined, never to be forgotten. Judy’s spirit is truly free now.

A community wide service is planned for the end of October. No date is yet set.

Lovingly,

Elizabeth Keir

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