The following is an article I wrote about Nomy Lamm based on notes I took from her talk at Scripps College in November 2000. I have yet to find a truly satisfactory biography of her or enough information with which to write up my own. I hope to remedy this soon, but in the meantime...
"I know what I am
I know what you think I am
but I refuse to be that simple"—Nomy Lamm, "Anthem"
From the posters advertising her talk at Scripps College to the rest of the Claremont Colleges:
Nomy Lamm is an Olympia, WA-based writer, activist, performance artist and lecturer. She has been a fat activist since the age of seventeen, starting with her self-published zine, "i'm so f***ing beautiful." Since then she has raised awareness about fat phobia and weight prejudice through writing, workshops, and lectures.
She also writes and speaks about queer identity and politics, transgender inclusion in the feminist movement, (dis)ability, and Jewish identity. She is a drag performer and a songwriter, and recently co-wrote and produced THE TRANSFUSED, a full-length rock opera, with Olympia band The Need.
Come listen to "a fat freaky disabled anarchist dyke"
Actually, I think that last quote is incorrect. As I recall, Nomy Lamm is a self-described "big fat freaky disabled anarchist Jew dyke, and a total hottie," and I really couldn't say it better myself. I saw her speak at Scripps College on November 29, 2000, and loved every minute of it. She was truly inspiring.
Appearing in a pink wig, glittery false eyelashes, lace-fringed tutu, fishnet stockings, a studded leather collar and bracelet, stompy black boots and tiara, Lamm was truly a sight for sore eyes. She began by belting the title song of her new cd, Anthem, which I will be reviewing at the nearest opportunity. This seemed seemed to put her at ease, at which point she launched into reading excerpts from her latest zine, a list of rules for women. Among the rules she listed were that what it means to be a woman is to be pretty (and to be pretty one must have at least three of the following: "great tan, long legs, smooth skin, slender waist, vacant stare...") and feminist. "Not all feminists are fat hairy dykes", she told us, "but I wish they were."
She went on to address issues of body image and appearance and discrimination based on things like fat and failure to meet conventional standards of attractiveness. Needless to say, she pretty much resoundingly thrashed the latter: "your body is magic", she told us, as if challenging us to defy anyone who ever told us otherwise. "Ugly people have gotten a bad rap", she continued, but this could be overcome: after all, "we should all aspire to be ugly disgusting perverts." She used this as a starting point for a serenade of freak pride: "It's okay to be a freak," she exhorted, wondering aloud, "Are freaks born or made?"
Returning to her 'zine, she read a few things which make her happy to be alive: "I want to learn everything there is to know in the world..." (amen to that, I say) as well as "finding beauty in ugliness", "mountains... ocean... thinking, figuring things out... dancing... playing"
Next came excerpts from her contribution to Body Outlaws the anthology of writings formerly titled Adíos, Barbie until Mattel threatened a lawsuit. "Anything can be a good story", she explained, admitting that her own hometown, Portland, hadn't seemed cool to her till she read about it in Sassy. Her essay in Body Outlaws describes her thoughts and experiences coming to terms with her body and learning to use her sense of personal style as almost a weapon: "perhaps my fashion obsession is a kind of guerrilla activism... I care far too much about appearances to be some crunchy Earth Momma". But, she continued, "Body image isn't really my schtick, I talk about fat." She told the story of her "coming out" as a fat activist, how she appeared in public in a low-cut ballgown with "No Fat Chicks" scrawled across her chest in black marker.
"The body I have been given is probably your worst nightmare", she conceded, going on to deliver an anti-fat oppression manifesto in lecture form, complete with slides. She explicated the social stigma attached to fat in words and pictures:
"you know nothing about your body except that you are 'fat'."
"going on a diet is like wanting a cigarette—a distraction."
"according to the television there are no fat people"
"being fat is very 'low class'."
She followed the mini-lecture with discussion of the dangers of fat oppression and constant dieting, and called attention to the hidden fat phobia inherent in most analysis of body image disorders, which tends to focus on the problems of "normal" women who see themselves as overweight, but ignore the problems of actual fat people, again almost as if pretending fat doesn't exist. Finally, she called on her audience to try "creating meaning instead of consuming it": an ideal expressed on one of the stickers sold after the show: "we won't buy your products, we'll make our own fun" and concluded with a question and answer session.
Nomy Lamm is incredible. She is more punk rock and Third Wave feminist than I may ever even hope to be. Like I said at the start of this article, she is inspiring. An hour in a room with her was enough to make her one of my personal heroes.
—26 February 2001