I Was Neville Longbottom

Rob Tisinai

January 28th, 2012

On Facebook I saw a Photoshopped pic of Maggie Gallagher, a mock-up of Maggie surrounded by boxes of junk food, a cheap shot at the fact that she’s no size 2.

I hate that stuff.

I’ve thrown lots of mockery and ridicule at Maggie Gallagher, but only in ways relevant to our battle.  When she lies about us, it matters.  When she attacks us with bad logic, it matters.  When she’s a hypocrite or a bigot, it matters.  But her looks?  Not so much.  It only hurts us to attack her on that basis.  I’ll explain, but first I have to admit I’ve got a dog in this fight.  I have a personal, purely emotional reaction against bullying tactics, and I know exactly why.

I was Neville Longbottom.  And, really, I still am.

Neville Longbottom

Me, circa 1974

My details weren’t exactly the same (no parents killed by an evil wizard), but like Neville, I was an easy target for abuse:

  • I had pigeon-toed flat feet and wore orthopedic shoes.
  • I had terrible vision (-10 diopters with a -6 astigmatism) which required thick, thick glasses or hard contact lenses that frequently slipped out of place, or out of my eyes altogether, and I blinked a lot in discomfort.
  • I stuttered.
  • I got braces a couple years after that pic was taken.
  • I couldn’t wear jeans (unwritten rule:  jeans could only be worn with sneakers, not with orthopedic shoes) so I spent most of my time in plaid dress slacks from Sears — size “husky” until I suddenly got thin, after which I looked like a greasy lollipop on a stick.
  • I was bad, bad, bad at sports.  I got picked for teams after the overweight boys and many of the girls.
  • I was really good at school and read a lot of science fiction.

I was a shambling, stumbling, stuttering, metal-mouthed oddball with a facial tick around my eyes who dressed like an old man, wrecked the curve for everyone else on every test, and constantly carried a paperback with garish aliens on the cover under my arm.  I had two friends, much the same.  We spent our lunches pretending people weren’t throwing food at us.

I can’t stand bullying.

I have an immediate, visceral reaction when I see it, and I struggle not to feel like a 12-year-old misfit on the alert for sudden, inexplicable assaults.  But that’s my story, right?  Not yours.  So why should everyone else quit the bullying too (besides the fact that it’s just wrong)?  One simple reason:

It hurts us and helps them.

No one likes a bully.  NOM — and Maggie in particular — have cultivated the notion that they’re just kind and gentle people trying to protect families against the onslaught of hateful, intolerant, bigoted gays.  Mocking Maggie Gallagher for her weight is like handing her a stick to beat us with.  I bet she loves this sort of thing, from a professional perspective at least.  I bet she wishes we’d take this low road in a televised confrontation.  It’s an automatic win for her side.

It also kills our credibility.  Right now we’re trying to reach that undecided 20% of America who just don’t think that much about marriage equality.  If I were part of that group and I saw gays insulting Maggie for her weight, I’d figure they had nothing else to offer, nothing of substance anyway.  That’s why this is different from mocking our opponents for factual errors, mistakes in logic, and hateful homophobia.  That kind of mockery, at least, stays on relevant ground.

So please stop ridiculing Maggie’s appearance.  Don’t expect me to join in or laugh along.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Remember that your means will shape your end.  We’ve got too much going for us to resort to petty, schoolyard bullying.

Timothy (TRiG)

January 28th, 2012

Yes. Yes. Yes.


January 28th, 2012

Your best post ever! Kudos!!!


January 28th, 2012

i am not going to shed too many tears for Maggie about some people who want to poke a bit of fun at her weight. She has obviously chosen to be overweight, which does put her at higher risk for an number of diseases, one being Type II diabetes. She chooses to be overweight, I did not chose my sexual orientation. Does she understand that difference?

Jim Burroway

January 28th, 2012

Very well put Rob. Some of the people in my life that I have cared about most in the world have had weight problems. To those who say it is a “choice” are guilty of gross oversimplification. They seem to have no idea what kind of struggle many of them have gone through.


January 28th, 2012

Very nice post, Rob!

Let me be the first to share the effects of Matthew Lewis’s hopefully permanent spell of ORTHODONTIA! and Hunkasaurus!




January 28th, 2012

Thank you for this.


January 28th, 2012

Very well said….I think that sometimes the hurt that many in the GLBT have suffered is projected back into the world in ways that give into the sterotype of over emotional and immature. Thanks for sharing your story, there are parts of it in many of us. I have since early childhood had the subborn Scot-Irish temperment that pulled into myself when abuse came my way, determined not to lower myself to the level of those who went after me. The problem with that method is called depression. It has taken me to middle age to learn to be assertive: we must advocate our postion when facing bullies in a way that asserts our moral and just rights without attacking “the other” in ways meant simply to hurt. We will win in the end because we have taken the higher road. Thanks for the reminder.


January 28th, 2012

Rob, In all honesty I thought you were a fine looking boy, and I am not just saying that because I like you. Nothing seemed *that* off for me from other little boys…until you got to the plaid pants. Well okay.


January 28th, 2012

I agree with Rob with one exception. When Maggie quotes the Bible, which she doesn’t do as much now but she used to, and says that homosexuality is a sin, then I will come back with, “Well so is gluttony”

If she starts whipping out Bible passages then so will I. But that is the only time I will mention it.


January 28th, 2012

People who mock looks are the object of my pity, since looks are about the one trait with the least longevity.

These people will be hit the hardest when their hair thins and falls, their carefully sculpted chests sag and their skin cracks and develops warts and moles, their teeth grow yellower, their metabolism slows, and they’re no longer wanted for their physique.

You can criticize Maggie’s physique in the context of unhealthy lifestyles she’s trying to saddle gays with. How can she lecture me on raising society when she’s leading a lifestyle actually dangerous to her health and damaging to any kids she might have as a role model?

Reed Boyer

January 28th, 2012

I still maintain that her morbid obesity is both symptom and product of her deep fear of “others.”

However, if I call her “the Hell-Sow,” it is because of her emphasis on breeding and spawning, her habit of wallowing in muck, and my belief that she would willingly devour her own young if it suited her purpose.

Thom Watson

January 28th, 2012

Thank you. I’ve shared your essay on the Marriage Equality USA Facebook page; I’m the moderator of that page, and have been increasingly frustrated with the name-calling and profanity, for their own sake, leveled at our opponents. I’d been planning to post something to our users today myself, and your take on it — with your usual insight, humor and humility — were just what I needed as a starting point.


January 28th, 2012

Is this not an old post? But it’s fine with me if it’s repeated. It’s worth repeating, and distributing far and wide among those of us wanting full marriage equality (and sooner rather than later).

The first thing I think of here is Joe.My.God.

I find it very unfortunate that Joe J. (1) labels posts concerning Maggie Gallagher with the tag “bovine spongiform encephalopathy”; and (2) tolerates (or at least never discourages) endless, predictable, school-yard-ish comments from others about Gallagher’s appearance.

These things are not consistent with the value of judging people by the content of their character (only). Joe is unfortunately at the forefront of this credibility-killing stuff. I hope he reads Rob T.’s very thoughtful, very candid essay and takes it to heart.

Maggie Gallagher is despicable. But as a function of her character, only.

I hope we can graduate to addressing character, only. It would be more powerful.

We are winning the marriage equality battle. But that’s despite, not because of participation by some in mocking Maggie Gallagher’s appearance. I think such tactics are unnecessarily slowing down the time it takes to a complete victory.

I’ve never had a direct experience with significant mockery of my own appearance. But I don’t think you have to have experience with people calling you a “cow” or a “sow” to recoil at such things as wildly morally inconsistent, and bad politics.

Sir Andrew

January 29th, 2012

Good post, and I agree wholeheartedly. But as a Hogwarts graduate I need to straighten you out on something. Lord V did not kill Neville’s parents. He tortured them into insanity. They are both in Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. If you wish to visit them, they’re in the Janus Thickey ward.


January 29th, 2012

I would just like to point out that Neville was always honorable and loyal. He also showed uncommon bravery when it counted most. So who better to remind us that noble actions count for far more than noble looks.


January 29th, 2012

Hey, and look at who he grew up to be. Neville the character became a bad-ass and Matthew Lewis the actor grew to become quite the studly young man. You grew to become a good writer.

Ms. Gallagher, however, and to continue the Harry Potter metaphors, will always be Prof. Umbridge, her moral character stunted by her bigotry.

Ray Harwick

January 29th, 2012

Well, Ron certainly became a Swan, in my opinion.


January 29th, 2012

Sir Andrew, just a small correction for you, Voldemort didn’t torture the Longbottoms. It was a group of his followers led by Belletrix LeStrange.


January 29th, 2012

I’ve never seen the point of making fun of people for something they didn’t do themselves and can’t help. (And before someone jumps up with “She *chooses* to eat like that,” I’m going to say, “Don’t bet on it.” It’s not that clear-cut.)

On the other hand, anyone who not only says nasty, stupid, fact-free things but then doubles down on them when challenged is fair game — but it’s what they say, not what they look like.

I find myself avoiding the comment threads on some blogs because they are full of that kind of crap, and what’s the point? It makes you feel better? It makes you look like a fool.

Excellent post.


January 29th, 2012

There is intellectual point to be made with Maggie in that she chooses to be overweight, that can lead to various health problems. I did not choose to be gay. This is not bullying but making a valid point. Those that use improper invective in pointing out that she is over weight, take it too far. In a similar situation, I disagree with Ann Coulter on some issues, but I am not going to call attention to her Adams’ apple. She had no choice in its size.


January 29th, 2012

Sometimes I think the Right is…well, right, when they say we’re too sensitive and PC. There is a world of difference between taunting a child and making fun of a grown adult. You can call mocking Maggie for choosing to be obese “immature”, or unhelpful to our cause or just plain morally wrong, but please don’t call it bullying. You can’t bully a fully grown adult. You cheapen the word when use it that way.

Priya Lynn

January 29th, 2012

Ryan said “You can’t bully a fully grown adult.”.

I’m sure a lot of adults, including me, would disagree.


January 29th, 2012

I would agree with you, Charles, IF people freely chose their weights. But they don’t. Genetics plays a large part in how fat people tend to be. It isn’t impossible to change your weight, but the profitability of companies like Weight Watchers, and the many, many people who try repeatedly to lose weight and fail, show that it certainly isn’t easy. I don’t think that it’s fair to say that Maggie Gallagher chooses to be the weight she is. For all we know, she’s on a diet right now.


January 29th, 2012

Ryan said “You can’t bully a fully grown adult.”.

I am in disagreement, even on the matter of being overweight. Frankly, I see some people who so overweight, I just can’t understand how they stand it. And, ask myself why don’t they something about it. I will agree that Ryan is somewhat correct in that being bullied as a child is probably worse than being bullied as an adult. In a school situation you can’t just walk out. In your adult life you can leave a job, move to a different town and choose your friends. I had to do just what I said in order to live.


January 29th, 2012

And the people said, “Amen!”

Richard Rush

January 29th, 2012

I agree with Rob, but I’ve been thinking about this for awhile . . .

Here we have Maggie, a self-appointed authority on societal health with respect to marriage, campaigning for laws banning same-sex marriage because, in her view, the future health of society depends on it. While there is no credible evidence to support that view, there is a mountain of credible evidence to support the view that obesity is a condition that almost always results in the development of associated serious health problems. And those problems impact not only immediate families, but all of society.

The USA (after Mexico) leads the world in high rates of obesity. And we are all literally paying for it in higher health care costs, and in seeing loved ones develop more health problems. Statistics also show that parents are increasingly teaching their children to be obese.

But Maggie prefers to blame real and imagined social problems on gay-marriage, which harms no one, while ignoring how she is a role-model for promoting obesity, which harms everyone. For these and lots of other reasons, she has no credibility.

And speaking of credibility, this sinfully obese Roman Catholic advocate for traditional marriage is married to a Hindu, has not accepted his surname, and does not wear a wedding ring, but yet has the chutzpah to demand that government officially declare gay couples to be unworthy of marriage.

And speaking further of credibility, as the most prominent public face of the anti-gay marriage campaign, wouldn’t you have expected Maggie to be the most sought-after witness to share her expertise in the Prop 8 trial?

Daniel Francis

January 29th, 2012

I think you’re absolutely right.
Thanks for the statement, people tend to forget about perception in the midst of the battle. Good reminder.


January 29th, 2012

I was once a goofy, fat little kid who was teased mercilessly for it. Then I suddenly got thin and, being smallish, with a lack of sports acumen and an interest in girls as friends, got called a faggot. Then I grew tall and took an interest in weightlifting and personal grooming and suddenly nobody called me anything. But I responded by becoming extremely promiscuous in order to somehow amass the positive reinforcement denied to me as a child through the only means I had at my disposal: sex. That made me either “popular” or a “slut” depending on who you talked to about me. If you had asked me, after twenty years of therapy, I was just “damaged.” So I went full circle through the looks department only to end up still saddled with the clinical depression hardwired into me when I was a little tormented kid. We are surrounded by damaged people – no matter what they look like outside. Maggie may act out her frustration and self-loathing by targeting people like us so she can feel morally superior to us. Or not. Maybe she hates gay men because she generically sees them to represent all the handsome men who never showed an interest in her because of her weight. Or not. The point is one never knows what secret dread lurks below what we see outwardly. The only thing one can be dead certain of is that making fun of someone for how they look not only emboldens a person who has used that denigration to fuel their hatred of others. It also diminishes you because, if nothing else, you will rally all similarly looks-challenged individuals to sympathize with the target of your message – which is the last thing you want to do. My recommendation is to always try and remember the goofy people you have known and liked, who were kind to you; remember that one relative or friend you have who has struggled with his/her weight; and most of all remember the frightened kid that no doubt still lurks inside you somewhere. We can all be hurt. That is not a reason to do it. It is rather a challenge for us to do better… Especially when that person could be regarded as an “enemy.” You never know the secret power of a kind word spoken out loud in the din cruelty. I have a number colleagues today who were once enemies all because I held onto enough of my humanity to recognize when certain name calling and accusations were out of line. And I spoke up about it. People listen. We are ALL still so many damaged children inside.

Ben in Oakland

January 29th, 2012

Rob, I think you are correct in this.

One of the reasons I don’t post anything at joemygod is because of the level of unproductive, not particularly grown up vitriol that informs 90% of the commentary there.

As much as I despise this woman and everYthing she stands for, we ought to be better than she is for the simple reason that we are.

Bob Barnes

January 29th, 2012

Hi Rob, Yes, I remember this from 2010.


Comment 16

I’m still sorry for taking the low road, and thank you for reminding us all what is important.


Regan DuCasse

January 29th, 2012

Anyone who says you can’t bully a grown woman, has had the good luck not to be married to an abusive spouse.

Perhaps the better argument would be, you can’t bully grown adults who spend all of their time, religious, political and monetary influence on maintaining Jim Crow like discrimination on a vulnerable minority.
Maggie is a cog in a huge wheel that’s been running over the lives of gays and lesbians for centuries and wants to continue to.
Many of us here, might have started out as awkward, not so pretty or physically confident people.
But our inner compassion, intelligence and advocacy for those who need it most, constitutes what my people call ‘walking in beauty’.
When you offer and build beauty for and towards others, it makes you and your inner life beautiful.

Maggie’s inner life, character and everything she stands for is literally ugly as hell. She brings ugly, and throws it wherever she goes. Perhaps some day she’ll pay dearly for what she’s sown.
I sure hope so.


January 29th, 2012

“I would agree with you, Charles, IF people freely chose their weights. But they don’t.”

Of course they do, at least the overwhelming majority of them. How else do you explain why people are so much fatter now than what they used to be, and that people’s weight varies so much from state to state or country to country? People from Mississippi (the fattest state) are no different genetically than people from Colorado (the leanest state).

“I’m sure a lot of adults, including me, would disagree”.

Why? I should note that by using the word “bullying”, I mean the verbal kind. Obviously, adults can be cornered and assaulted and beaten worse, but that seems beyond mere “bullying” to me. But verbal words? Please. If someone “bullies” you, walk away, or respond in kind. You have that ability. You’re never stuck in a situation like a kid is. And this goes double for online situations. The idea that strangers on the internet calling Maggie names counts as “bullying” is absurd. Maggie is a grown woman who puts herself in the public eye. She *has* to expect blowback, particularly when she ironically goes on about an “unhealthy lifestyle”. But even going beyond Maggie, a bunch of bigots on a message board calling Elton John a “fag” is in no way in the same universe as a bunch of high school kids doing the same to a classmate. We should know the difference.

Timothy (TRiG)

January 29th, 2012


Look up food deserts, health care, health education, working conditions, and numerous other factors. People don’t choose their weights. At all.



January 29th, 2012


That attitude is why people continue getting fatter. “I didn’t choose this” is the biggest cop out and the biggest lie we tell ourselves to excuse poor eating habits. I used to feel as you do, but that was 10 years and 100 pounds ago. Thank God I stopped listening to people like you.


January 29th, 2012

You don’t seem all that different than all of us were at that awkward age in school. I do object to your use of the phrase “dog in this fight” since that perpetuates a term about dogfighting, which is reprehensible. Please do not use that sort of language. I find it offensive. Thanks.


January 29th, 2012


If you read the Bible in context, “gay” comments were all directed at straight men and women. I have yet to find where the Bible addresses gay men or women at all. It’s written from and for heterosexuals regarding sex codes, though non sexual text is aimed at most all that choose it to be their doctrine.


January 29th, 2012

Becca, I honestly can’t tell if you’re trying to do a parody of a “hipster PC-type” or not.


January 29th, 2012

I agree we should be sensitive about attacking someone personally and attacking the lies they are different!

Donny D.

January 29th, 2012

Who CARES if someone “chooses” to be fat or not?

Gee, isn’t there another really STUPID debate going on about whether or not people CHOOSE their sexual orientation?

I swear, there is SO MUCH bigotry against fat people here in the U.S.

Sorry, but you are NOT morally superior to anyone else because they are fat and you aren’t. It’s YOUR ATTITUDE that’s morally inferior.

Rob Tisinai is right, we are really only hurting ourselves by attacking Maggie Gallagher for being fat.

Not only do we look bad, we look STEREOTYPICALLY bad. We look shallow and catty, two qualities that every holder of a pre-1960s mentality knows are defining characteristics of “homosexual personality disorder”. Yep, we look like shallow, catty “f*gs” when we attack her on the basis of her fatness, falling amazingly well into negative stereotypes, and reinforcing the anti-gay movement’s portrayal of the LGBT community as nasty, vindictive gay men. Yeah, keep it up, fat-baiters.


January 30th, 2012

I don’t think that anyone is saying that someone who is overweight lacks morals. If they are they are fools. It is just people who are overweight choose to be overweight. People who are gay or lesbian don’t make a choice about their sexual orientation.

On a side note about the growing waistline of Americans. I heard that the Coast Guard last year finally had to decrease the number of people allowed on various transport ships because of our increased weight. As I remember they were using 1950’s average weights and we had gone up by around 20 pounds since then.

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2012

An observation from life:

As we pass from the shallow and insecure competitiveness of high school, those who are gifted in their appearance take on security. Those who do have bodies that turn heads on the beach seldom disparage others about their weight. The truly beautiful seldom note facial flaws in others. The graceful and athletic seldom mock the clumsiness of those less inclined.

Comments which are designed to demean others solely on their appearance often tell us more about the person making such a comment than about their target.


January 30th, 2012

I match your horrible picture and can top you with 1) extremely short for my age and 2) the sort of boy who burst into tears when he got angry. Oh yeah, man… rich material there. I agree with you about visceral dislike for bullying.

I have to say, I wonder if it’s not a sign of a sense of empowerment when people engage in that kind of cheap shot (picture of Maggie).

And, I would remind my fellows: There is nothing as dangerous as a marginalized group come to power. Great care must be taken within a formerly marginalized community to ensure that newfound access to power doesn’t become a conduit for abuse and score-settling. It’s not a coincidence that Napoleon wasn’t French, Stalin wasn’t Russian, Hitler wasn’t German, Assad (Syria) is a member of a minority community, as was Hussein (Iraq), and the current state of Israel is highly controversial for how they treat Palestinians, etc..

I’m not drawing direct comparisons between those people being gay or anything as stupid as that. I’m pointing out that as we become more and more integrated into mainstream society, find our voices, gain our rights, and earn our political and social power, it’s incumbent on our community to continually remember that being abused does not give you license to return the favor, or to find some other group upon whom to stand in order to move up the totem pole.


January 30th, 2012

By the way — Neville Longbottom turned out to be incredibly hot — have you seen the actor’s recent pics? Hope the same happened for you :)


January 30th, 2012

Completely, 100% agreed, and well written. Attacking Gallagher for her weight or appearance (as opposed to her positions, bigotry and hypocrisy) plays directly into her hands.

Delphine Dryden

January 30th, 2012

Neville is now, of course, adored by millions who feel that he is easily the most admirable, adorable hero in the Harry Potter books/movies. Go Neville! And go you, for pointing out that the high road is better for everyone.

Donny D.

February 2nd, 2012

Charles wrote,

I don’t think that anyone is saying that someone who is overweight lacks morals. If they are they are fools.

Of course they are. Gluttony (eating too much) and sloth (exercising too little) are sins. Both perceived qualities are looked upon contemptuously by most people in our culture. But I agree with you, those who moralize against fat people are fools.

It is just people who are overweight choose to be overweight. People who are gay or lesbian don’t make a choice about their sexual orientation.

Why would anyone CHOOSE to be overweight in our virulently anti-fat culture? I’m sorry, but that’s a bizarre statement.

I could talk about common situations where people aren’t able to lose weight, but that’s irrelevant. Insulting or harassing someone for being fat is pathetic, and as Timothy has written, says immensely more about the insulter/harasser than anyone else.

Priya Lynn

February 2nd, 2012

It is just people who are overweight choose to be overweight.

That’s oversimplifying it. Just as one doesn’t choose their sexual attractions one does not choose to be strongly tempted by food.

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