Khitam lives with her four young children, husband Abdelsalam, and his elderly parents in a single, damp room of a half-built apartment block near Tripoli, Lebanon.
There are holes in the walls and ceiling and they share a toilet with other refugee families crammed into the building. Khitam and Abdelsalam are mentally and physically exhausted after years of struggling to survive, unable to earn a living and fighting a daily, relentless battle to feed their children. Right now, they are terrified by the prospect of another winter in their cold, uninsulated single room. Another winter where they will feel every blast of icy wind. Another winter where every time their children cough or sneeze they will fear they have contracted a lethal respiratory condition like pneumonia or tuberculosis. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, needs your support to help parents protect their children this winter. Please will you give £75 to provide a refugee family like Khitam’s with a winter survival kit to protect against the freezing weather? The kit contains essentials such as a heating stove, thermal blankets and a tarpaulin for insulation. It could mean survival for a family like Khitam’s. Last winter, as a result of their exposed and unsanitary living conditions, Khitam and all four of her children became ill. Baby Bilal had a high temperature and diarrhoea. Her sons Khaled ( 3, pictured) and Abdul Rahman (8) had chest infections and their sister Fatimah ( 4) contracted worms. Khitam herself developed painful on her throat and lost her voice. Without access to a free healthcare system like we have in the UK, Khitam became overwhelmed with worry about how to pay for the treatment and medicines her children needed. “I felt helpless. My children were coughing and crying and there was nothing I could do.” Khitam believes that without assistance from UNHCR “my children would be dead”. Across Lebanon and Jordan, six of the last seven winters have brought heavy snowfall and temperatures regularly drop below 0°C. 1.7 million Syrian refugees are living, like Khitam’s family, in unfinished or derelict buildings, or in makeshift shelters, sometimes made of little more than wood and plastic sheeting. This coming winter, when temperatures are likely to fall below zero, the lives of the most vulnerable: young children, pregnant women and the elderly, are at grave risk from hypothermia, frostbite and diseases like pneumonia. With a gift of £75 you can provide a winter survival kit containing a stove, blankets, jerry can and a tarpaulin to help a family insulate and heat their home. Please give today – you could save the lives of children like Khitam’s.
“Living here, in these conditions, I cannot keep my children healthy.”
HG I used to get so annoyed. [Points down.] Hips: come on.
RG I have a woman’s body. I get called Sir, every day.
HG It’s so lazy. It’s just the short hair and the height, isn’t it? Someone tagged me in a post on Twitter, and it said, “Fuckin’ dyke, wearing a hat. There’s no need to wear a hat at night, except to say you’re a lesbian.” [Both laugh.]
RG I didn’t realise that was part of the code. There’s always something. When you’re not what people expect from a woman, they’re always going to be angry about it.
HG And also, when that’s not what they’re angry about, they’re angry about your words or what you do. I’m just so amazed that men still think that they’ve settled the argument by telling women they’re so fat and ugly that they wouldn’t fuck ’em. I decided that for myself. [Laughs.]
RG Whenever they say, “I would never fuck you”, I just think, thank God . You’re not on my list, either. It goes to show how deep that authority is ingrained for them, that they genuinely think telling you this is a thing.
HG But they silence you and stop listening just because you don’t stack up. I used my whiteness to its full effect when I was younger, because
I had the superpower of invisibility and I could disappear in a room.
RG I would love that power. Ugh. I would love it.
HG It helps that I’m pear-shaped. I remember once, when I first started comedy, I heard, “You don’t even know she’s fat till she stands up.” .” Oh, good God. But I’d written all those jokes: “I’m like an iceberg.” It’s wound into your selfworth and how you think about yourself. It’s woven in at that tender age when you first start seeing yourself, and it doesn’t stop.
RG It doesn’t. The trolls get so incensed by a woman having an opinion or a thought or daring to think she’s funny, which, by the way, I’m very fucking funny, thank you.
HG Yeah, I’m nailing it.
RG Right? Not an issue.
HG I’m nailing the funny. I’ve got to curb the earnestness a bit. But, light and shade.
RG But they know the weak spots, so they go for appearance. They know that you can be smart and talented and funny, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not hot.
HG When I did the Emmys – I presented one, I didn’t win one, that’s very important to know
– I got people complimenting me, and even people who think they identify with me, talking about my body. Stop talking about my body!
It’s like: “A win for fat girls”. What? Is it? Now that you’ve said that? “Jeez, you need to look at a treadmill.” I do. And I walk past it.
What’s frustrating is that I want to tell people just how hard trauma and shame is, and that’s what makes you uncomfortable in your skin. That’s what makes you unhealthy, that will shorten your life. The weight itself? People like you and I, we can hold it. RG Absolutely. People keep talking about how fat is unhealthy. Because we don’t go to the doctor, because we know what we’re going to get at the doctor – I’ve gone to the doctor for a sore throat, and he’s been like, “Lose weight.”
HG “Don’t drink Coke.” I don’t.
RG I need some amoxicillin because I have strep throat, so weight loss is not a solution for strep. I’m a different kind of doctor, but I know that. I’ve had a stomach issue for about 10-12 years now, and it’s pretty debilitating. I’ve gone to doctors in four different states, just to try and figure it out. Each doctor has told me, lose weight. Now I’ve lost 150lb, and my stomach still hurts. So perhaps now we could try something different.
HG I had gallstones when I was 15.
RG Me too! When I was 15.
HG We’re basically the same person.
RG We are! Twins. [Laughs.] We look just alike.
HG Maybe that guy thought you were me on the plane. That’s my demographic, rich white men who laugh at women.
RG They love you, I’m sure they do.
HG You know, I have a strange demographic. My old demographic was surprisingly wide. Older women, suburban mums, families and a lot of straight guys. That’s really what drove me to doing Nanette, because I thought, whoa, I don’t know how to talk to this. I thought I was putting myself back in the margins, but in hindsight I can see that I was drilling down on the human condition – and hey, everyone’s got it.
RG There are times when people come up to me in the signing lines at my events and they start talking to me about my work, and they really know my work, and they’re not what I would have assumed to be my primary demographic.
HG It’s really nice, isn’t it?
RG It is really nice. And I think, I have a little more reach than I thought
When I was younger, I had the superpower of invisibility
gguyy lane hoto o riends, ughA guy on a plane took a photo of me, to text his friends, to laugh at me