What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Growing up in my neighborhood, the worst thing you could call a girl was “fat” or “dyke.” It seemed those were the two worst things a girl could be.
That notion seemed to hold true well into adulthood, as I heard those two words hurled as insults again and again against women who dared to be comfortable in their own skin.
For years, I hated and feared seeing either of these things in myself. It wasn’t until I accepted one -- being queer -- that I was truly able to accept the other -- being fat. This is the story of my Fat Pride, 30 years in the making.
Shortly after starting college, I stumbled across the online fat acceptance movement of the early 2000s. Livejournal, particularly the Fatshionista community, introduced me to the basics of self love and fat acceptance. It was truly a revelation.
After four highly single years in high school, fat acceptance blogs helped me find the confidence to put myself out there. Unlikely as it had seemed, the blogs were right -- some guys were actually into me, fat and all.
My confidence buoyed by male attention and blessed sexual relief, I encountered a range of guys interested in me. After a few years, however, I noticed a troubling pattern. They always fell into one of two camps: those who liked my fatness more than they liked me, and those who wanted to be my secret boyfriend.
The first group were fetishists.They wanted sex with a fat girl to be like the fat fetish porn they consumed -- extreme and in addict-like quantities. No act was depraved enough. Everything had to be done at a level 11, as it were. My fat body was just a way of upping the sexual ante.
The second group, the secret boyfriends? They were nice boys. Usually friends of friends, we'd meet at a party and nerd out over video games or horror movies. The second we were alone, we'd hook up. Afterwards they'd suddenly request I keep our hook-up private.
This could go on for months. Like the old cliche, fat girls are like mopeds. If you don't know how that one ends, I won't spoil it for you.
After years of dating these two types of guys, my body positivity took a huge hit. On top of the anti-fat mainstream culture, it was hard to find solace in sex with guys who saw me as a kink, or a shameful secret.
Though I identified as straight through my 20s, I always gladly tagged along to gay bars or events. I loved queer culture and the way diverse bodies were celebrated -- chubby baby dykes holding hands, older fat butches on motorcycles, a 300+ pound queen twirling onstage.
It seemed a world where the mainstream body standards were thrown out as unceremoniously as last week’s garbage.
Cut to my late-20s. After a decade of sexual relationships with men who left me feeling like my body was a fetish or an embarrassment, I decided to take a break and focus on loving myself. Around this same period, I found myself suddenly appreciating other women’s bodies, too. Slowly, my “100% straight” label peeled back to reveal something underneath.
Something pretty queer.
I spent weeks timidly changing my online dating status to “bisexual,” panicking and changing it back to “straight” five minutes later. Eventually I changed it long enough to get a message from a woman who was interested. She herself was fat, and preferred larger women.
My tiny mind was blown.
The first time we got naked, it was as natural as climbing into a pool of warm water. Two fat babes, hanging out naked.
There was no hint of fetish, no discretion required. Her fat body mirrored mine, but unlike in my bedroom mirror, I didn’t see flaws reflected back. I saw soft curves, happy round bits, delightful to look at and touch.
From then on, other women’s bodies stopped symbolizing my own failure to be thin, or desirable to men. They instead represented the beautiful diversity of women, appealing and perfect in their differences.
One of the first times I realized my now-girlfriend might be interested was when I made my Facebook profile picture Ursula from "The Little Mermaid." She was the first to comment, admitting the sea witch was one of her first crushes.
That is probably the best pickup move you could ever use on this particular fat girl -- we were together by the end of the month.
Early on, she picked out a photo of me as her favorite (she picked all of these, too). It was one I had almost untagged myself in -- I thought I looked sweaty and matronly in my vintage muumuu. My girlfriend however, wouldn’t hear of it. She thought I looked sexy, “like a boss.” I kept the picture up and smile whenever I see it now because it reminds me to mute my self-critique.
My girlfriend isn’t fat, but she’s one of the most fat-positive people I know. She tells me she loves my body every day. She kisses me and tells me I’m gorgeous. She encourages me to wear cute bathing suits, tight dresses or to butch up and roll up my sleeves to show off my fat arms.
Maybe if I had met the right guy who loved my body in a non-fetishistic way, then my Fat Pride story would have ended differently. I’m not saying only queer women can love their fat bodies or be fat-positive, or that straight men can’t love fat women sincerely and non-fetishistically.
But for me, my understanding and positivity about fatness will be linked forever with my queerness. And of that, I am truly proud.