Fat Queer Tells All: On Fatness and Gender Flatness

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Before I go out to the party I put on my eyeliner, I make sure to put it on sloppily and with the unsteady hand of someone who doesn’t usually wear eyeliner. I put on my purple tights with runs at the thighs and my worn denim jacket, I strap my messenger bag across the whole mess. I am aware that I go out looking to attract a certain type of person, maybe a butch girl, maybe a gender non-conforming person. Hopefully somebody sweet, a little gruff, someone who works with their hands. But why do I insist on putting my eyeliner on so sloppily? Why don’t I treat myself to a new jacket, maybe swap out my messenger bag for a purse? The truth is if I do find someone while I am out tonight, I want them to know that I am not good at being a girl, that there are other things about me beyond my precarious femininity that I value more, and that if things work out, I will expect them to value.

I guess I expect whoever it is to be in on the joke that is my femininity, but why is it a joke? It’s a joke because I’m fat, and fat girls are funny, right? It’s funny when we wear frilly skirts and bikinis, it’s funny when we act flirtatious and sexy, it’s funny when we dance with our jiggling bums and bellies. My fat body is funny because that’s what the media tells me about it, I am not the protagonist, I am their best friend who Can’t Get Laid. If a thin person and I wear the same outfit to a party, they’re two different outfits, conveying two very different stories.

I grew up into a fat girl, with hips and a belly that started forming with puberty. For many years I tried to cover them up, along with my sexuality, in the brightest patterned dresses I could find. “Maybe if I wear a really outrageous outfit, people won’t notice my lack of interest in men, or my love handles,” the logic seemed to go. Well, that didn’t work out too well because people still noticed both of those things about me. So many of my sartorial choices then were meant to offset my wide “masculine” shoulders and back, trying not to “look like a boy,” as well as underplay my big breasts and belly, attributes that are undeniably female.

I realize today that my relationship to gender has been impacted by the ways that others understand and interpret fat bodies. Bodies that by their very nature are incapable of fitting into traditional modes of gender conformity. I always felt afraid of embracing the more masculine parts of myself for fear of losing my already precarious grip on femininity. It was a relationship to my gender created by fear and social policing, built on a logic that “if you are not one thing than you are another.” To be feminine is to be small and delicate to a fault, so if you are already thick, you are fighting an uphill battle to meet norms that are already elusive.

Here’s the twist: I’m not doing it anymore. I have opted out of the idea of femininity that is built on a set of standards I feel incapable of meeting. I don’t enjoy being a girl all the time. I embrace my wide shoulders along with my thick hips, I get no pleasure from the ritualistic practices of womanhood, and I have an affinity for button-downs. In no way do I understand myself to be “masculine presenting” “butch” or “dapper” because of these preferences. Yes, things are complicated, but you would think that in the queer community, that complexity would be welcomed. This is not always the case.

I do not know why fatness flattens gender expression, but I think it has to do with the predetermined expectations of bodies. Culturally, we understand androgyny to be the ability to shift between gender expressions with a facility that highlights their outlandishness, and sometimes their closeness to each other. Learning to embrace the hyperbole of my own body has liberated my gender expression, but also made it more difficult for others to understand. There is little precedent for fat androgyny. Generally our androgynous icons are svelte and lacking in secondary sex characteristics. David Bowie, Tilda Swinton, Katherine Hepburn; these small-bodied, predominately white figures of androgyny have created an aesthetic with little room for deviation. This means that for those of us with bodies that do not conform to traditional standards of androgyny, we are often misread and misunderstood, even in queer spaces. Every day I struggle to present my fat queer body in a way that is intentional and binary-defiant. Sometimes this means I don’t get what I want, Sometimes this means I am misunderstood, sometimes this means I am put into situations that make me feel uncomfortable and challenged. I try to embrace all of these instances for their learning and teaching value.

I went to the same monthly queer party twice wearing two different outfits. Once I wore a skirt, once I wore pants and a button down. I was treated like two completely different people. The first time I went to this party while I was wearing a skirt, someone asked me to go out for a drink. Things didn’t work out and I kind of hoped we wouldn’t run into each other again (an unrealistic expectation in the tiny queer community.) When I saw them again at the party the next month, they grabbed my wrist and snarled “nice pants” at me, as if I had somehow personally offended them by wearing pants. When I wore a skirt, I danced alone or with my friends. When I wore pants, I was given a type of attention that made me uncomfortable. I knew it was because I was being read as “butch.” People treated me differently, gave me space on the dance floor differently, flirted with me differently. It felt somehow insincere, although I was just as comfortable wearing one outfit as the other. I felt I could not live up to the expectations of masculinity that were being imposed onto my body in that space when I projected my femininity non-traditionally. A stranger sneak-attacked me and began to wind her butt in my face. Her male friend slapped my shoulder and said “get it.” I was completely thrown off and angry. What about me allows people to assume that I want to “get” anything? Is it not you who is trying to “get” something from me? What about my body and my presentation allows people to assume that I am the one “getting” and not the person who is shaking their butt in my face without my permission? These are questions that I still do not have any answers to. Instead of confronting the booty-winder, I sneaked off into the crowd to go find my friends. I made it a point to dance with my hips like a girl and shake my own ass in the face of no one, because I have an ass, even in pants, just as I have wide shoulders in a skirt. Nobody is owed an explanation.



About the author
: Allie Shyer is A queer student and writer currently living in chicago. She likes poems, the color lilac and dogs that look like their people. You can read more of her thoughts at http://thecactuscollector.tumblr.com/

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63 Comments

    • Thumb up 1

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      This is totally a thing! As a QPOC, when I wear my hair down, my tights and look ‘girly’, I get people approaching me – gay, straight and just generally being ‘nicer’. When I wear my runners, hair up, leather jacket etc. I am expected to suddenly ‘be the man’ in queer spaces. People wait for me to approach them etc.

      If I am perceived girly, I enjoy more privilege in most spaces – people are friendlier, more willing to get things done for me, more approachable – yet, I am subject to all forms of gender stereotypes i.e. being incapable, being less intelligent etc.

      When I am perceived as being more ‘butch’, there are no expectations of me in straight spaces – there is either animosity or I’m granted access to masculinity – both of which, I hate. However, in queer spaces there is only expectation. I have to be the man. That’s it. I cannot be shy or awkward because then I have failed at playing my role.

      I’m, about a size 12, so I don’t know to what extent fatness plays into this however, it seems I as well am not allowed to access androgyny. I either have to be the man or the woman and play the part, or people don’t know how to engage/respond to me.

  1. Thumb up 19

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    as a fat femme struggling with a way to do queerness that feels right to me, this is literally everything. i maybe am about to start crying in my cubicle? i normally don’t even read autostraddle at work but this popped up in my facebook feed and oh my god. just. everything, everything, everything.

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    First: This is so good. So, so good.
    Second: I can kind of relate? But in reverse, maybe. My weight fluctuates like nothing else. Really thin to sort of athletic to a little curvy and back again. I’m in the latter now, and when I am this particular phase, I amp up my femininity in a sort of effort to seem more desirable? Maybe because I only look good in menswear when I’m thin, maybe because I’m desperate for people to think I’m pretty, I don’t know. The boobs show more, more makeup gets caked on my face, I get my hair done more and I spend more time on it. I wear bracelets and I hate bracelets. I keep my hair long.
    It’s interesting to think about.

  3. Thumb up 31

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    This is probably the article I’ve related to most here on AS. I definitely would be classified as being thick. A few years back I lost about 50lbs and I instantly was treated differently. In the end it made me feel worse about myself. No one ever called me beautiful before I lost the weight but it was a comment I would receive all the time after I lost the weight. Ive gained most of the weight back out of spite. It angers me that I can’t be beautiful (in others eyes) at both sizes. I also struggle with these labels the queer community creates for themselves. For me, I’m just Lindsay. I like girls. Sometimes I feel like wearing a skirt, most of the time I’m in jeans. I hate heels but I love doing my hair and wearing makeup. I’m independent and strong but if I see a spider I’m going to need you to kill it for me. Does this make me a femme, butch, boi, lipstick? No it makes me, well me. Do I have to be defined? Put into a category? No I don’t but people will inevitably put me in one.

    • Thumb up 14

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      X2

      thank you author of this piece (so so much) and to you, Lindsay, for this comment. i lost about 80lbs and suddenly it was ok to be who i was and i hated it and wanted to punch everyone in the face. in the interest of transparency, its worth noting much of my weight loss came out of sadness and loss (suicide in the family) and i just sort of gave into the grief for a while and stopped eating and sleeping. out of that, for the first time ever, i was a legitimate waif in size two jeans without really trying. it was like i woke up out of that grief in a new, acceptable body. i was shocked by how it dramatically affected by gender presentation and sense of style. i found when i was thin, i felt “allowed” to play with a more masculine look without fear of being seen as too “queer” or intimidating because my body was small and slight not taking up too much space or scaring anyone. i cut my hair short for the first time because my face was thin and angular from months of starving. i was in clothes that to even to me looked like they could go on first graders comfortably. all of it was very new, but by far the most dramatic change i felt was actually feeling like others thought i was beautiful…and god what an awesome feeling that was to have for the first time. i still daydream about that feeling sometimes in my 193lbs body, but i cant be that person ever again probably. back when i was my skinniest, i was on top of the world for about two months before i started to see the situation as wholly fucked up, and i got really really pissed off. ALL that weight has come back and over the course of abut two years and let me tell you, it has been such a strange,surreal journey. this article really made me think about how that journey has affected me in particular and unique ways because i am gay. its nice to hear that other people have felt rage and gained weight back as a huge fuck you to society. im not sure where to go from here, but the perspective i gained (no pun intended) is something that has change my relationship to my body, society, and food forever. this piece is so great and so relevant to the LGBT community. thanks thanks.

    • Thumb up 1

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      Wow I totally related to everything you say! Humans come in all shapes and sizes and we should be embracing it more often. Especially the queer community. Respect diversity, encourage it. More power to all of us.

  4. Thumb up 2

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    I like Lindsay’s comments…because I wear short hair…I am labelled as something else….I happen to have very thick wavy hair…because I swim all the time and am fit…i get a lot of attention and a lot of side glances…I am used to this…done this all my life….and I get hit up a lot at the receptions by men…I use lipstick etc …but am very tomboyish and yet femmey a tiny bit ….people can classify me all they want..I am me and will always be me…classy and proud of my accomplishments…I have met many gorgeous overweight people…I look behind their masks and discover that they are funny and warm hearted….who am I to make judgements…I was born without much hearing. I make do in every situation…and so, should you. I enjoy talking to everyone..whether they are straight or queer…most people cannot figure me out..and that is the way I like it. So, Allie..take heart and be yourself..get out of yourself and have a blast!

  5. Thumb up 2

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    I forgot to write I absolutely refuse to wear dresses ..must have been that Catholic UNI background..LOL! ( Ever have your knees slapped with a ruler because you were caught with your knees apart talking o a cute someone)?

  6. Thumb up 7

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    Yes, yes, yes, especially: “I do not know why fatness flattens gender expression, but I think it has to do with the predetermined expectations of bodies.” I have so many feelings about this and want sooooo much more space in the queer community to deconstruct why this is and how we can address it because yes.

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      also this:
      ‘What about me allows people to assume that I want to “get” anything? Is it not you who is trying to “get” something from me? What about my body and my presentation allows people to assume that I am the one “getting” and not the person who is shaking their butt in my face without my permission?’
      is such an articulate response detailing the confusion that comes with genderfuckery – we can fuck with it, but neither can we completely own what that ‘means’ or accomplishes.

      brilliant, illuminating writing. thank you for posting this. i hope your everyday adventures in binary-defiant dress/behaviour is empowering and affirming.

  7. Thumb up 4

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    THIS! <3
    A friend of mine and I were discussing recently this very same thing. There was a 'prom' at the local lez bar and she wanted to wear a dress AND a suit; I feel as if this piece chronicled her experience almost perfectly. Thanks again for the well-worded insight :)

  8. Thumb up 17

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    My feelings about this are confused, honestly (not that it wasn’t terrific, but I’m muddled up about how I feel it relates to me, and I’m going through like all of my experiences to see if they line up so let me just talk it out a bit). I thought I would relate to this bar none, but honestly I think that the intersection of fatness and queerness are so scarcely talked about that we’ve barely covered all the shades of it. I haven’t even really been able to address my own identity as fat AND queer and how I feel about that in any meaningful way yet, in my own mind. I like to really ride the line between femme-y and more masculine. I’ll often wear clothes I straight up got from the men’s department, but I also have feminine hair and I always make up my face – the whole nine yards. Or I’ll add something feminine to something masculine – a blazer with a frilly blouse underneath, a deep v-neck under a flannel button-up, or a men’s henley with a pastel cardigan over it. But I’m fat and have literally always been fat, so my only real criteria until recently has been, “Does this fit and do I not look like someone’s mom in it?” Then there’s a more recent part of me that wants to experiment with men’s clothing/dapper dressing more, and I know for a fact that I can’t wear a lot of it because of my boobs (because if you want to buy an oxford shirt that will button up past your boobs and not gape or strain around them, but also won’t be a tent on you everywhere else, GOOD LUCK). I usually like having the boobs because almost everyone likes boobs at least a little bit, and I like the contour they give me, but now I’m the only woman on my new work shift and I’ve really become aware of how looking masculine and hiding the boobs is benefiting me in such a male-dominated environment.

    Although I loved hearing about the author’s experiences going out to gay nights and queer bars and the like, and it made me sad and scared that it could happen to me, that my gender expression could become that important and affect how people treat me even in queer spaces, I’ve been lucky not to really have that happen when I’m out to those places yet. As far as I know, people don’t read me as gay. Obviously they probably do when I’m at a gay bar or a lesbian dance or whatever, but most people I’m friends with, who I have not come out to, seem to suspect nothing, even though I dress around them the way I dress when I go out. I feel like my masculine clothing, to them, just reads as, “Oh, that’s all she could find that fits.” Which is kind of problematic, I guess, because it’s not the only thing that fits and my intent is being lost on them. And while I totally get the whole, “Let’s pretend to hit on the fat chick, or dance up on her because it’ll be ironic and funny because ew, we’d never do that for real” bullshit coming from straight people, and I dealt with that A LOT in high school and college, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that at gay bars or queer parties or whatnot. It’s more like I’m invisible, which I take as an improvement, but at the same time, it’s not really accomplishing the things I want to accomplish by attending those places and events. So I guess I can’t pass down any decrees about how I think people are reading me – femme or butch – because they’re not reading me at all. And that always kind of depressed me because I thought the queer community would be more accepting of my fatness, but honestly, they seem to be wary of me because a lot of lesbians and gay men are into health and fitness and they take one look at me and think, “Oh, she eats at McDonalds every day and never exercises and is gross.” And while that has been true (I struggled with an overeating disorder for a while, and then there’s all the ways my chronic depression affects my lifestyle choices), it’s mostly inaccurate. I cook, and I usually cook vegan or vegetarian fare, I’m on a low carb, high protein diet, and I work out. So I think that’s what gets me down more than anything, and I wish I could get more acceptance from people who like to complain about how the world at large perceives them due to their sexuality, but then turn around and seemingly do the same thing to me because of my size.

    I totally do get the kind of stigma surrounding fat butch women. Skinny masculine women are cute bois who everyone lusts after, while fat masculine women are scary big butches who drive school buses and are generally just dour creatures. This is definitely why I still make an effort to appear at least a little feminine all the time.

    • Thumb up 13

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      Also, has anyone else felt refuge in their size at straight bars? Like, I’ll sometimes completely forego looking decent when I go to overgrown frat-type bars with my friends because I revel in not being hit on by guys while my thinner friends are, relentlessly (and when I say “hit on” I mostly mean “harassed” and “cajoled”). It’s like, “Oh yeah, look at my stomach. Look at me buying my own drinks. Look at me not having to talk to your sexist ass. This is the best.”

      • Thumb up 6

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        Thanks for talking it out so eloquently, I feel you. I have a deep and abiding love of menswear and tailoring which stands in direct opposition to those pesky breasts and hips which make everything read just a little bit “mom” if it isn’t an aggressively masculine (whatever that means) print. I am forever over thinking how my intent is being read and wondering if I look like a curvy queer or a frumpy girl who has given up. It is really difficult to confront our own lookist assumptions and try to maintain a sense of authenticity in the face of a seemingly unending onslaught of cultural messaging about what is and is not attractive and acceptable.

        As far as nights out with straight friends, I have a definite tendency to go as masculine as possible as if daring the men to judge me and find me wanting. It’s like being a lesbian is not enough in that kind of environment, I want to be an assertive too cool to care that men think I’m fat lesbian.

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    I wanted to read an article like this for a long type. It’s really interesting to hear something relating body and fashion. Specially this body type and this style.
    I simply can’t find anything that are suited for both my gender representation (don’t even know if it’s really that) and my body type. Being overweight and a tomboy is difficult. I just never found a way to play with the whole androgyny thing. If I wear men clothes and hide my boobs, I’ll be too butch and if I femme it up a bit, then I’m already too feminine. If I dress like a teenage boy, I end up looking like a chubby eight years-old boy. It’s kind of frustrating.

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      The article as a whole is a “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSS” experience for me, but so is this comment. I’m not even sure what I think the difference between “tomboy” and “butch” is, but I know that I absolutely identify as a tomboy and feel uncomfortable being read as butch. And add to that the fat thing . . . Like, I just want a goddamn oxford shirt with buttons that open to the left that’s wide enough to fit my belly and doesn’t go down to my knees. Is that too much to ask, world?

  10. Thumb up 9

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    Geez… I and here I thought I was the only one.

    This articulates everything I’ve felt since I came out as queer almost 10 years ago. I’ve always felt like I’ve had to be even MORE feminine than my smaller femme friends because as a “fat” lesbian my grip on it has been tenuous at best. Since I was 13 I’ve been gravitating towards low cut shirts (look guys! I have BOOBS! See? SEE?) and tighter fitting pants (and a BUTT! and HIPS!). I even find myself internally criticizing myself for it whenever I get a little too “butch” which can just be a t-shirt and jeans. I just realized it is the “binary” in my gender expression being so rigid that has been making me hate clothes for years. This is incredibly interesting…

    Thank you so so much.

  11. Thumb up 11

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    Thanks for sharing this; I hope you write more on AS about it. As fellow fat queer, gender is a really mixed thing. I feel like my body is inherently gendered as female due to its hourglass shape, so that clothing that is typically read as androgynous on a thin person reads as female on mine. Which is really fucking frustrating because even though I wear make-up and paint my nails, my gender feels just as queer as my sexuality to me.

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      YES, this, so much — I really, really relate to the feeling of possessing an inherently gendered, hourglass figure that somehow is always presenting as feminine regardless of my clothing/intentions/internal sense of my gender presentation.

  12. Thumb up 9

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    Seeing myself as fat = thinking other people see me as disgusting (I don’t know if it’s true, but I believe it)

    Seeing myself as disgusting = understanding that disgust as centered on myself as female
    (I feel less disgusting in a suit)

    Why?

    Because female = desiring, asking, wanting = vulnerable
    (Ties can hide a lot)

    Why?

    When
    Wanting = feeling
    Desiring = thinking
    Asking = acting

    Vulnerable? or Alive?
    (If a suit on anyone is camouflage for fear, when I wear it am I more the human I was meant to be or less of one?)

    Sometimes the commentary and questions around what am I? who am I? How do others see me/my body/my sex makes me want to quit talking.
    (More fear?)

    The fat man and the fat woman are both, somehow, more penetrable.
    (But is what we’re trying to dismantle the method of determining which clothes one wears or

    the prison

    where no one is allowed

    to be soft?)

  13. Thumb up 6

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    “I get no pleasure from the ritualistic practices of womanhood”

    Perfect quote to help me describe why I stopped shaving my legs/pits a few months ago. Because I don’t perform some daily ritual that is expected because of my gender, all of a sudden I get attention for it.

  14. Thumb up 9

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    As a tall Butch Trans*Woman with a much bigger (Than “Feminine norm”) body I can totally relate to your sentiments towards standards of androgyny. In the world I am constantly trying to explain/present my butchness as anything but male. Having a non-normative body makes it insanely hard to pass as female while presenting butch. In queer spaces I do often get read as Butch luckily, and luckily I am comfortable with that. I feel bad that you get treated in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Anyways, I loved your article.

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      I really like this idea of butchness being anything but male! and I think its an interesting thing to explore and twist up and genderfuck. Don’t feel bad! it is always an interesting experience for me to see how my presentation affects how I am gendered in queer spaces and we all occasionally have a bad night out right? :)

  15. Thumb up 7

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    As a fat person with broad shoulders, lots and lots of boobs, and barely hips at all, I too find androgyny impossible to achieve. Nothing that I will ever wear will bring me even close the very narrow definition of andro-aesthetic.

    Whereas being read as butch is easy – just reach me the flannel and it’s basically done. While I still wear a skirt. And knee high boots. And a face full of makeup. I swear, flannel works like a femme invisibility cloak.

    Femininity was a hard and long road for me. Being violated at a very young age, the changes that my pubescent body underwent were scary and the way men reacted to it even more so. So I kinda needed to grow stronger first. I needed to learn how to handle my fatness and how to aggressively set and protect my boundaries, before I was able to perform femininity.

    Now I finally feel home in my body.

    Yet still: What looks cute and sweet on tiny frames, looks like someones aunt at a funeral on me. So I don’t do ruffle. Or lace. I can’t do image prints on my boobs as they will stretch in strange ways. I try to keep it simple. And I refuse to wear high heels.

    I still receive judgmental looks/comments and I still face male entitlement but the main difference is that I changes my own views about my body, so I don’t give a damn about vile people.

    The only times where I feel really vulnerable and very aware of my looks is when my heart is touched. Because dating is terrifying! And being shy, fat, bisexual and femme presenting sometimes feels like being forced to play the game at the highest setting of difficulty – while still being a newbie.

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    “I have opted out of the idea of femininity that is built on a set of standards I feel incapable of meeting.” This brought tears to my eyes, YES YES YES. My identification as a queer feminine feminist doesn’t change whether or not I’m wearing a suit or lipstick.

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    Despite being out to my friends, I feel that I am constantly coming out to myself as I discover what queer feels like to me. I am most definitely on the femme side of butch/femme binary but in recent years, have gravitated toward tomboy-femme. Here I sit in a chambray button down and shorts. What I wanted to wear today was my favorite blue dress. As a lifelong fat, femme queer who has been afflicted with perfectionism, I feel that I should look classically lesbian – whatever the hell that means – for fear that I’m not being a perfect in my sexuality. Recent style changes (from femme to dapper) flatter my curves, but I feel more myself in a dress. BUT! When I dress more feminine, I get unwanted attention from men and women who talk to and treat me condescendingly. When I’m feeling most myself, I get put down. When I dress more butch/dapper, people treat me with respect. I don’t want to feel that ‘if only I weighed 50 pounds less and dressed in button downs, pants, and bow ties all the time I would be more confident and only get attention from queers’ for the rest of my life.

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      As I’m sitting here, attempting to process the article (which was completely wonderful and vulnerable), your comment stuck out to me, name-twin.
      “I feel that I should look classically lesbian – whatever the hell that means – for fear that I’m not being a perfect in my sexuality” —This. As a bisexual who leans more towards women these days, I feel like I’m always trying to dress to project this idealized image-but I don’t even know what that image is! Ugh–I hate how much not only a person’s gender and sexuality but persona and how they should be treater are all wrapped up in whatever the person decided to wear on a particular day!

      I have no answers and this was a rant, but I just wanted to let you know that you are certainly not alone in your frustration.

  18. Thumb up 3

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    Thank you so much for writing this and for sharing your thoughts on embodying gender while fat. Your observations about gender performance and fatness are making me think about my own gender performance.

  19. Thumb up 3

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    Thanks for this. As a fat bisexual, gender presentation is even more confusing and frustrating at times. I feel required to dress with hyper femininity when I’m in straight places, and with more masculine touches when I’m in queer spaces, and still I get read as straight by many lesbians, and as a lesbian by many men. And, what I want to wear depends on the day. Some days, I feel my best in the highest heels, a fabulous dress, and some make up. Other days, I feel best in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. Why do we have to choose one style? Why can’t style and gender presentation be fluid and represent the way we feel that day,or that moment? I find the spectrum of labels in the queer community to be just as confining as in any other community. Are you a top or a bottom? Are you butch or femme? Neither? Oh, you must be androgynous, or a tomboy, or a boi, or some other thing. What if I’m femme today, androgynous tomorrow, and butch the next day only to be femme again? Why do I have to be stagnant? I reject stagnation.

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    thank you for sharing this every day i feel that my curvy hips and fat thighs keep me from dressing like i would if i was a skinny mini .. i hate feeling like i have to come out every where i am because of my long hair, i act girly i act butch i dont think twice about it the days i want to wear heels and a guys shirt then i walk out the door and wounder what every one thinks of me. i love my size when im able to do things that guys think i shouldnt be able to do being a girl .. hell yes i can lift it on my own back off budy you see what im lefting every day my body and im sure its heavier then what ever your worried about helping me lift. but damn it dont ask me am i butch femm or from another plannet most days i havent thought about it im me and thats all there is to it. some days i go dancing in heels and giggle like a girl and others im in a old dirty ripped shirt that says F*** off and walking around homodepot getting the things i need( ok all the tools that look fun to play with) but i need them lol

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    Thank you so much for this. You’ve perfectly articulated all of my jumbled feelings much better than I ever could. I’ve been struggling with these issues a lot recently and it’s encouraging to have finally found a description that reflects my thoughts. It’s also nice to see that I’m not alone.

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    My hands are about to fall off from all the snaps I’m giving this piece and the lovely, thoughtful, and badass commenters all sharing of themselves.

    “Every day I struggle to present my fat queer body in a way that is intentional and binary-defiant. Sometimes this means I don’t get what I want, Sometimes this means I am misunderstood, sometimes this means I am put into situations that make me feel uncomfortable and challenged. I try to embrace all of these instances for their learning and teaching value.”

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus and say that this (the entire article, really) resonates with me so much, and I am super glad to see it here.

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    Love this article, it’s very well written and reminds me of myself. I can relate a lot to the confusion especially growing up. I’m not exactly very fat but growing up I was very self conscious about being chubby, and I felt like a failure to be feminine. At the same time, I didn’t want to even have feminine curves at all, I didn’t like the figure I was growing into. I just try and dress how I want to be comfortable but really do not like dresses or that sort of thing. In my personal taste I avoid anything stereotypically feminine, like skirts or whatever, because it’s not my preference, and the result is I end up being read as a boy or as butch a lot even when in my opinion I’m just dressing fairly neutrally. But it’s hard to actually dress and be read as neutral.

    I’m bisexual and on one hand I feel so out of place when I’m around feminine girls at a nice school dance, say, where people tend to dress very binary. I don’t like dresses or that type of fashion, but at the same time I feel like a failure to be sufficiently feminine (because hey I like guys too and even if I wanted to wear a pretty dress it wouldn’t look good on me because of my figure, I just look funny in those clothes). At the same time I do not want to be read as a woman in a suit, I don’t like that either.

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    Thank you so much for this. I have only recently started to unpack the concept of gender as it relates to body shape and size.

    In high school I was very insecure in my sexual identity, and being somewhat athletic, I presented more towards the tomboyish end of the spectrum. I hated (well, hate) the idea of developing ‘womanly’ boobs and hips, as it doesn’t really fit with my gender identity. At the same time, I was teased for being athletic and called ‘Mr ….’ and ‘Rambo’. This led me down a tortuous path of disordered eating, all in the aim of becoming smaller. In my mind, being smaller was both more androgynous AND more feminine. Somehow, being smaller meant that my body expressed my internal gender identity, and that of what I was ‘expected’ to present. It’s only now, almost 8 years later, that I recognise the inherent contradiction in this.

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    Oh lord, this post.

    Growing up I knew that being fat made everyone around me think I was some sort of sloppy, so I responded by dressing as well and as femininely as I could. Eventually this evolved into a coping mechanism for me, adorning my body and treating it with dignity and getting to be hella, hella femme which I have really enjoyed.

    A few years ago I went through a period of drastic weight loss and came out as genderqueer. Being smaller made it easier for me to be clocked as androgynous/queer (read: masculine) but I took it so far, trying to cram myself into this idea of what genderqueer is supposed to look like and what it’s supposed to weigh. Eventually I went back to stringent non-dieting and high femme-hood. I struggle every day feeling like I don’t get to call myself genderqueer, and avoiding people who treated me markedly better when I was thin and andro. Sometimes I’m afraid to fail at performing my femme-ness in a way that meets the script because I know my fatness means people are going to judge more harshly, and that sucks. Being fat and genderqueer limits the options you can choose without ridicule, that’s for sure. I just wish I had the energy/strength/spoons to get past other people’s responses.

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      well hi there, me. (well, i never quite got to the ‘drastic weight loss’ bit, but yeah.) it’s nice to know that i’m not the only one who’s struggled/is struggling with this.

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    wow guys, your responses have kind of left me speechless and in a little huddle here in the library trying to finish my finals. I think we need to continue this conversation! and take it out into the streets! and the bars! We need to start a body positive queer revolution, in which your size or your body type do not determine how your gender is read! First I should probably go to bed. Thank you all for being so inspiring and wonderful.

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    Wow I am having so many feelings right now.
    “I do not know why fatness flattens gender expression, but I think it has to do with the predetermined expectations of bodies.” I honestly spend more time thinking about this than I think about probably anything else ever. I’m constantly trying to merge what I feel good wearing with how other people read my gender and ugh. This article gets it. Thank you.

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    This is such a gorgeous, perfect article!

    I feel the same things. Bisexual (or something??? leaning towards girls), pretty chubby, not typically feminine. I’ve recently discovered the pleasures of a dress and heels after high school years of black hoodies, but I still feel like I’m dressing up as something else when I go full femme. Maybe because of what you said, that for our society fat doesn’t tend to equal feminine?

    And I haven’t been in too many IRL lesbian spaces, so I’m really worried about how I’ll be perceived. I”m not butch or femme, I’m not gay or straight. I don’t fit society’s idea of feminine, but I still feel girly, and I like that. It’s just my kind of girly. And my kind of sexuality.

    Yeah, sign me up for the next revolution.

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    Thank you so much for this. It gave me goosebumps. I have been connected to this environment a lot throughout my life. This misunderstanding of you as a human being. It feels like you cannot wear whatever you want nor do whatever you feel like without having people sending you vibes. I am very aware of people’s mood and intentions toward me, and sometimes it bothers me so much it is crazy. I guess I just came to the stage where I simply ignore people when walking in the streets or crowded places where I know I don’t know the people around.

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    So much yes – and I really like the way you write too. As a thin person, I’ve had sort of the opposite experience but come to a lot of the same conclusions. I’ve been thinking about how my perceived androgyny has always come as much from my straight slim flatness than my stylistic choices, and how my gendered appearance is so often racialised, or my choices attributed to my culture.

    Here: http://terror-incognita.tumblr.com/post/43141501819/i-was-called-xiansheng-roughly-sir-or

    And here: http://www.peril.com.au/peril/2013/05/02/do-you-dance-like-youre-chinese/

    I might write a longer reflection in response to this. Thank you, I hope to see more of your writing here!

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    Hi Allie,
    So much illumination, so much wisdom.
    Thankyou so much for writing this!
    What stuck out for me was: “To be feminine is to be small and delicate to a fault, so if you are already thick, you are fighting an uphill battle to meet norms that are already elusive.”
    I was 6 foot 1 by the time I was 15 years old, although I was always very thin. I felt masculine, embarrassed and awkward around my much smaller friends, and wore dresses and makeup in an attempt to feminize. I thought no guy would ever like me!
    After I came out as a lesbian I started to come into my own and gain confidence in my look, with a pixie cut and Audrey Heburn-esque wardrobe. (There was no issue with the guys anymore!)
    But two years ago I gained 20kilos (44 pounds) due to medication for bipolar. Suddenly I wasn’t just tall I was big, and unable to stop eating (meds increase appetite). It has been a hideous everyday battle with food and fatness – trying to assimilate myself to being a larger sized woman and my love for the waif thin, kate moss look. I feel like I can’t possibly dress feminine and look sexy anymore. I have tried the butch look – buzz cut, muscle T’s, and (because of what you said about androdyny not fitting over a size 8) that doesn’t seem to work either. I wear heels one day, a flannel the next. I still don’t know what I’m doing!
    But THANKYOU for putting your thoughts down, as so many have echoed.
    To read so many comments and to see that others are here and experiencing the same is more than encouraging. It makes me feel that despite the struggle, perhaps I don’t owe anyone an explanation!
    xx

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      Hi Ellen! You are brave for trying allot of things out, for figuring it out, every day is different in terms of what feels like it “suits you,” there is no right answer. AND YOU DONT OWE ANY ONE AN EXPLANATION! in the words of autostraddle you do you, whatever that means.

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    This really struck a chord with me; ‘I felt I could not live up to the expectations of masculinity that were being imposed onto my body in that space when I projected my femininity non-traditionally’.
    YES!! Perfectly articulated. As a girl with a strong, athletic figure, I find if I dress even a little boyishly I am expected to behave in a traditionally masculine way when in queer spaces- people appear surprised and almost let down when I don’t come onto femme girls or talk in the misogynist manner expected of ‘butches’ in my area. I have been told (in tones of disappointment) that I’m a mix-up; personality too soft and ‘girly’ , appearance too androgynous.
    Fuck ‘em. Great piece.

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    YES! And can we talk about how hard it is to find great button downs for fat women!?! For a long time I thought that my fat curvy body needed to be clothed in dresses that “accentuated my feminine features” instead of rocking out a collared shirt. That expectation gets reinforced every time I go shopping and see only narrow conceptions of femininity in the plus size section.

    I totally agree with the difference in how people treat you, based on whether you’re dressing more butch or femme. Last time I was at a dance party, I found that I had internalized it as well. While dressed in a rad pinstripe suit and hanging out with my more femme friend and posing for a picture, someone yelled “give her a kiss!” I immediately knew she was telling me to give my friend a kiss rather than the other way around. And I acted on it, grabbing her without asking permission, putting my arm around her and kissing her on the cheek. I realized afterwards that I had played into a gender role that I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing if I had been wearing different clothes, and probably wouldn’t have been expected of me if I wore something different.

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