Editor’s Note: This essay mentions sexual assault.
Fat people aren’t supposed to acknowledge our bodies — we’re supposed to apologize for them. The decadent swelling, ham-fisted lack of self-control. The strain we’re allegedly putting on the environment and our employers and the rest of society. We’re certainly not supposed to have sex or even talk about it, and when someone throws us a pity fuck, keeps us hidden from their friends or only dates fat people at night, we’re supposed to be grateful that someone would want us, no matter how dehumanizing and abusive a relationship can become.
My previous relationship was violent and lonely. I was a Fleshlight whose feelings — and whose no — didn’t matter.
I’m not going to write about the gory details of being assaulted, and honestly, I’m tired of rehashing the worst moments of my life. Instead, I’m documenting this journey to becoming: to better understanding my queerness, my transness and my femme.
What I will say is that nobody tells you how much grieving is involved in being assaulted. The loss of safety, body, the days and months and years washed down the drain. After I left my rapist, I wanted to be someone different, to put as much distance between who I’d been and who I’d been forced to become. For a summer, I frequented bars with my friends, flirting with men I wasn’t interested in, hooking up with others for disappointing, drunken, painfully heterosexual sex. I wasn’t relishing in sexuality or autonomy or body; I just couldn’t handle the thought of my last sexual experience being so violent. I held numerous faceless men, hopeful that I could escape myself for a while.
I never did fully escape myself. None of us can. But I did give up on trying to bury myself.
Like many young Midwestern homosexuals, I repressed everything about myself that I’d learned was deviant. I’ve lost so much time catering to others. Always triple-checking the room, only concerning myself with how everyone else felt over how I did.
This isn’t the part of the essay where I sit backwards in a chair, my eyes soft and warm with understanding and after-school-special, explaining that I just learned to love myself and celebrate my body. I changed because I had to; being assaulted destroyed everything I was. In the fog of rage and grief and debilitating PTSD, I lost my ability to hold everyone else’s feelings because I couldn’t even hold my own. I had to figure out what it meant to reconnect with a body I’d always been afraid of.
It was hard as fuck. It’s still hard. I’ve had to accept that survival isn’t a linear process or even one with an ending. It’s not something I can run away from or fuck my way to; the only way to survive grief is to go through it, to feel every worst thing every time.
But through the grim, endless journey of my Saturn return and feeling every feeling and learning how to be present, I started to believe that I might be just as deserving of space and tenderness and love as anyone else.
I told people what I wanted. I spoke up when I felt insecure in a relationship. I wrote about it. I breathed deeply and took my medication and went to therapy, but it was connecting with other queer, nonbinary and fat people that made the most difference.
Dating another fat person is incredible. I don’t need to explain anything. Don’t have to figure out how best to break the news to a partner that I will be fat when they take me to meet their friends and family, when we go out to eat, when we take photos. He rages with me when a doctor still recommends bariatric surgery after my blood work comes back flawless, understands the hollowness of body positivity that floats across Instagram hashtags, knows that sometimes you just need to spend the whole weekend indoors with pizza and Star Trek. There is nothing in despite of with his love — it just is.
It’s surreal to be in a relationship with someone who actually likes me, not just my ability to make them cum or cook them breakfast or be their punching bag. For so long, I put up with the fetishization and the abuse because it was expected of me. Growing up, everything I did was criticized, and my body was the most frequent target. I didn’t realize that being fat was wrong until others declared it, and I spent decades trying to make up for it.
But in the aftermath of sexual assault, in rebuilding my life and sense of self with a strong support system of other fat, queer, Black people, I’ve grown tired of apologizing for my fatness, my queerness, my Blackness, my femme. I can’t spend any more energy chasing after people who’ll never love me, and I can’t agonize over the opinions of people I wouldn’t even take a movie recommendation from.
It’s not perfect. I’m still struggling with PTSD, still have bad days. But things don’t feel so bottomless. The abuse I weathered for years seems so far away now; it’s less painful to find myself in this body now, to claim this as my body.
So, these days — with retinol firmly in my skincare regimen, the inability to digest lactose whenever I want it and my very real excitement over getting a new vacuum cleaner — I’m finally having sex that’s fun and fulfilling, not an item to check off my to-do list or laying back and waiting until it’s over. I’m not angling to hide my belly, worrying about my unshaven legs. Because for the first time, I get to bring my whole self, not just whatever cishet girl cosplay my previous partners felt most comfortable with. I’m in love with a person who sees me, all of me, and we’re enjoying our fattest lives together. And I’m not going to apologize for any of it.