How Fatphobia Impacted My Gender Identity

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Let’s get real vulnerable and talk about something intimate – gender. I want to talk about how fatphobia and oppression affected my gender discovery.

Trapped in the wrong body?

The media does a great job of showing one trans story line.

Trans characters in media are always presented as being “trapped in the wrong body,” as a kid. I believe that is the story for many trans folks. It also happens to be the most digestible narrative for the cisgender majority. Which leaves very little room for other stories.

Plot twist! Many people’s journey’s are very different than that.

Fat first, gender second

When you live in a fatphobic world that forces you to distance yourself from your body all of your life, you may not be super in touch with or think about gender.

I was always the fat kid. I did my best to separate myself from my body. I’d avoid situations that would remind me I lived in a world that wasn’t made for me. I avoided mirrors a lot as a teenager. I quit sports. When it came to shoes, I always made sure I had slip ons available so that I wouldn’t have to struggle to bend down and tie them in public. I worked my way around having to participate in gym class when it came time for the swimming session. I wanted to avoid ridicule at all costs.

Being a “tomboy,” I finally felt comfortable wearing “men’s” clothing as a teen. Gender dysphoria came up but I didn’t understand the feelings. I was too preoccupied with trying to shrink myself to explore any feelings about gender. I was super uncomfortable in my skin. But I’d shove any feelings about gender way deep down below the shame of my fat body.

It was like going to war every day with the fatphobic world only to come home at night and be at war with myself. I distanced myself from my fat body and any feelings attached to how I really wanted to present myself, for moments of peace. For survival.

Body love… and hate

In my early 20’s I found body positivity. I started seeing images of fat bodies being associated with love, pride, and beauty. I finally found positive representation of bodies that looked like my own and sought out even more. I began seeing my fatness differently.

The peace I felt about the shape and size of my body allowed me the space to start experimenting with my gender. I found myself seeking representation of trans men on YouTube.

Every six months or so I would spend hours watching time lapses of transition updates from these beautiful thin white masculine dudes. I’d then have a complete meltdown and shove those feelings back into the box they came from. I knew my fat body would never look like that.

Watch 12 videos. Panic. Cry. Sit in the dysphoria. Hate every inch of my fat body for not allowing me the freedom to dream. Are there fat trans men? Do fat trans people exist?

It sounds strange now, to admit that I felt safer dealing with the extreme dysphoria rather than living authentically. But I didn’t know what was authentic to me. I didn’t know where I belonged. Even at my most accepting of my fat body, my trans identity still felt shaky. I felt so unsure of the effects of medical transition and if that was something I really wanted. Of course this made me question…

Am I Really Trans Enough?

So many trans people feel obligated to choose one gender in the binary and then medically transition. Which can be super harmful for people who are still trying to figure out where they fit. Toxic masculinity is gross and yet I think a lot of us masculine of center folks feel pressure to conform. And perform. That didn’t feel quite right for me. This is when I discovered non-binary identities.

I started a new job where queer identities were celebrated and it allowed me to play around with my pronouns. I experimented with neutral pronouns (they/them) and felt something shocking – relief. Finally, I found where I belonged. And that just happened to be somewhere in the grey.

Living outside the binary

As I start exposing myself to different political and social climates – or rather – expose them to me, I’m learning how hard it is to explain something I don’t understand myself. I’m not trapped in the wrong body. This body is my home and I’m finally happy to live here. My experience with my fat body and learning how to navigate the world with it led me to discover my gender.

So, I’m non-binary. AND SUPER HAPPY!

I’m a masculine person who wears a bra every day. I hang with the boys at the barbershop after buying jeans from a women’s clothing store. I’m loving and strong. I know how to express my boundaries. I’m smart. And funny. And I love daydreaming about what my wedding will be like. None of these things are exclusively male or female – and neither am I.

I want us all to feel free to look within ourselves and find our truth. I want us all to feel beautiful and connected to our authenticity so we can explore and evolve. All of our journies have different intersections. What are yours?

28 Comments

  1. love this so much! i think the intersection between fat bodies and trans bodies is so complex and should definitely be talked about more. for me, fat positivity came long before i understood i was feeling dysphoria. this idea that i should love my body despite society was so forefront in all the media i was consuming that it was hard to consider otherwise. with dysphoria playing into this it can be really hard to understand which parts of your body do you hate because you are ‘supposed to’ and which parts /really/ don’t feel like you. the trans community pushes so hard that it is OKAY to want to change your body to better suit you while fat positive communities say you should accept your body and love it as is. these two messages have been SUPER helpful throughout my life but also very conflicting.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. These are some really interesting points. Thank you for reading and for your support<3

  2. “Finally, I found where I belonged. And that just happened to be somewhere in the grey.” – This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

  3. This is so beautiful! I’m so happy that you’ve been able to find your place, and to give hope to the nonbinary people that may have been feeling similarly. I know body dysmorphia is mentioned a lot in trans context but is often glossed over for those who don’t want to medically alter the bodies they have themselves – even cis people who just happen to be disconnected from their bodies like you were in the beginning. It’s nice to have such a positive role model for underrepresented groups like yours!!

  4. Thank you for sharing, J! It’s wonderful that you’re showing folks a different path and that it’s a good path that makes tou happy and there’s no reason society can’t accept it! My own path is very traditional; male, white, cis, hetero, so no show here, but happy that society is accepting folks of all paths. I figure the more diverse perspectives we have, the quicker those broad range of perspectives are going to make those brilliant deductions that make all of our lives easier. Those connections don’t happen without diversity, so I’m really just a selfish ally! 😜. Thanks again and hope to see and read more soon! All my best!

  5. I have to admit as a girl in her 50’s, the gray area is very difficult for me to understand. I love the way you explained it. We all do have a journey and I obviously dont have it all fiqured out, but I want to learn. Thank you for your amazing perspective as I honestly thought binary was only a computer term (haha). Hugs

    • I’m so thankful for people like you! I get that its super hard for some folks to understand but your willingness to listen and learn is HUGE. Your support means a lot to people like me. Thank you <3

  6. Love this post! Brought tears to my eyes and also made me think about how fatphobia has influenced my exploration of gender identity and expression throughout my life. Still unpacking that but that’s what’s so great about your writing. Also, thanks for acknowledging (on Insta) the exceptionally ridiculous beauty standards fat femmes are held up to.

    • Absolutely! I feel that its important to acknowledge my masculine privilege and I want to use that to bring attention to all kinds of issues in the community. Im so glad you found my story thought provoking. Thank you for the support!

  7. This is so close to my own story. Thank you so much for publishing your experiences!! Representation is so scarce, and this matters so much. 👍❤️

  8. Thank you for this. Thank you for taking the risk and adding your voice to the conversation so that someone else can see a person that looks like them and feels like them. So that they can live true to themselves. So that we can realize that the human condition is a spectrum of gender, sexuality, color, size, neurology, and ability. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

  9. “I experimented with neutral pronouns (they/them) and felt something shocking – relief. Finally, I found where I belonged.”
    This made my heart SO happy to read. Thank you for sharing your journey, I know it can be hard but it is so inspiring. Someone I know recently discovered his gender identity and struggled with some similar issues of dysphoria and also felt that they didn’t fit into the “typical” trans story. This is an excellent read and I’ll most definitely be sharing it with him and with everyone I know. Thank you for being you. ❤

  10. This is wonderful. I understand the desire to hide, the shame, etc. But now I feel like I better understand what “non binary” means and I really appreciate you sharing your story. Keep it up!!

  11. I’m so grateful for this article. It opens up a lot of confusions that I had about the way I identify.
    I didn’t realize that I was queer until after I started down a path of body love and acceptance. They’re completely related and I had no idea.
    As a teen I never had crushes on boys and I always thought it was just because I didn’t believe they’d ever be into me because I was fat. Now, though… I can clearly see that it’s because I just didn’t have crushes on boys.

  12. Your story has opened my eyes and like you I don’t fit in a tidy box. Some of us are complex people, who don’t fit into the mold of society. I love reading your postings and I feel that you are a strong, wonderful, bright light who is bringing something special into our lives. ❤️

  13. Over a decade ago, I wrote something on LJ to try to capture something of the way being fat in a fat-hating society was dysphoria-inducing in ways that f*cked with gender identity.

    I was then attacked by a number of transwomen who were appalled that I was “coopting” dysphoria & making comparisons that might minimize the seriousness of gender dysphoria. The idea that the two are inter-related & contingent in many bodies seemed obvious to me.

    We’re still a long way from being able to navigate this. But this is a great piece.

  14. Great post. Fyi though, ads for keto diet were all throughout it. Understand that you likely can’t control what is advertised but it was a little troubling to keep having the narrative interrupted by diet ads.

    • Oh! I have restrictions on my site so that these kinds of ads do not run. If you see ads related to health, wellness, or dieting please hit the “Report” button at the top corner of the ad. Thank you for the heads up!

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