How Fatphobia Impacted My Gender Identity

March 22, 2018

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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?


  • Toni March 22, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    This is an incredible post and a great read. Thank you for sharing your words and your story.

  • iona March 22, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    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.

    • JAprileo March 23, 2018 at 12:17 am

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

  • GypsyClipper March 22, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    Very nice to see someone so able to convert their feelings into words. I look forward to seeing how your new life evolves. Welcome??❤️✌️☮️??

  • Charlotte March 22, 2018 at 7:13 pm

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

    • JAprileo March 23, 2018 at 12:14 am

      Thank you so much. I love reading about what quotes stick out to people.

  • Samantha Pollack March 22, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    This is very cool….good luck with your journey! ✌?

  • Tara March 22, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    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!!

  • Fred McCassey March 22, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    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!

  • Lorri Bell March 23, 2018 at 12:40 am

    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

    • JAprileo March 23, 2018 at 12:58 am

      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

  • Amy Turtle March 23, 2018 at 7:00 am

    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.

    • JAprileo March 23, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      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!

  • Hannah March 23, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    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. ?❤️

    • JAprileo March 23, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks for reading and for the encouragement! I really am so glad to know that sharing my story is helpful!

  • Lisa Bailey March 23, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    You are smart, sweet, strong and beautiful. Always have been. Love you!

    • JAprileo March 23, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Thank you so much Lisa! That means a lot to me.

  • Maleah March 24, 2018 at 2:50 am

    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.

  • Ren March 24, 2018 at 4:15 am

    Thanks for writing this, it was very insightful <3

  • Kayla March 24, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    “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. ❤

  • Jen Sekella March 29, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    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!!

  • Libby March 31, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    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.

    • JAprileo March 31, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      So glad you were able to find some peace with this article! Thanks for reading?

  • Carol April 1, 2018 at 7:19 am

    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. ❤️

    • JAprileo April 1, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • Miriam Heddy April 3, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    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.

  • Lindsay April 15, 2018 at 9:57 am

    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.

    • JAprileo April 15, 2018 at 5:27 pm

      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!

  • Iyse April 16, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Hey J, I read this post last night and came back to comment today. I am definitely going through that process of watching a lot of trans masc/nb youtubers and feeling alone because none of them look like me. Personally, I figured out that something was up with my gender before I really learned to accept my body. So now I feel like I’m stuck between the body positivity movement’s idea that we should accept our body just the way it is, and the trans community’s ideology that changing your body can be super beneficial. I don’t know how to tell bodily discomfort is from internalized fatphobia versus what is dysphoria, and it doesn’t help that I don’t have any fat trans guys I can look at and go #body goals.

  • Bill Fabrey April 17, 2018 at 3:02 am

    Great story—inspiring!

  • M'Jay April 20, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    My gosh, this perspective is totally new to me but suddenly makes so much sense… I have always been a “tomboy” and was overweight for a long time. I dressed quite masculine but I never felt good about my body. Now that I m much thinner, masculine clothes fit me better and I feel so much more comfortable with myself and with my body. I currently identify as non binary. I never did so specifically before. And now that I read your blog I think I can finally explain that for myself .. So thank you so much!!

    It also emphasizes even more that clothing should not only be devided into a men’s and a women’s section so that we can express ourselves more. No matter how big or small we are and no matter what gender we identify as.

  • Rageshree May 4, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    This is a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing your feelings.

  • Elizabeth May 4, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with such honesty and humor. <3

  • Ruth May 4, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Such an interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

  • RonRoen May 4, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Love this! I was feeling down because I have let myself go for the past 2 years. This post has made me felt a little bit more comfortable and let go my mental punishment I put myself in.

  • Lucy May 5, 2018 at 12:53 am

    I am so glad that this came up in my Discover list today! Not being someone who has struggled with sexuality or gender identity, I really appreciate the clear way you have expressed yourself. While, obviously, experiences and feelings are very individual, this has helped me have an insight into at least some of what people may go through. I suppose your explanation takes this from the news/tabloids/reality TV headlines (a lot of which, in my opinion, tend to try to sensationalize the matter) and makes it about the individual.
    I find that whatever our biases or pre-judgments, it’s so much easier to break them down when we see an individual in the anonymous group. I think that your voice will not only help those who are going through similar things, but also the rest of us who, being on the outside, might struggle with understanding.
    Hmmm…Not sure if any of that makes sense…essentially: Thank you.

  • Michelle May 5, 2018 at 1:35 am

    Thank you for writing this, i enjoyed reading, trans is something that there isn’t enough information about, I too have seen numerous accounts of being trapped in the wrong body, and yet I find your story so much more relatable. I have always been a tom boy too, girls were common in my family but boys a rarity, I have from time to time felt my gender as a curse. And I too have struggled to find out where I belong, still am if I’m being honest.

    I have heard of sexuality as less of a switch and more of a spectrum, it seems so strange now that it never occurred to me that gender would be the same, though “normal” society has always had its terms and phrases for those of us who fall outside the usual lines. Let alone to struggle with body image issues and realize how that can blind you to other parts of yourself.

  • LaRena May 6, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you for your honesty! Wouldn’t it be nice if we only could see a persons soul. Instead of judging superfluous thing so.

    • JAprileo May 8, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      thank you, i agree. it would be wonderful if we all could just see one anothers SOUL.

      • LaRena Fry May 30, 2018 at 11:29 pm

        I just wanted you to know what a strong person you are. You have a beautiful soul.

  • lost in Albuquerque May 6, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    Keep up the good work. Learning to do what I want and wear what I want is important to me. I’ve been that skinny person everyone hates and then the curvy girl men whistle at. Then that fat person who could not look in the mirror. I’m learning to love myself and put myself first. If I ever enter a romantic relationship again it will be different. A body is a shell my soul resides in. I want to do my best to keep it healthy. It’s not always possible due to many factors. Best Wishes on your journey

  • Jess Pacheco May 7, 2018 at 12:00 am

    I love that through your words I was able to take the transformation with you – the transformation of your mind. It’s such a powerful experience and I have also recently experienced one regarding guilt and happiness. The moral is that one must authentically be themselves… just unforgivingly be yourself! As you explained – much of the pressure is society imposed and a lot self imposed, but the control is in your thoughts. Congratulations to you and your strength. It’s very inspiring!

    • JAprileo May 8, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      thank you so much. it’s true, being authentically, and unapologetically yourself is a truly beautiful thing!

  • Christina May 8, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for having the courage to share your story. I learned a lot just from reading your article. The world needs to know and understand.

    • JAprileo May 8, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! I really appreciate it 🙂

  • Dawn Shea May 9, 2018 at 4:02 am

    I love that you own your identity: not in a typically checked box! Your heart shines beautifully through your authenticity. Thank you for being authentic and exemplifying the joy in being true to yourself!

    • JAprileo May 9, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      thank you so much for the kind words! and for reading <3

  • Lisa May 9, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Well put. I’m only just starting to understand words like “cis” but you’ve helped me to understand this issue a bit more. Thank you for your courage in writing this and for being brave enough to find your own place in the world. That takes real guts. FYI, for what it’s worth I found your blog via the “Discover” search on WordPress. I love finding new stuff to read that way.

    • JAprileo May 9, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Thank you so much for the support. I love knowing that folks are randomly stumbling across my posts. Thank you for reading!

  • Ceridwen Lee May 9, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    What an incredibly moving story. It’s so vital that voices like yours are starting to be heard, to help us all understand and value our beautiful differences and similarities. I’m glad you found peace and the courage to live your own truth.

    • JAprileo May 9, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      What kind words! Thank you so much for reading and for the support. I’m happy to share my stories with the world.

  • Ash May 10, 2018 at 3:29 am

    This is so amazing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

  • Ben May 10, 2018 at 3:45 am

    This is an incredibly Inspiring post.

  • Sassy May 10, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    ‘Toxic masculinity is gross’ – THIS! Macho masculinity can be such a pain, and it really annoys me that people can’t be who they want to be because of gender roles. I’m glad that you are finding your place in the world. You’re really inspiring!

  • Simisola Omotoso May 10, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I want to be male, and I think I am transitioning there.

  • Marie Harrell May 14, 2018 at 4:13 am

    Stunning courage. Your story gave me goosebumps! Very happy for you and your success in this incredible battle. I will definitely follow you! 🙂 Keep up the good work xxx

  • Katherine Reilly May 16, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    So proud of you! You have a wonderful gift of expressing yourself and in such an inspiring way. As a transgender teacher, I share your thoughts and am happy for you. Take care!

  • Sasé May 17, 2018 at 3:43 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts . I am not alone in my sexuality journey.

  • May May 20, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Thank you! As a cisgender, this post had taught me a lot. Do I have your permission to translate it to Hebrew, so I can share it with non-English readers?

    • JAprileo May 22, 2018 at 11:51 am

      Yes!! Thank you.

  • Christina Bruno May 22, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Makes me so sad that people feel like this!! I used to have some body issues of my own. Though I am not trans, I have a friend who is and dealt with the same issues. We need to stop listening to what society wants and change the stigma. All identities, shapes, and sizes are beautiful and I am glad you are starting to realize that <3

  • Robert Caple June 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Such a brilliant read. Thank you for sharing your story with such brutal honesty. It provides a great insight for people like me who aren’t hugely familiar with trans and non-binary identities and what it really feels like to transition into being your true self. Thank you again.

  • Nicole June 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing your unique perspective on this, we need more voices like yours!

  • Lisa June 14, 2018 at 3:33 am

    WOW, those are some powerful words. You are who you are. And that’s one strong human !! Thanks for sharing your incredible story.

  • Sean Niepman June 18, 2018 at 1:47 am

    I really think it takes brave people to discover who they are and be happy with it!! No one should be ashamed of who they are, especially over something like weight. Be beautiful, be brave, and above all, be bold enough to love yourself no matter what!!

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