Written by Kae Goode.
Photos via Kae Goode.
I was recently in a toxic poly-situationship where my body was erased.
My partner categorized me as obtuse and weaponized my trauma against me, and I was able to see first-hand how he navigated a lighter-skinned and thinner cis body in juxtaposition to mine. Our ideologies were so similar, yet he treated us differently. I battled with his lies, and even tried to shrink myself in hopes he would then treat me with the affection I felt I deserved.
When I finally ended that relationship, I leaned on a friend who allowed me to truly see myself. She helped me recognize the pain and trauma I had collected and internalized from him. She taught me to be honest about the pain he caused, and assured me that it was never my fault. She allowed me to truly see how my liberated body had clashed with his toxic, masculine one. Prior to being with him, I always felt I was fully free in my body, but after being sucked up into his manipulations, that changed. And after he was done with me and my body, I was left alone to pick up the pieces.
Some relationships leave us to fix ourselves solo, and in these moments, we forget how to truly heal, grow, and move on from turbulent relationships. I woke up in tears for weeks, feeling the absence of his body, not being able to call him to discuss day-to-day random moments. I felt so alone in a world I knew didn’t completely accept me or care about my pain. I was fearful that I would never heal, that I was no longer worthy of love or happiness.
I didn’t want to move on, I just wanted to stay where I was, and soon the emptiness turned into a comfortable space — I felt myself falling into a downward spiral and I was okay being there. I didn’t want to heal, I wanted to feel the totality, depth, and weight of my emotions.
Oddly enough, those moments are how I slowly regained my liberation.
Obtaining liberation is to be fully authentic in ways beyond positivity — it means to be open, raw, and aware with yourself first. It is unlearning and unpacking all of the destructive things the world has taught you about yourself and others.
Obtaining liberation is to be fully authentic in ways beyond positivity — it means to be open, raw, and aware with yourself first.
Abandoning the “positive vibes” rhetoric is what my liberation began to look like for me. Positive vibes culture is a tool that gaslights and does more harm to communities than it helps. It tells Black, fat femmes, along with other folx, to erase how they truly feel and mask our feelings with performed joy. Positive vibes culture perpetuates the same oppressive harm black, fat bodies encounter regularly. My liberation needed to be grounded in real emotions — to be okay with the power of my anger, to cry, to scream at the top of my lungs, and just feel the expanse of my reactions. Black women and femmes are forced to navigate our lives without complaint, as examples of resilience. We have to learn what it looks like to fully acknowledge and express our pain and anger because we built strength to support the weight of a world pushing against us. Obtaining liberation is to be fully authentic in ways beyond positivity — it means to be open, raw, and aware with yourself first. It is unlearning and unpacking all of the destructive things the world has taught you about yourself and others.
My liberation needed to be grounded in real emotions — to be okay with the power of my anger, to cry, to scream at the top of my lungs, and just feel the expanse of my reactions.Kae Goode
Black, fat femmes must constantly work to remind ourselves that we are enough. Sometimes our existence and liberation clashes with the unliberated, which can cause us pain and force us to relive our past traumas. Being a trans woman along with being fat and Black, I had to learn that my liberation will confuse and irritate some, as new partners may not know how to deconstruct some of their own internalized “-isms” and “phobias”. It is crucial to have folx who truly see us and who offer support in ways which reinforce our liberation when we become burned out by the world, and by our own romantic or platonic relationships. Though it can be laborious, we have to remind ourselves that we are enough and those who cause us pain don’t deserve our energy, though we are socialized to believe otherwise.
Moving through the world unapologetically about how we refuse to conform our bodies and identities to fit any standard is a key part of our liberation. Moving unapologetically teaches us to radically love ourselves in ways we were never taught. It teaches us to relinquish the access abusive people want to our bodies. Tending to our personal needs, taking care of our mind, body, and soul is essential to our survival. Being unapologetic reminds us that our bodies and experiences don’t deserve to be gaslit nor do they deserve critique. Our bodies deserve tenderness and visibility.
Being unapologetic is self-care.
Our bodies deserve to be loved in ways that are fulfilling and healthy.
Some do come to terms with their acceptance of their bodies with the help of the body positivity movement. This movement taught me how to love my fatness in some ways, but because of the bodies currently being represented in the mainstream body positivity movement, I had to teach myself to radically love all of my intersections, alongside my fatness. Mainstream body positivity movements attempt to teach us fat folx to love our bodies, but erase and dismiss the originators of the fat acceptance movement—Black women and femmes. It doesn’t do us justice and continues to lift our labor, while erasing our bodies. This movement is also cis-centric and binarist, leaving not much room for Fat, Black Trans folx or Fat, Black bodies. Those who need the movement the most are learning to love on our own bodies, despite a lack of visibility in the mainstream.
Searching for, and then finding liberation is a very arduous task, especially when you inhabit a body which is in direct opposition to varying oppressions. People with non-normative bodies are taught to hate ourselves and attempt to conform to white supremacist, patriarchal, cis, hetero-centric standards of society to receive more access, love, and resources. Liberation is a journey full of constant deconstruction of these ideas. We must unlearn what we were taught—especially Black, Fat women and femmes who must affirm to ourselves that we are worthy. We must say “fuck conformity” and choose to love ourselves first. Every day is a battle for survival to be liberated in a world that wants to kill you. You have to remember that your body does not have to exist in the realm of white supremacist ideals to be deserving of love.
We must say “fuck conformity” and choose to love ourselves first.
The world tells us companionship validates our bodies and experiences, and that we only become enough when someone has the audacity to love our liberated selves. The way in which we find liberation is through decolonial ideas of gender and beauty.
We have to unpack and unlearn all we were taught about affection. In turn, we too can become liberated in love.
Kae Goode is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and organizer. Kae is a New Jersey native who moved to Atlanta to further her education and build community in QTPOC spaces. She found her passion for activism during her time navigating her undergraduate career where she battled with sexism, racism, misogynoir and transphobia. Kae currently centers her art and activism around gender, sexuality, fatness, blackness, and class.