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Fat Experiences / Nonbinary

The Many Roadblocks to Loving My Fat Trans Body

"I told myself that the only way my identity could be valid was to achieve androgyny, and the ultimate way to reach that goal was through thinness."

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Written by Jessie Nelson.
Art by Irene Kattou.

Being fat is hard enough in our society, but being a fat, queer transperson has caused me to think about and be aware of my own body in ways that I never had to before I came out. I was always larger than most people around me – “big-boned,” as my mom used to say to try and make me feel better. I never actually thought I was that big, though. In my head, I was “average-sized” (whatever that’s supposed to look like), and I believed as much until I really looked in the mirror one day and was confronted with the reality of my figure.

I told myself that the only way my identity could be valid was to achieve androgyny, and the ultimate way to reach that goal was through thinness.

When I first came out as genderqueer, I felt excited about this new affirming identity and the possibilities of queering my sense of style and my whole personhood. The feeling lasted until I stepped into a dressing room and learned that nothing fit like I dreamed it would. My hips were too large to hide in baggy clothes, and my breasts and stomach had a vendetta against men’s button-down shirts. At first, this was heartbreaking — my body had betrayed me yet again.

It was also at this time that I started getting into TikTok and following several other trans, non-binary, and queer folx sharing their experiences of trans and queer joy for people like me to hear. With a body like mine, however, how could I possibly achieve the thin and androgynous body ideals that they were showing me?

Unfortunately, therein was the problem. I told myself that the only way my identity could be valid was to achieve androgyny, and the ultimate way to reach that goal was through thinness. After all, who would believe I was non-binary with a body so feminine that it strained against the efforts I made to conceal it in men’s clothes?

At various points across time and cultures, however, fatness — just like being transgender or Two-Spirit — has been praised and uplifted.

I also quickly realized that though TikTok was a place to see success stories of trans and non-binary people thriving, it also had the power to sink me down into another hole of self-loathing because I never saw anyone who looked like me. It felt as though fat transpeople and fat non-binary people simply didn’t exist. Going onto other platforms and searching for any fat representation was equally difficult — and don’t get me started on the issue of trying to find fashion tips for fat transbodies.

When talking about fatphobia and the fact that our socioculturally-perceived ideal body size is small and thin, we also have to talk about these standards’ roots in white supremacy. White supremacy, as it sits within the larger system of colonialism, seeks to dehumanize and oppress people through the creation of value-laden categories. We can observe this every day through racism, the gender binary, and heterosexism.

As a fat non-binary person, my path to decolonizing myself and my own relationship to my body and my identity has involved recognizing and allowing myself to feel joyful about the fact that my gender is just as large and expansive as my body is.

At various points across time and cultures, however, fatness — just like being transgender or Two-Spirit — has been praised and uplifted. It is white supremacy and colonial beauty standards that have told us we are not human enough because we are fat. Ultimately, this drive for thinness has major consequences on fat transpeople’s ability to live fulfilling lives. The narrative that we should not exist, or that our existence makes people uncomfortable, is everywhere.

Fat joy is often considered a “promotion of unhealthy lifestyles” or a form of “laziness.” We are told that we must want to kill the bodies that we live in, simply because we live in them. Similarly, trans/non-binary joy creates discomfort in the masses because we are denying the strict boxes forced onto so many of us. I have often felt this tug of my body and my identity being “too much” for other people, whilst at the same time never being enough.

What I now believe is that neither my queerness nor my transness can be determined by my appearance, my clothes, or my body shape.

As a fat non-binary person, my path to decolonizing myself and my own relationship to my body and my identity has involved recognizing and allowing myself to feel joyful about the fact that my gender is just as large and expansive as my body is. There are no boxes large enough to contain me. I have come to embrace being “too much” for small people. I have also learned to be critical of the limited representations of trans and non-binary bodies and to understand the larger forces at work that whisper the lies that I am not enough or too much.

We know that TikTok and many other social media platforms silence the voices of fat and BIPOC transpeople — which means that we have to work all the harder to support those creators and find empowering representation. This includes challenging one another about our beliefs around fatness, and how we view fat bodies — questioning whether we look at them with pity, disgust, or fetishization.

What I now believe is that neither my queerness nor my transness can be determined by my appearance, my clothes, or my body shape. I have slowly grown to have a better relationship with my body, too. I can’t say that we are best friends yet, but I listen to it and I appreciate it more every day.


About the Author

Jessie (they/them) is a 26-year old genderqueer graduate student studying Counseling Psychology at New Mexico State University. Their particular interests are spirituality, trans and nonbinary issues, and fat experiences.


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