As women, we are constantly told that our worth lies in whether men find us attractive or not.
You can’t be too tall, your man will feel insecure. You can’t be too short, you’ll look like a child beside him, and he doesn’t want to be mistaken for your dad! You can’t be too dark, you can’t be too ugly. Wax your legs, shave your pits, do not have stray hair on your face.
We have so many rules in place to be attractive to men. But the most important of them has been this: do not be fat. No matter what you do, you cannot be fat.
Fat women are looked at with disgust, fear, and rage. Never love, never adoration.
So, of course, it’s no surprise that we begin to hate ourselves. That we begin to internalise the thought that unless we are the perfect size, the perfect proportions, we do not deserve to be loved. It is a belief that I have carried around for years, and it has been reinforced by shitty boyfriends who have told me over and over again that I need to join a gym, that I need to lose weight before they introduce me to their friends.
As a result, when I first realised I was into women as well, I thought they would not want me either.
I started gaining weight and becoming fat around the same time as I started realising that I like women. A fat 12-year-old, all alone in a girls’ school she had just joined, realising that she likes women. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?
As a woman who likes men, you are constantly told that men won’t ever love you back unless you lose some of that weight. No man wants to have a fat girlfriend or a fat wife. So it made sense to my baby gay mind that queer women would be affected by that cis-het male gaze as well. After all, all the girls in the several schools I studied in bullied me for my weight.
What I did not realise was, just like how I loved women, of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, women loved back in that same way. Of course, there will always be women who shame other women for their size, their height, and so many other physical attributes, but I am yet to meet a single queer woman like that.
I do realise that I am privileged in this. As a cis-woman, my body is not seen with the same lens as a trans woman. Trans women would not feel the same freedom in their bodies in queer spaces because of Trans Exclusionary Rad-Fems (TERFs). TERFs claim to be feminists who say that trans women are not real women, simply because their genitals are different. This is no different from the patriarchal view of woman-hood which reduces us to our genitals and objectifies us. Trans women, unfortunately, face a lot of transphobia within the queer community itself because of these inaccurate and dangerous views held by many, despite the fact that they have done the most for queer communities.
The first time I was naked with a woman, she asked me to sit in front of her. I was awkward and tried to hide my body. My rolls, my scars, my body hair. She held me until I stopped fidgeting and told me I was beautiful. I did not believe her at all. Wasn’t I always told that I have to be smaller to be worthy of love, to be considered beautiful?
I have spent a couple years thinking about that woman. She and I never became a thing. We never dated. We hooked up a couple times, with our fat bodies in all their naked glory. We kissed each other tenderly, and we shared cigarettes after. Not once did she make me feel like I wasn’t worthy. Not once did she make me feel unattractive. She was the first person in my life who looked at me like I was beautiful. Not sexy, not fetishised the way men do. But beautiful.
I have since then become a part of several online communities for queer women. Women with short pixie cuts in wild colours. Tall women who would make me feel like a dwarf if I were to stand next to them. Muscular women who could snap my neck with one twist of their arm. Women who are small. Women who are the same size as me. Women who are bigger than me. And the amount of love and positivity I have seen there for all these women fills me up with warmth. It fills me up with hope.
I have not dated a woman yet, but I want to. I know I will never be shamed for my weight. I know she will support me if I tell her I want to shave my head. I know she will never ask me to wax my legs, or get my eyebrows done. I know she will never tell me to join a gym before I can meet her friends. She won’t look at me and say “Oh I wish you were taller” or “Why can’t you just lose some weight, you would be perfect if you were a couple sizes smaller.”
Being a woman who loves other women, I realised that women look at me with the same tender gaze I look at them with. And that, more than anything, has made me feel at peace with my body. I hope to one day love it.