Middle school is a terrible time for everyone, I think, and it's especially terrible for a plus-size girl questioning her sexuality. Wanting boys to like her, wanting to look and dress like the skinny girls, wanting to be known as something other than the "nerdy, quiet" girl, and wanting the strength not to burst into tears when her best friend's boyfriend calls her a "fat lesbian." You know, I look back on middle school as the most uncomfortable years of my life, but I suppose the journey into unpacking my sense of femininity and my sexuality had to start somewhere.
Any angle into this is as good as the next, so let's start with some things that I absolutely love. I love the color pink. I love sparkly things. I love my long, curly hair. I love makeup. I love dresses. I love dresses with flowers on them. I love skirts with flowers on them. I love cats. I love tattoos. I love cupcakes. I love frozen yogurt. I love babies. I love unicorns. I love Pinterest. I love Instagram. I love girl bands. I love girls. I love women. I love driving. I love singing. I love theatre. I love studying. I love reading. I love writing. I love researching. I love blogging. I love wine. I love whiskey. I love teaching. I love dancing. I love laughing. I love my sense of humor. I love my personality. I love my body. I love my courage. I love my passion. I love my ambition. I love my sensitivity. I love my feminism. I love my bisexuality. I love my sense of loyalty. I love my wariness. I love my fearfulness.
If you asked middle school me what I loved about myself I think I would've shyly said, "I don't know," and done anything in my power to avoid the question. I hated being plus-size. I hated being attracted to women. I felt like I was never going to be seen as a the fun-loving, loyal, feminine young woman that I was becoming if people knew me as these "awful" things. I grew up under the impression that being "fat" and being "queer" (words that I choose to reclaim but understand that for many convey harmful connotations) constituted the antithesis of being feminine. I knew in my heart that I was all three, but I felt that I needed to renounce the "stigmatized" parts of myself in order to have my sense of gender expression go unquestioned.
These days I'm still a work in progress, but I feel like I have a voice and a generally positive self-image. There are still days when those timeless insecurities resurface. Like, when I'm at a party and some boy calls me a "fat bitch," or when someone on Tinder sees "bisexual" in my profile and immediately figures it's okay to ask for a threesome (ATTENTION non-bisexual/pansexual people: please, for the love of all things holy, stop asking us for threesomes). But here's what many strong women who I admire have helped me to learn. Femininity is powerful. In sensitivity, maternity and kindness there is not weakness or fragility but rather mind-blowing levels of strength. My queerness does not negate this femininity. My fatness does not negate this femininity. Rather, they make my femininity something unique, something to be admired, something different, something beautiful, something nuanced. This is the view of myself I carry into the future. This is the feminine strength that I'll wear on graduation day, while I'm writing my thesis, while I'm getting married, while I'm raising my children and while I'm laid to rest.
I wouldn't trade any of it for the image of a woman sweet middle school me craved to attain. That's never who I was and never who I was meant to be.