The first time we had sex it was sweaty, and sensual, and hot. But we werenвЂ™t alone. Despite all my one-woman pride parade confidence, the male gaze had slipped back into the bedroom, as if for a horrible threesome IвЂ™d never asked for.
The way another womanвЂ™s body mirrored my own had brought me a sense of comfort before, but here I was with a woman more conventionally attractive than me. By which, of course, I mean she was much thinner. I remember her on top of me. My thumbs ran along her hip bones, whereas mine were buried under flesh and fat. Her breasts were round and pert, but mine were unruly, drooping with weight. Her smooth, flat stomach slid on top of my rolls. She had a little pale heart on her hip, a mark left by a sticker when she went tanning вЂ” the type of shit hot girls do, I thought. And I, in that moment, did not feel like a hot girl.
I kept thinking sheвЂ™d made a mistake, like she was suddenly going to realize sheвЂ™d brought a fat person home and kindly ask me to leave. I remember fighting the urge to cover my stomach with a pillow on the way to the bathroom, as if she hadnвЂ™t looked at me the whole time we were in bed. I didnвЂ™t just feel like crap about my body, but that IвЂ™d let any bit of hetero beauty norms invade my sex life. Not only was I tearing apart my own body, which IвЂ™d been so inspired to love all over again вЂ” I was reducing the woman I was with to nothing more than a collection of parts. In that dark place, all we were was two bodies ripe for comparison. It was scary how easy it was to judge myself against her, even in the middle of getting each other off.
WasnвЂ™t I supposed to be done with this shit?
If IвЂ™d had some self-compassion at the time, I could have remembered that none of this is my fault. Baby gay me had convinced myself, so sweetly, that embracing my queerness would propel me into some parallel universe where bodies are just bodies. Where thereвЂ™s no moral value assigned to amounts of flesh, where thinness isnвЂ™t always a virtue. Where we all just love and fuck each other and bask in our liberation.
But thatвЂ™s not the world we live in. The same beauty norms that had dragged me through a lifetime of self-esteem yo-yoing, and disordered eating, and shame no one deserves followed me right out of the closet. I was taught to value thinness the same way I was taught to value straightness. The two arenвЂ™t so different, really. Both have been enforced in every piece of media, every movie, every TV show IвЂ™ve consumed since I was a kid, from the time I saw the first of many Disney princesses with a waist thinner than her head. You could be dumb, or unkind, or boring, or unfunny, but none of that really mattered as long as you were thin and straight.
As a teenager, I was convinced I was choosing to be fat because I was too weak, too undisciplined to be thin. And I was convinced that as long as I kept choosing men, I would never have to deal with how very gay I was. Neither of these things was truly a choice, but the world around me convinced me that I was fully in control of both things.
These rules and assumptions didnвЂ™t just apply to me, but to every other woman. We all exist on a value spectrum: the thinner and straighter, the better. On one end is the perfect partner, the perfect daughter, the perfect woman. And weвЂ™re constantly assessing each other to figure out where we fall on that spectrum, whether we want to or not. To this day I still fight the need to look at other fat women and wonder whether IвЂ™m smaller or larger than them вЂ” better or worse, hotter or notter. ThatвЂ™s the order weвЂ™ve been taught to uphold.