Having Sex When Your Partner Is The Same Gender, But A Different Size

I thought I was ashamed of my body because the straight world told me to be. But it wasn't that simple.

The first time I wore a crop top was at the 2016 Toronto Dyke March. I’d found the tube of rosy pink sequins at a thrift shop, and I wore it with a pair of jorts hiked up to my waist, gold glitter smeared across my cheeks.

I marched down the street with the strip of my stomach that had never before been touched by the sun fully bared. The only thing separating that outfit from any other I might have worn was three or four measly inches of exposed skin — but you have to understand the weight of those inches.

I don’t have a body that’s supposed to wear crop tops. Your body shouldn’t limit your fashion choices, of course, but I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

I’m fat. Like, in a size 22 kind of way. Over the years, my relationship with my body — along with my weight and how I take care of myself — has had its ups and downs. Either I was a curvy goddess or absolutely everything a woman wasn’t supposed to be. Fat women aren’t allowed to be neutral about our bodies. We embrace or belittle, eat or starve — and everyone knows what the general societal preference is in that dichotomy.

So, for me, crop tops are political. They’re rebellion, liberation. A pale and pudgy fuck-you to the beauty standards I’m exhausted of being exhausted by. And it’s only at the Dyke March that I felt okay to do it.

When I stopped feeling ashamed of my queerness, I thought I would stop feeling ashamed of my body at the same time.

I came out at 23 after years of shame surrounding my feelings about women. I’d spent those years dating men, experiencing the sort of body shame only heteronormative romance can bring. Was I skinny enough to date? Did he only like me because he has a fat girl fetish?

When I stopped feeling ashamed of my queerness, I thought I would stop feeling ashamed of my body at the same time. Part of if it was my sudden freedom from the male gaze. In her new self-released comedy special, Rape Jokes, Cameron Esposito talks about coming out and realizing that being gay meant upending the whole way women are valued.

When you are raised female, when you are cultured female, the thing that you are valued for, the thing that you are taught you are valued for is your fuckability. That’s it.

So I was also realizing that the whole system, the system set up to evaluate whether or not I have value, I was going to be opting out of for the rest of my life, because of the person that I was.

She concludes that it’s a confusing thing to manage, especially when you’re young and isolated in your queerness. And that’s true — but it’s also freeing. That system is a piece of shit and you get to turn your back on it. You get to define your value. It’s one of the many gifts queerness brought me.

So there I was, a fresh baby gay, convinced that I’d evolved beyond hating my body just because the straight world told me to. But I was wrong.

When I first started having sex with women, one of the first things that hit me — other than that I should’ve done this sooner, because wow — was how obsessed I was with other women’s bodies.

All women are, to some extent, aren’t we? But it’s different when you’re up close and intimate, when you can run your hands up and down every curve and plane. The easy vulnerability of a naked woman lounging on a tousled bed next to you after sex is beautiful in a way I had no idea to expect.

The first few women I was with had bodies like mine — large and fleshy and luxurious. Being with them, as close as you can be physically with another person, gave me a new appreciation of my own body. If I could look at and touch these women with fondness and attraction and lust, then I believed they could do the same with me.

There’s something magical in that — being two women whose bodies are considered too much, too undisciplined, too far outside the accepted norm, pleasuring one another for the sake of pleasure itself. That’s a revolution in a bed, as far as I’m concerned.

Then, I met Amanda.

Amanda messaged me first on OkCupid four years ago. Now, she says she doesn’t remember who bit the bullet, but I know it was her, because I would have never dared.

If I could look and touch these women with fondness and attraction and lust, then I believed they could do the same with me.

Amanda was hot the way the hottest girl in your high school class was hot. One of her profile pictures was her in a bodysuit for a Lara Croft Halloween costume. I thought she’d made a mistake or was a bot, but no — she messaged me, and she wanted to get dinner.

She was a few minutes late to our first date, and it felt like hell. The horrible thought that ran through my mind was that she’d reviewed my photos again and changed her mind. But then she arrived.

It was a good date. A great date, even. We got tipsy on cocktails and Amaro aperitifs, and when we said goodbye I chickened out and hugged her, still afraid she’d realized her mistake. On the cab ride home I texted her and said I’d wished I’d kissed her. She agreed.

The first time we had sex it was sweaty, and sensual, and hot. But we weren’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 I’d never asked for.

The way another woman’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 — the type of shit hot girls do, I thought. And I, in that moment, did not feel like a hot girl.

I kept thinking she’d made a mistake, like she was suddenly going to realize she’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 hadn’t looked at me the whole time we were in bed.

I didn’t just feel like crap about my body, but that I’d let any bit of hetero beauty norms invade my sex life. Not only was I tearing apart my own body, which I’d been so inspired to love all over again — 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.

Wasn’t I supposed to be done with this shit?

If I’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 there’s no moral value assigned to amounts of flesh, where thinness isn’t always a virtue. Where we all just love and fuck each other and bask in our liberation.

Cute, right?

But that’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 aren’t so different, really. Both have been enforced in every piece of media, every movie, every TV show I’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.

Having a nonstandard body was beautiful, because the way I loved wasn’t the standard either.

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 didn’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 we’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 I’m smaller or larger than them — better or worse, hotter or notter. That’s the order we’ve been taught to uphold.

But those doubts all faded, with time, with community, and with a hell of a lot of work on loving myself. It would have been super nice if coming out of the closet was enough to fix everything and shed all that shame. But it didn’t, and I should’ve known it wouldn’t.

So even though I could proudly walk in the middle of the street in a shiny crop top, even though coming out liberated my body, my queerness didn’t save me from my insecurities. And that’s okay.

Over time, I got better at loving both my queerness and my body, transferring the joy I felt on the street at that first Dyke March in 2016 into joy in bed. There was no magical formula for it, but immersing myself in a queer community was instrumental. I surrounded myself with hard femmes and soft butches, glittering genderqueer dates and androgynous pals. Their bodies came in every size and every gender presentation, and I found a place where my body fit exactly as it was.

I began to appreciate the way nails leave half-moon impressions in my dimply thighs, and how my hips look spilling out of lingerie, and how having a nonstandard body was beautiful, because the way I loved wasn’t the standard either.

Over the years I’ve taken all kinds of women to bed, and while the urge to pick myself apart is still there, it’s quieter. Amanda wasn’t the last thin girl I slept with. And three years after an amicable split we actually got back together, as lesbians are wont to do.

The first night together again in her dark bedroom, my familiar fears crept back. I still wondered if she could want a fat girl. But I pushed those worries aside.

We’ve been back together for over a year now, and at 28, I’m the fattest and gayest I’ve ever been. The difference these days is when those thoughts come back, when I feel myself comparing our bodies, I forgive myself. For now, that’s enough.

And this year, when I asked Amanda what I should wear for Pride, she’s the one who suggested a crop top. ●

This essay is part of a series about sex in this complicated cultural moment.

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