Fat, Queer, NonBinary, and Clothed.
Finding clothing while fat, queer, and nonbinary is regularly difficult and often a drain on my self esteem. In my experience, when overt femininity fails (if stores even try femininity or bright colors for plus size fashion), the clothing feels like a circus tent and I feel like nothing short of a hippo. Of course, that’s if I’m lucky enough to find anything in my size because fat women are still being ignored by fashion companies or not actually being represented in the models showing off clothes. (Apparently plus size in the fashion industry can start at a size eight ?!? and seeing anyone who fits a size 20 or above is very difficult…)
But I’m not the only one to feel shame or overwhelmed with shopping for new clothes – one writer described their experience as:
Being fat is not easy because there is too much baggage you carry with yourself and one of the worst things is shopping for clothes.
The shopping struggle is almost always emotionally overwhelming with an incredulous, inevitable thought that either nothing will fit or whatever fits will look repulsive.
When I go shopping as a fat person, I hear again all of the awful things people have said to me or about fat people. I remember being called “fatty” on the street or all the times my family has been “concerned” for me and actually said something awful. I think about all the negative stereotypes or things said about fat people in the media and usually I leave a store with more tears and self loathing than clothing.
Being nonbinary, queer, and fat all at the same time makes it difficult to shop because there’e not much clothing that’s truly meant for me. Androgyny seems like it would be the solution to some of my problems but in women, it has often come to be an exceptionally narrow and exclusionary view that really just helps to reinforce mainstream beauty standards instead of push against them.
And because I’m fat, I don’t fit into those same standards and again, pushed off to the side. Georgina Jones wrote about the politics of androgyny, saying that as a fat woman, she never felt comfortable enough to try and navigate the aesthetic:
My issue, before all else, is the common misrepresentation of female androgyny solely being portrayed on flat chested, thin, able and mostly white bodies. For me — for many other fat women and others in general — these kinds of representations of what androgyny means pulled me straight out of my David Bowie daydreams and straight back into a world where my body cannot be perceived as anything other than “fat.”
Ultimately, I’ve spent pretty much my entire life dreading the moment I need new clothes because shopping is always a stressful and horrible experience for me. Trying on clothes in a fitting room is my own personal hell because it’s in that room that I’m reminded of all the people who say I should not exist, of all the people who hate me because I am a fat person, and that I don’t fit into what it means to be a woman as someone who is nonbinary.
What is nonbinary?
Nonbinary, generally speaking, is an umbrella term for genders that don’t fit into the gender binary. Or at least it is in the context of how I’ve been using it.
Here’s one place to start for nonbinary 101: http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Nonbinary_gender
(For me, I identify as a nonbinary woman which seems really contradictory because how can you identify as both not binary AND binary at the same time? But I use it because I do mostly identify outside of the gender binary in many ways but also identify to womanhood as well. And my experiences with being a woman are different from a cisgender person’s.)
I know exactly how you feel shopping for clothing. It sucks! Shopping online is no better. It never fits right when you get it.
Right?!?! I hate online shopping for that reason as well plus not one of the models actually look like me in regards to size so I don’t really know how something might fit.
Somewhere in my archive I posted about clothing. My girlfriend, referred to as GQB, is fat and genderqueer and female-bodied. She’s also butch. I am butch too, and more average sized. Finding clothing for her is more of a challenge, but some of the best stuff for both of us has been found at our regional secondhand stores. I guess because she is masculine presenting, it makes it possible to tap into big men’s fashions which is a wider market than big women’s fashions.
For the last 35 years, I have bought all my clothing except underwear, shoes and socks in secondhand stores. Especially in their retro section, they have a far greater selection of clothing for real women – ones that don’t fit the media stereotype of what women’s bodies should look like. The great thing about buying clothing secondhand is knowing that it fit someone. Stuff I try on in retail stores never, ever fits properly.