This all started because I made a quick post on Instagram late one boring Saturday when the platform is usually pretty slow. I asked if anyone had any questions about body positivity and I only got one reply. But what a great question it was! Unfortunately, it was too challenging to answer in the context of either Snapchat or Instagram, so I promised the questioner, that I would write a full blog post. I knew this blog post would not be easy to write, or edit, but I realized that it was one topic that I really should have already addressed. I also had no idea that it would end up being one of my longest blog posts to date at around 2500 words. Originally, I was only going to talk about the one relationship that was hardest on my body image, story number three below, for those of you who are wondering, and now counting. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should write about most of my serious relationships. I’m focusing this post on intimate partnerships but I actually think friendships can be incredibly influential in terms of our body image and self-love. Surrounding yourself with body positive people is one of the tips from my Being Body Positive page. I’ve learned so much from getting to know the amazing women and men of the online body positivity community. As someone living in a small town, I love how the internet gives me access to people and communities that I otherwise would not have the ability to communicate with. If you are looking for some other inspiring humans to follow online, head over to my Instagram page and check out the 250 amazing profiles that I follow. I keep the list short and sweet specifically so that I can refer all of you there for inspiration. If you think I missed anyone, tag them in the comments below and let me know why you think they are amazing. I’d especially like to see you tagging body positive people of colour, trans people, people with visible disabilities and butch queers. Please remember, positive vibes only, on my website and all of my social media pages.
As most of you know, I identify as queer. However, the four relationships you are going to hear me describe here are all with men. At previous points in my life, I have identified as bisexual, and I suppose technically I still am, but lately I have felt more like identifying as a femme lesbian. I am currently only pursuing relationships with other women and part of my reason for that is because I have never met a woman who ended up making me feel poorly about my body. Three out of four of the men I have had serious relationships with, have left me feeling less than positive about my self-reflection. Call it reverse sexism, and I will just block you because that is ridiculous. There is no such thing as reverse -isms, as in, no reverse racism, no reverse sexism. To make it clear, you can’t be homophobic against straight people, and you can’t be sexist against women. These things are one directional because only one group holds the power/privilege. But yes, my experiences have changed my preferences, as I am sure is true in many other cases. I also won’t date anyone who shares a name with an ex or with one of my parents, it is just plain creepy. Lots of factors influence our decision on who to date and who not to, some certainly more noble than others. The two women that I have had relationships with have made me feel absolutely gorgeous, despite them both having much more traditionally beautiful bodies than I do. Both of these relationships have occurred in the recent past and I haven’t elaborated on them further than in this quick paragraph. The way that they looked at me with adoration, they way that they touched my skin, the specific way that a woman who loves women, compliments you. Trust me if you haven’t experienced it for yourself, it is something very special. Women understand and respect each other’s bodies in a way that I am not sure a man can. Also, women are super sexy and I have a major crush on at least two right now. No, I’m not telling who they are, but send me some positive vibes that they figure it out and ask me on a date soon. I also used to be all about femme women, but I’ve recently become very attracted to androgynous and butch women. People change, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as I grow, I learn more about what I like and why.
When I was sexually assaulted, I was already struggling with anorexia, but the trauma really increased my ability to isolate and let the disease thrive. As you may know, I am working on a book that will explore this connection because I have heard from many other survivors about how common it is. There is a connection between the two but as a person with an academic background in psychology, I want to be clear that I am in no way intending to imply that there is any causation between the two as I simply do not have the ability to conduct that kind of research on my own. However, I do believe there is a correlation between women who have survived sexual violence and those who have an eating disorder. When I say eating disorder, I do not restrict this term to anorexia, bulimia, but to also include binge-eating and other forms of disordered eating. My partner at the time of my rape had responded to my assault with some very painful victim blaming comments that I never got over. However, having just moved to Toronto to be with him, I also felt trapped and completely alone without him. His comments still haunt me so much, that I am not willing to spell them out here, despite knowing better now, than I ever did then. I’ve never identified him as an abuser and I still don’t, but I recognize that his comment was incredibly problematic. He was generally a very caring person and I honestly think he thought he was doing what was best for me. It was in no way his fault that I was sick during our entire relationship, but because I was, I don’t have very positive memories of that time. It was also during our relationship that I discovered feminism, and with that new and life-changing analysis, not many of my past relationships survived. It was impossible to still be around openly racist, ableist and sexist people. To this day, I maintain that I would rather sacrifice a relationship than endorse hatred and abuse. I still credit feminism for almost all of the positive changes that I have made in my life. I think it has made me a better person and helped me to recover from both my eating disorder and from my sexual assault.
After breaking up with him and moving out of our shared apartment in northern Toronto, I had no choice but to move to Bancroft to live with my parents. I was technically still a student, needing to complete my placement, basically 6 months of full-time work, without pay. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that my parents were about to get a divorce and as a result, they were fighting constantly. I had switched from attending school part-time to full-time mid-term, which meant I had a course load that made also doing a full-time placement, nearly impossible. So I did a summer placement and lived at home for a bit, but I was miserable every second I was in that house. I tried to stay in my room, but soon that became a problem because my parents decided it would be easier to direct their rage at me instead of at each other. I’m not proud to admit this but, I had one priority for a relationship at the time and only one, I needed to be with someone who would let me stay over at their place, a lot. I was desperate to avoid being at my own home and, more importantly, to avoid all of the fighting. In fact, as soon as I could afford to move out on my own, I broke up with the guy. Again, I’m not proud, but in my defense, this guy turned out to be a classic fat-shamer, the type of guy who walked around with a beer gut, but who made comments about how any woman that gained weight had just gotten lazy. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with his body type, I was attracted to him at first, but I find it problematic that he had such misogynistic beauty standards. He was also anti-choice and a homophobe, it wasn’t going to work out between us, period. I’m pretty sure I was drunk and high, the whole relationship, luckily it was also my shortest relationship ever. I left him feeling very insecure about my body, despite being about a size 4 at the time. Once again, I was actively engaging with my eating disorder, despite a brief period of healing during the last bit of college, when I was still living in Toronto. I was not surprised to learn that his previous girlfriend also struggled with disordered eating and extreme exercise… again, not causation, but correlation.
Then I met another guy, who I believe, I helped become more body positive about himself and the part he was struggling to embrace. I did this by helping him to learn to embrace his balding head, to finally take off the hat and shave his head, instead of trying to keep his hat on constantly, with just enough hair to make it look good if he had the hat on. The first time we had sex, he actually tried to keep his hat on. I was glad it was dark because I smiled when I realized what was happening. I gently explained that all women know what the hat means and that we truly mean it when we say that confidence is sexy. Also, some women and some men, are specifically attracted to bald men. I don’t think that our self-confidence or worth should be based on the ability to attract another person, but it is often a good selling point for someone still struggling with self-acceptance and self-love. By the time we broke up I regularly saw him without a hat on, out in public and at home. He had a typical man bod, kind of a dad bod without the dad status, I suppose. I’ve debated writing the full details of this story, but there is no way to express the significance without being honest. I married this man after knowing him for two years, and after letting my eating disorder get the best of me again, as I starved myself for our wedding day. I was about a size 8 when I bought my dress and I had it altered to fit me, but by my wedding day, my breasts weren’t quite filling it out. Then he insulted my body on our honeymoon a few months later. I had still been starving myself after the wedding. One side effect of weight loss that is both very quick and caused by starvation for me is that my breasts can become deflated and saggy. My, at that time, husband, commented on the appearance of my breasts and I knew then and there that my relationship would soon be over. After I did everything possible to “look perfect” for him, on our wedding day or at least so I thought, he insulted my body, on our honeymoon. He broke my heart. We had sex once on our whole honeymoon and we are divorced now. The one plus side is that somehow, I had finally had enough and I started eating without concern. I was having dinner and dessert and enjoying all of the amazing foods they had to offer in Jamaica, my new found love of food all started on that island. By the time I was ready to do a “trash the dress” type photo shoot, I couldn’t zip my dress up anymore. Learning to love and appreciate my natural body size, took a lot longer than my initial weight gain during recovery.
The man that I met after leaving my husband, was also fresh out of a relationship and heading towards a divorce. In Canada, you have to be separated for at least a year before you can get a formal divorce. Then it depends on whether or not you two agree on everything as to how quickly things go. In both of our cases, both parties wanted out so it was an easy situation to resolve, which was good news all around. However, there were still bumps in the road for each of us. We connected in such an intense way, I think mostly because of experience of healing together. Also, we just got along great, I have never loved someone as much as I loved him. He did eventually break my heart, but along the way, he made me feel like the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. In fact, he said those words in ways that were both beautiful and completely believable. He commented on my curves in specific ways that made me realize that they were not invisible to him and yet he still loved the way I looked. Somehow he hadn’t been swayed by the media telling him that only the body type I had starved myself to be was attractive, he loved me for me. In fact, he helped start my love for sexy selfies and was originally the only one who got to see them. He would leave little post-it notes on the mirror telling me I was beautiful and randomly compliment me all the time. And then he broke my heart, big time, it was awful! But surviving this breakup was somehow easier because I found body positivity along the way. I knew this time, that the breakup had absolutely nothing to do with me or my body. I was confident with my body finally, but also with my whole being, with who I was as a person. I knew that despite the pain this man had caused me, that I had been and continued to be, an absolutely amazing human being and girlfriend. We are friends again now, so I know that he still agrees with that sentiment, it is for reasons in his life that we cannot be together. Somehow I was stronger and more able to cope with the most painful breakup to date, because of my new found self-confidence and that is the real power of body positivity. I hope you include it in your self-love journey and your overall journey to growing as a human being. Thanks for reading!