I am focusing on the way my thumb traces the outline of his jaw, the way his mouth tastes, and when his hand shifts and presses somewhat firmly into the soft and fleshiness of my midsection, I find a quickness in my breathing. A short intake of breath that leads me to biting my bottom lip instead of pushing his body away.
It hasn’t always been this way. The truth is I have found myself underneath the hands, the weight, the gaze of cisgender straight men since I was fifteen years old. The weight of their approval nearing my then-disdain for the number on the weight scale. “Leave the lights off,” I say. I’m particular about body positioning, how I take up physical space, and when I lead them to my bed, it’s their approval I am seeking, and never my own pleasure.
I have been performing for the men in my life since I was old enough to understand that their acceptance of me and my body was the ticket to ride. I carried my weight well, they said. They told me that I have a beautiful face.
And then there was him.
I told him that he’s the definition of divinity once. I’ll never know the beautiful, yet complicated experience of a brown, trans man. But I know the way he shows up in the world, without apology. I watch him move and fight for himself and the people he loves despite existing in a world that would rather silence him in all the ways. Our existence and experiences inherently different yet uniquely similar. I know that kind of silencing as a fat femme. I know in my bones what it feels like to be erased.
He tells me that my body hair isn’t an issue despite my wanting to be hairless. “What feels good to you”? he asks. I’m not sure as I’ve never contemplated that as a means to what matters, or perhaps what does feel best to me. I suppose I didn’t realize that was an option. The fact that a man asked me to center my pleasure was disorienting at first, and what I now know to be safety. I am safe here.
I don’t love the lessons I learn about safety to be at the mercy of someone who experiences a lack thereof every time he leaves our home. It is his self acceptance, not bravery, that I watch within him that has softened my idea around my own fat existence in the world. No apology needed. I don’t need an award for simply being.
There is freedom in acceptance. Watching the man I love embrace himself so well, and embrace me so well sheds light on the fact that we simply exist. All the parts of me and my body that I was taught to shy from and keep hidden feels pointless anymore. I don’t feel compelled to fall in love with my body but to notice her and instead of noticing the cellulite on my thighs, I notice his arms draped across the fullness of them, and that is a look I have come to love. There is softness in allowing my fat body to show up, as is, and settle into the idea of accepting, especially when it comes to myself and my pleasure.
His acceptance of me has breathed life into my acceptance of myself. Not an acceptance that I feel I have to earn by way of performance, but knowing that this man I am in love with accepts and chooses both of us beyond any dysphoria or dysmorphia we leave behind together. Now the way I see myself is free of the heteropatriarchal gaze because I can see myself through his eyes. Through his love, I found self love.