Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Mark Williams

Mark (right) dances with a friend in a recent performance.

Mark (right) dances with a friend in a recent performance.

It’s been a long journey to reach the point where I truly appreciate my body for the miraculous things it does. For many years, I hated my body because it failed to measure up to the standards that were promoted by the people around me and by the omnipresent television and other media. I took in those negative messages and turned them against myself and others. I also dealt with gender identity issues throughout my childhood (although I didn’t have the words to describe it at the time), and struggled to create or find spaces where I could be myself—-my male self-—while also trying to meet others’ expectations of me as female so they would accept me, or at least leave me alone. As a fat, nerdy, smart “tomboy” who was more bookish than athletic, I had a lot of issues around my body and my self-image in general that only increased when I hit puberty.

In my late twenties and early thirties, I started finding body-positive essays and books that challenged the media images and messages I’d been subjected to all my life. I eventually realized that I had been denying myself simple pleasures and freedoms that had absolutely nothing to do with my size or appearance, on the basis that people my size didn’t do those things and certainly didn’t deserve them. So I began my personal rebellion by buying clothes that fit me, that I liked and wanted to wear, and then wearing them everywhere. Then I began going places and doing things that I used to enjoy but hadn’t done for years because of this internalized fatphobia. I was still fat, but I was much happier and more active than before.

In the mid-2000s, I discovered a fat-positive, size-diverse dance and performance troupe called Big Moves. Through them, I also found my way to the online “fat-o-sphere” of bloggers, vloggers, and photographers who proudly share their images and experiences of Existing While Fat and challenge the accepted “wisdom” of the media, the medical establishment, and other authorities. My experience performing with Big Moves changed the way I think about my own body and health, and the way I see others, for the better. Big Moves was also a major part of my transition, giving me lots of support as well as my first male performing roles after I came out as trans.

My relationship with my body, and with my body image, is still shifting and changing as I continue through the journey of transition and beyond, and as I age. My body and appearance have changed dramatically over the past several years, and I’m still getting used to it. Fortunately, there are now numerous Web sites, Tumblr blogs, and other places where I can see images and read the words of real people whose bodies look more like mine, and whose struggles and triumphs I can share and celebrate because I’ve been there too.

– Mark Williams


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