Zach Crutchfield. For as long as I can remember I have never felt like I have fit into the mainstream gay community. I came out for the first time when I was 14 and by 16 I was completely out to everyone around me. Even with coming out so young and going to a very large school with a high number of LGBTQ students I never felt like I belonged to a welcoming and open gay community. I was large-framed, 6’3” (I peaked height at around 16) and have always weighed somewhere between 220-260 pounds in high school depending on if it was football season or I was part of a particularly demanding play. Basically I have always been fat.
I’ve been fat for as long as I can remember and sadly I have always been made fun of because of my size. As early as kindergarten and first grade I remember being teased by my classmate about my size and growing up it was my number one insecurity, to the point where if I even thought people were calling me fat I would burst into tears. I would go as far as to say that I was more insecure about my size than being gay. My coming out was relatively easy compared to many young LGBTQ youth. My friends were all very supportive of me and even my family, after a few bumps, came around pretty quickly to my coming out as gay. My real struggles began as I started to enter the mainstream gay community within my high school. As someone who was bigger I was often met with statements from other LGBTQ kids such as “you’re too fat to be gay” or “no gay guy is going to want to date someone your size, you should diet” as was so elegantly put to me one day by a fellow gay classmate.
As quickly as I found myself in the mainstream gay culture, I soon wanted out. The constant micro-managing of bodies was too much and the unwanted labels that are forced upon gay men based on their bodies is fetishizing at best, and dehumanizing and degrading at worst. I felt undesirable, unlovable, unattractive, and like I was constantly being judged for my size. I was depressed, I already felt like I didn’t belong with many people and the one group I hoped that I would belong to didn’t want me because of my size. I hated my body and hated myself because of it. I didn’t think I was worthy of a boyfriend because of how I looked and even convinced myself that no one would ever want to be with me except for maybe a fetishistic fling.
It wasn’t until my first year of college when I discovered activism that I learned to love my body for what it was. I found a mentor who taught me a number of amazing things, including how to love my own body in a society that tells me I shouldn’t. I became very passionately involved in the body positivity movement and often led discussions about body positivity in the LGBTQ community. I learned that I wasn’t alone in how I felt and in helping other people fight these feelings of self-hatred that are taught to us by society, I became involved in a number of other activist movements. Soon I jumped to leadership positions and became a student leader that was often on the front lives advocating for change for a number of causes. I blossomed and soon began to accept myself for me, fat and all.
Even with all of these improvements and growth, I struggled. We live in a society that bases worth on a number of superficial factors such as, age, gender, race, and even weight. I was and sometimes still am perceived as lazy and stupid because of my size. Society projects the image of the perfect body onto everyone but the excess of fat phobia that exists in the mainstream gay community is no simple product of that. The toxic normal gay body type is near impossible to achieve and projects a standard that makes everyone who cannot achieve it feel worthless. There is something fundamentally wrong with this. Being a part of the LGBTQ community should mean supporting, loving, and lifting each other up because society already puts us down and treats us as lesser because of who we are. It’s taken some time but I’ve finally learned to love myself and have found out where I belong, but I still have a long way ahead on the self-love journey.