by Mariko Tamaki
I need a second to tell you this thing.
There are no rules.
Okay. Wait. Hold on.
There are some rules. You can’t eat a grill cheese in math class. You can’t walk barefoot in places that have a sign that says you can’t walk barefoot there. Sure sure, I get that. I’m not here to get you in trouble.
Allow me to clarify.
There are no rules about who you can and cannot be.
You think there are rules because people tell you there are rules. People say stuff like, “Girls wear make up, boys don’t.” Or they tell you something is weird, in a way that suggests “weird” is something you should avoid instead of cherish.
There are standards and expectations. People expect boys to act a certain way, and people expect girls to act a certain way, and these expectations make it easier to classify things, to keep order and understand certain people certain ways faster. It also makes it easy to sell things to certain people.
But this should not be something to worry you. Because, no matter what the motive, gender expectations are still just expectations. They’re just the first sentence in a long paragraph, in the novel that will be your life.
You can break expectations, you can see beyond them.
This is easier to do when expectations are something that are really messing with your life.
When I was a teenager, I was a chubby teenager who lived daily with the frustration of failing to be a girl the way I was supposed to be a girl. I was never not aware that I was fat. I was never not aware that I was fatter than everyone else and it was a problem. People talked about my fat my whole life like it was something I would grow out of, like a cocoon. Except the cocoon was my body, and my cocoon of fat wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t shake it. Instead of becoming a woman I felt like I was becoming something else, a fat girl.
At one point, I set myself the goal of being a size 12 since being a size 12 seemed to be the max size I could be to be a girl, since all the girly things I was supposed to fit into were a size 12 max. Whenever I went shopping with my mom I would look for all the dresses that were in a size 12 and pray they would fit me. Because I had to fit into these dresses if I wanted to fit in.
If I didn’t fit in I was #FAIL this girl thing.
All this stopped in college, the first time I went to a queer bar, and I saw my first queers. Here was a crowd of people dressed the way they wanted to be dressed, in a combination of “masculine” and “feminine” clothes that seemed to be pick both at random and joyously. And here in this crowd were these amazing powerful, BIG, dancers, of all genders, dancing in polyester dresses from Value Village, in men’s work pants and too tight frilly tank tops, soccer jersey’s and frilly short shorts. Whatever.
It was my first encounter with a community of fat people who were proud of their size. Who didn’t give a crap what other people thought was #FAIL.
Suddenly it hit me. Like, “Oh. I’m not #FAIL. I’m fat. That’s totally fine. AND I can wear or be whatever I want. I don’t have to fit into anyone else’s size 12.”
I’m telling you that it was queer fatties who made me realize that there are no rules about being a woman, or about being awesome. That’s not to say you can’t be all these things and be straight. But I think part of what opened up this space, this place where fat could be awesome, for me, was a queer community where rule breaking was already happening, where a bunch of people had already said, “I’m queer. There are no rules on who to love.”
There are no rules on who you can be.
There are places and people and reactions to who you are. Some of these reactions make it hard to be someone who isn’t following the rules.
Sometimes it’s tiring to have people telling you that you being you is wrong, or makes some of the people you encounter in life uncomfortable.
Sometimes it’s empowering to refuse to conform.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can push our ideas of what it means to be a rule breaker on other people, because we have an idea in our head about what it means to be queer, as much as what it means to be straight.
But there are no rules.
There are no rules most especially as long as we remember that this is true. We need to share this with people and let them know it’s true.
We need to spread this to all the changing rooms where girls are struggling to squeeze themselves into a size 12, into all the playgrounds and classrooms where kids are getting crap for not fitting in, we need to spread the message in our homes where sometimes our parents are worried we’re not conforming and people are going to make fun of us, we need to spread it in our brains to combat the fear of what it means to be weird.
It’s not going to be easy but I think it’s worth it.
Whoever you are, you are awesome. You are not breaking anything by being who you are. You are just another glorious reminder of that thing I keep saying over and over.
You can be who you want to be.
You are #WINNING no matter what they say.
If it’s hard to be you, hang in there.
If you see someone who needs help, help out.
There is no #FAIL.
There is only #YOU.