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While I was going through puberty, I thought that fat girls couldn’t wear jeans. I remember being so ashamed of my body, so scared of what my thighs would look like in tight denim, that I avoided them for years.

I had internalized the bad fashion advice that teen magazines were doling out at the time: You’re fat? Maybe no one will notice if you choose an empire waist. No one can see your thighs if they’re hidden under a skirt. Always wear a cardigan, so nobody has to look at your upper arms. Wear heels.

The result was a well-intentioned but ill-fated teen clothing style that merged my belief that I could wear only hyper-feminine cuts with my desire to be edgier and more masculine. I looked like a wreck. (It was also 2005, so I’m trying to be forgiving).

As cute plus-size fashion became increasingly accessible, I became much more confident and hit a stride in college. I finally had agency over my appearance. How I looked on the outside, style-wise, finally matched how I felt on the inside. Honestly, I felt awesome.

And then I got a bad haircut. And then I gained a ton of weight.

I grew out my hair, which had always been in a short bob with blunt bangs, into long locks that I didn’t know how to style and felt extremely uncomfortable with. Every fashion decision I made was based on how “flattering” or “slimming” it would look. I wouldn’t leave the house without a full face of makeup and curled hair. For the first time in my entire life, I wore jewelry and perfume.

Although I mostly identified as femme during this time period, I felt trapped, like there was no wiggle room for me to experiment. I was exhausted. I felt like I was back in middle school, clutching a pair of jeans I desperately wanted to wear but was too afraid to put on. I was compensating for my fear and lack of confidence with performative femininity, and I had never felt less like myself.

This comic picks up where my eating disorder and gender identity exploration began.

Despite the havoc that time period wreaked on me, I am so grateful for what it taught me: that it was never actually my body preventing me from dressing the way I wanted.

Once you take that to heart, you’ll be unstoppable.

When my plants wither, it feels like a reflection of my own setbacks

Taking care of myself and my plants can be an uphill battle

Kate not Katie: Why I dropped the ‘i’ in my name

As I got older, my name started to feel like a too-small sweater

My parents’ divorce stopped me from being the kid I wanted to be. Here’s how I healed.

I realized every family has their own story, and this is mine