Image of Brena Jean seated in bed during the coronavirus quarantine

“Girl, BY the time you make everybody happy, the world will have ended.”

I said what I said. 

Fat-shaming trolls have kept me in the shadows for years. Months ago, I imagined that I would start a fat fashion and lifestyle blog. All I had to do was post some pictures and share my first blog post. The death threats and the shit-stormed comment sections would roll right on in. I imagined that the people who hate fat people, black people, and fat, black people would link up. They would have secret meetings and tear me to shreds on public platforms. Fat-shaming is not a new experience for me, but I’ve never experienced it on a platform the whole world could see. So, I developed a 100-point checklist and over-planned everything. I even considered hiring a PR professional before I’d written a single word. I believed that with a well-thought-out strategy, I could troll-proof my experience.

Then, the world stopped.

Coronavirus hit the US hard and we’re on day 350 of the quarantine. They say that the worst is always in front of us. People have hoarded toilet paper, which will make for a confusing history test question in the future. In addition, I have Lipedema and hEDS, and that makes me part of the population that is vulnerable to COVID-19.

The audacity to smile, laugh, curate our own joy, and uphold boundaries is an entire revolution.

A “Neck-Up” Girl

Having Lipedema has shaped as much of my body as it has my relationships with people. I’m 5’5 and I weigh 389 lbs. I don’t have the plus-size body type that most people fetishize, let alone desire. “Curvy” isn’t a description that I feel comfortable using. I have a beautiful face and its a privilege. The people who have looked me in my stomach and said, “you have such a pretty face” have built my “neck-up” confidence and my neck-down insecurities.

Close up illustration of brena jean with short haircut

On my best days, I’m quite a vision. Face on life support because it was jumped in a gang and “beat for the gods.” (See what I did there?) Even on my best days, I encounter trolling just by going outside. Existing in public is met with this engagement. Putting my images on any public platform will amplify these encounters. I’m not sure what to do with that yet.

I respect and admire the fat women who insist on the space to love themselves right where they are. Just showing up is an act of resistance for women like myself. The audacity to smile, laugh, curate our own joy, and uphold boundaries is an entire revolution. Soldiering this becomes exhausting for most of us at some point.

Worry about bleach, not Trolls. 

I get a tickle in my throat anytime someone mentions the “Rona.” The record-high deaths make me feel like I’m running out of time to tell my story. There isn’t enough room in my life anymore to worry about what people will think and say. Anything other than diligent hand washing practices and how much bleach I have on hand seems like “too much” right now. Life is showing us how fragile it is. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be, but I am grateful to be alive today to change that.

I’m not afraid of being fat-shamed, however, I am afraid to internalize fat-shaming. I am afraid of what I will buy into and believe about myself if hoards of people echo hate towards me. Again, showing up while black, fat, and cared for is a revolution. I believe it will take a revolution to end fat-shaming, so, I’ll keep showing up. I hope to see you on the other side of, ‘The Great Pause.’  Life is too fragile to spend our precious time being something other than our authentic selves.

So, let’s get this shit show on the road! My name is Debrena, my coworkers call me Bre, and my rap name is ‘Suzi Glock.’ I don’t rap. My family calls me Brena. I have stage 3 Lipedema and Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I’m an engineer, an Oakland, California native, and a vegan. I’m lonely as fuck single, queer, demisexual, and it’s complicated. Jean is my momma’s middle name. I’m an introspective and sensitive empath. I like to think of myself as a crybaby evangelist. You can call me Brena Jean, nice to meet you.