Unapologetic fat, trans, non-binary activist J Aprileo is the brilliant mind behind Comfy Fat – where the intersections of comfort, true body-positivity, and discussions about gender identity intersect. The 26-year-old activist hails from a small town a few hours outside of Boston in Western Massachusetts, but calls Kansas home these days with their sweetie, Corissa, of Fat Girl Flow.
Check out what J has to say as we discuss gender, accessibility, and style.
CHUBSTR: What inspired you to start Comfy Fat? J APRILEO: Comfy Fat started as a hashtag on Tumblr many years ago when I was trying to promote selfies that challenge conventional beauty standards and the incredibly high expectations [put on fat people] to be considered attractive in mainstream society. When I started dating Corissa, I learned a lot about how to advocate for myself and my needs when flying as a fat person. After that, I just felt so motivated to share this knowledge and other resources to try to make the world more comfortable for other fat folks.
CHUBSTR: What makes Comfy Fat different from other plus-size blogs? J APRILEO: I think it’s a unique niche to be talking about fat activism and how it relates to queer and trans identity in the raw way that I try to. I’m really trying to use my masculine privilege to talk about topics that I think are considered more taboo for feminine people. Topics like fat hygiene which femmes might be hesitant to talk about (and understandably so – given the incredibly high standards they’re held to).
CHUBSTR: How do you advocate for those with disabilities and less discussed body issues? J APRILEO: So much of the work I’m doing with fat accessibility stems from all the work that came before me from people involved in the disability advocacy movement. I wouldn’t be able to talk about issues of fat accessibility without all of the incredible work they’ve done. Following accounts on IG like disabled_fashion, supporting businesses owned by people with disabilities, and listening to disability activists like Annie Segarra on Instagram and Twitter. I’m still learning about the best ways to use my platform to highlight other marginalized folks, so there’s definitely always more to do!
CHUBSTR: How has your relationship with Corissa influenced your work and activism? J APRILEO: She is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to fat positivity, self-love, and advocacy. I’ve learned so much from her already. We bounce ideas off of each other, work creatively with and inspire one another in all of our projects. She’s just an incredibly beautiful soul to be around. It’s hard not to be motivated to work on your goals and things you’re passionate about around her.
CHUBSTR: How can we stay body-positive in a world that tries to tell you what kind of fat is okay and what is not? Has it ever affected your identity? J APRILEO: It is a constant battle, honestly. We really have to be committed to combating those negative beliefs that have been ingrained in us over the course of our lives along with the negative messages we receive on the daily. We have to be so resilient. We have to choose everyday to love ourselves and be kind to our bodies instead of hate them. Easier said than done!
But the point of body positivity is the journey, not an end game. We have to stay committed to recalibrating and refocusing on self love instead of letting ourselves succumb to toxic diet culture, multiple times a day. My identity is challenged every day as a fat, queer, non-binary person. As I grow my identity as an activist, I’m developing more and more safeguards and barriers against this body-negative world we live in.
CHUBSTR: How would you describe your style? J APRILEO: Soft masc comfy fat beefcake.
As for struggling to find your identity, the less rules you place on yourself the better. You don’t have to be just like anyone else.
CHUBSTR: What would you tell another trans or non-binary plus-size person struggling to find their style and identity? J APRILEO: When it comes to trying to find your style, hang in there! There are so many plus size trans and nonbinary folks out there and we are working hard to get more representation in media. Keep networking!
As for struggling to find your identity, the less rules you place on yourself the better. You don’t have to be just like anyone else. You don’t have to be all one way or all another. Embrace the possibility of fluidity in all realms. Accept yourself as you are and watch yourself thrive.
CHUBSTR: It’s evident that the fashion industry, especially plus-size fashion, is still very binary. What should designers be considering and producing for trans men and masc non-binary bodies? J APRILEO: I would love it if designers would consider different body shapes when creating masculine attire. Fat and short bodies exist! Masculine non-binary people with curves, hips, and big butts exist. We aren’t all V-shaped and tall. The plus size “women’s” fashion industry has really caught on to the various shapes a body can have when it comes to pants especially. Petite. Tall. Apple and pear-shaped. High waisted. Low rise. “Boyfriend” jeans. Let’s challenge toxic masculinity and destigmatize varying possibilities of “men’s” body shapes.
CHUBSTR: What do we need more of in the plus-size community in general? J APRILEO: People of color and trans folks, especially trans women of color. Not that I don’t think those folks exist – they do. I just believe we need to do more to give them more shine.
CHUBSTR: How can straight-size allies show up for plus-size people? What can cis men do to support trans men and masc folks? J APRILEO: Both straight-size allies and cis men have the opportunity to really create some serious change. They have the platforms, voices, and attention of people in power to shine a light on issues that affect plus size and trans communities. Advocate for brands to prioritize resources for your fat friends. Start noticing when you participate in toxic diet culture that further oppresses fat bodies and try to make some changes! Same goes for toxic masculinity.