Exploring My Sexuality Was My First Step in Breaking Up With Diet Culture

April 18, 2024

I grew up as a too-smart Black girl in the hills of Oakland, California. Having been raised by my 70-year-old grandmother and my 90-year-old godmother, I wasn't a stranger to life outside of the "nuclear family." I wasn’t unfamiliar with families made up of close queer partnerships – although, at the time, I wasn’t truly aware of what I knew. My best friend’s mother divorced her dad to then enter into a lesbian relationship. My godfather and his partner lived together for as long as I can remember. Queer culture, and queer relationships, were woven into the fabric of my existence, but no one actually spoke about sexuality, queerness, or that it was okay to exist outside the heterosexual relationship norm.

As a result of growing up in a society that pelted me with the representation of straight couples and nuclear families, I adopted the belief that I should date men as the ideal partner. Starting from a young age, I would obsess about how to get – and hold – the attention of men. Attracting the male gaze went to the top of my priority list.

But the reality of this deep desire to attract men was that I found it as a form of validation. Validation that I was attractive enough, intelligent enough, and worthy of love. These thoughts quickly tangled into the ever-developing perceptions I held about my body, especially as it was put through the paces of puberty.

The ability to see my body as worthy and “right” was reliant on a deep need to be seen as attractive by men in the world.

It wasn’t until around my college years that I was able to, for the first time, openly explore my sexuality at its core. I was no longer under my family’s roof or isolated on the campus of my boarding school -– I was in the city of Los Angeles, and I had the internet at my disposal.

With a strong push, I began to seek out sex-positive meetups, hangouts, 101 classes, conferences, and weekend camping trips. I met people from all parts of the country and the world. For the first time, I was in spaces filled with people who didn’t fit the straight, heterosexual, “vanilla” norm of life. I had the pleasure of sitting for hours deep in conversation about sexuality, body image, politics, gender, dating, and safety in sex. My brain was bursting with the validation I encountered.

For the first time in my life, I was in a place where I didn’t feel left out because of how my body looked.

I was instead seen and welcomed as a human being, including all parts of me just as they were. And I met people of all sizes, bodies, with different levels of ability, various races, and genders. The human diversity of the world opened up to me. The diversity I saw included different body sizes and the social norms of the beauty standard. And all of those bodies had good sex and were Sex-Positive and accepting of other humans.

This just scratches the surface of how that Queer, Sex-Positive Community in Southern California began my journey to true acceptance of my body, sexuality, gender, and more. However, I can confidently say that without those experiences, I would not have been in the place to do the harder eating disorder recovery and body image work that I have pursued over the past 6 years in recovery.

Access to the queer community and the chance to freely learn about my sexuality in a safe space undoubtedly saved me.

Nia Patterson (they/them) is a mental health advocate, multi-entrepreneur, influencer, and business owner. With a background in business and social media marketing, they help fellow entrepreneurs streamline their businesses, avoid burnout, and achieve thriving success. Through their social media presence, they empower business owners with strategic advice to enhance their brand presence. Nia's mission is to combat burnout and help entrepreneurs prioritize self-care, ensuring both business success and personal well-being.