There is Oppression in Being Ugly

Written by Heri
Art by Elliot

I’ve been “ugly” in a lot different ways throughout my life. The word “ugly” is very weird because being ugly looks different to different people depending on so many different factors.


When I was in elementary school, I went to a school with mostly Latinx and Black youth. There were a few white kids but they were the minority. When I was around 9 years old, my mother uprooted us to the suburbs, with the belief that it was a safer environment. I vividly remember re reading my 4th grade diary a few years later (around age 12) and seeing that I had written something profoundly funny.
“Everyone here is white. Which means there are no cute boyshere.”

wasn’t around white people on a regular basis so I thought they were weird looking and even ugly because they weren’t “like me”. Around puberty though, I was SURROUNDED by white boys so grew to be primarily attracted to them since that was what was around me. I haven’t dated much but almost all of my dating experiences has been me (a latinx person) dating white people (mostly men).

It wasn’t until I entered into more heavy activism that I realized that I was becoming more attracted to people of color and less attracted to white people.

The reason for that, was because I was realizing the obstacles of dating a white person when you are a marginalized person but that’s a different story.
I’ve been ugly for most of my life. When I say ugly I don’t mean it in a definitive way. I’ve fucked, I’ve dated, I’ve been sexually desired. What I mean by “ugly” is that overall, folks tend to find me unattractive/undesirable etc. I’m fat, brown, trans, and that’s just the physical. I’m not coy, I don’t try to be cool, and I get overwhelmed at parties. Being cool is a big part of being attractive and that’s just not me.

Being “ugly” means something different to everyone. Some people would think I’m ugly because I’m fat (that’s fatphobiafyi). Some people would think I’m ugly because I’m trans and I have short hair/bind (that’s transphobia btw). Other people may think I’m ugly because I’m darker skinned (that’s racism) and some people find it a mix of the three. But even though I’ve been seen as conventionally ugly, I have dated or had a sexual relationship with everyone I’ve ever been really interested in. It might be that I like folks who aren’t superficial or it could be that I get to know people before doing anything romantic/sexual and they end up being attracted to my personality. I have no idea.

Growing up in Sacramento, Ca, I don’t often experience outright flirting or people really being forward about their attraction to me. Sacramento is a gentrified city where bars are called breweries and the city tries to sue homeless people. People are attracted to state workers who wear Macy’s circa 2009 and whose idea of having fun is getting drunk at a bar with a racist dress code (see bar west). What I’m saying, is I definitely don’t meet the expectation of “attractive” here.

During the summer, I went to New York for the first time. Every moment that I spent out, I was hit on and I don’t mean casual flirting. I mean people straight up asking me for my number, giving me weed, asking to go home with them, hit on. It got to a point that I ended up wearing less revealing clothes so that the hitting on could calm the fuck down for a second.


But I learned something that was very valuable to me. I realized how fluid attraction is.

In Sacramento California I wasn’t outwardly viewed as attractive but in New York I was. I also realized that if I went to places like Chelsea, New York, (an affluent white neighborhood) I would never be hit on but if I went to the Bronx, Brooklyn or other neighborhoods that were artistic, lower income, or mostly people of color, I would be. It’s weird that attraction is fluid but there are still trends of what is found attractive depending on region, culture, and class.


I started to think about what makes attraction and honestly I kind of came across the idea that attraction is actually hellaracist, hella classist, hella fatphobichella ablest and hellahomophobic/transphobic. I want you to think about all of the people who you’ve been attracted to. Like really think about it. I want you to think if you are turned on by people in wheelchairs, or people who don’t fit the western idea of beauty. Who was the last person you fucked? Were they thin or fat? Were they lighter skinned? Did they look like you? Were you attracted to their tits? Did they speak differently than you? Would you have fucked them if they’re manner of speaking sounded like they were “uneducated”? Would you have fucked them if they smelled like their car or the streets?


That’s just a start.


This eventually led me to think about the people who I talk to and the people who act like I said nothing when I answer a question directed at a group. I’ve found that so many times I will say something in a conversation that has everything to do with what we’re talking about and it garners no reaction but then someone more attractive says something less important and everyone eats that shit up. It’s so crazy! Everything I say gets torn apart and put under a microscope but if you’re attractive, everything you say is interesting.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been treated like shit by “attractive” people for no reason whatsoever. They make it very apparent that what I’m saying and doing doesn’t matter and although they never say why, they don’t really have to. And the worst part is, when I tell people about it, I’m shrugged off.


For instance, one time (of many), I got treated like shit from someone super attractive because they didn’t think I was cool enough. This happens a lot, but this time I told my friend about it. My friend has had way less experiences with this person and has had way less conversation with this person that I had, because I worked with them but when I told him about it, he defended her completely. People will bend over backwards to protect attractive people, believing that they are good/kind/important merely because they’re attractive. I want you to think about all the people you respect and hold importance to and think about how you would feel if you didn’t want to actively fuck them. I want you to stop thinking with your crotch and actually listen to what the fuck hot people say.

This doesn’t even touch employment.

I went on an interview at a coffee shop where I was over qualified and as soon as I walked in, I could tell the manager knew he wasn’t going to hire me. It was so immediate. He looked me up and down and blew through the interview, at one point saying “well I guess tell me about yourself” and then once I did he just nodded and said it was good to meet me. He had no intention of hiring me but needed to interview me as a formality. I know you may think I’m exaggerating how ugliness effects the workplace, but I’m not. You know how I know that? Out of all of my jobs, not once have I been hired by a thin white man. Out of my 8 employers, I have only ever been hired by 1 thin person and she was a person of color and only ever hired by two men (both fat). Everyone who has hired me has been fat or a person of color or both. I honestly believe that I don’t get hired by men because they can’t sexualize me. The two men that did hire me were both fat married men and didn’t need to sexualize me and were also aware that being fat didn’t automatically make you lazy. If you still think I’m exaggerating, think about the fact that I have literally managed a team of 80 retail employees for two years, have some college, have worked in Social work for 3 years and have an overall great resume and am a confident interviewer, but I was suddenly not qualified for any job as soon as I cut off my hair and stopped wearing makeup.

I’ve talked to other fellow “uglies” and “fats” and we all have the same or similar experiences. One of my friends is an “Ex Fat”, meaning she was once fat but no longer is. She’s very cynical and kind of a bitch to people but in a great way. She’s told me about how differently she’s gotten treated since losing weight, suddenly the whole world is nice and fair. She’s a bitch because she can tell when someone is nice to her because she’s hot vs when they just care about her as a human being but it’s still hard. Even the best people don’t know they have a bias. Even I have a bias. I’m interested in the mysterious cute girl in the corner, who isn’t? But I’m trying to unpack that and actually listen to what people are saying and really figure out what I like about them and if they hold more importance to me because they’re attractive.

And you should too.

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