back to top
Reader

The Most Moving Personal Essays You Needed To Read In 2016

Here are some of the most beautiful and insightful personal essays that BuzzFeed staff and contributors wrote this year (in the order they were published).

Posted on

My Year Without Makeup — Meredith Talusan

Advertisement

"As a trans woman, my relationship to makeup — and accompanying cisnormative beauty ideals — has been particularly fraught. My 2015 resolution was to stop wearing it entirely. Here’s how things turned out."


I Don't Owe Anyone My Body — Kirsten King

"My Tinder date stopped seeming like a nice guy the second he couldn’t hear me say 'no.'"

Advertisement

The Weight of James Arthur Baldwin — Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

"On that hill, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, I wanted to alter fate, and preserve things. But why? He did not need me — Baldwin seemed to have prepared himself well for his black death, his mortality, and even better, his immortality."


Advertisement

"In romance novels and porn, white people are free to fall in love and have sex without worrying about racial representation."


The Home That Made Me Doesn’t Exist Anymore — Jasmine Sanders

Advertisement

"As a kid living in one of Chicago’s poorest black neighborhoods, I learned to look past dysfunction and violence to see the beauty of a place I could call home."


I Found My Father’s Eulogy In Junk Food — Kaitlyn Greenidge

Advertisement

"It wasn’t until I gained 40 pounds that I realized I was eating to fill the void left by a father who was never truly there."


I Found Love In A Hopeless Mess — Kate Conger

"Dehoarding my partner’s childhood home gave me a way to understand his mother, but I’m still not sure how to live with the habit he’s inherited."


"While buying groceries for rich people, I realized upward mobility in America is largely a myth."


To Love Your Sister Is To Grieve Your Twin — Tomi Obaro

"It’s impossible to explain what having a twin is like to someone who asks, but I am going to try."


My Father's House — Reggie Ugwu

"After my brother died and my father was partially paralyzed, my family traveled 7,000 miles in search of an old home, a new house, and the things we’d lost on the road in between."


"In discovering the secret world of cruising for sex, I became a poet."


When My Oldest Friend Did Something Unforgivable — Shannon Keating

"Thomas was the one person who didn’t ask me to be anything other than myself. Until he did."


I Wore Pajamas To My Wedding, And It Was Perfect — Marisa Carroll

"Nearing the end of her life, my fiancé’s mom couldn’t make it to our wedding. So we brought the wedding to her."


"A mysterious, crazy-making itch has made me realize just how much my body has actually done for me all along."


"I was serious about killing myself. My best friend wasn’t — but she’s the one who’s dead."


Confessions Of A Former Former Fat Kid — Isaac Fitzgerald

"I can’t go back in time to help the boy I was be kinder to himself. But I can work to be at peace with the body I live in now."


"Fueled by youthful ambition and loneliness, our relationship was more seduction than friendship."


"After a lifetime of hypochondria, I was finally diagnosed with my very own medical condition. And maybe, in a weird way, it’s made me less afraid to die."


How To Plan For The Worst Day Of Your Life — Helen Phillips

"My life is ruled by order, but when my sister died, I realized there are some things you can never plan for."


I Don't Know Why I Pray But I Keep Trying — Ahmed Ali Akbar

"For me, prayer isn’t so much a question of belief as it is a question of who I want to be."


How My Glasses Showed Me That I’m My Father’s Daughter — Rachel Wilkerson Miller

"Learning that I needed glasses again, 10 years after Lasik surgery, made me realize that the things you inherit from your parents aren’t always within your control."


Rape Culture Is Surveillance Culture — Scaachi Koul

"After being roofied twice, I realized I didn’t always know who was watching me. And how dangerous that is."


Why I've Decided To Start Dressing More Femininely — John Paul Brammer

"All my life, I worried that wearing flamboyant clothes would mean putting a target on my back. But in the wake of the shooting at Pulse, I realized that I’ve been sacrificing a huge part of myself for a safety that was never guaranteed in the first place."


What I’ve Learned From Having A Trans Partner — Blair Braverman

"My partner doesn’t want his body. But I do."


"After trekking 2,000 miles of mountainous terrain on foot, I transformed physically and spiritually, but that didn’t mean I wanted to totally erase my old self."


Why Do I Miss Being Bipolar? — Sasha Chapin

"The medication I take to treat my bipolar disorder works perfectly. Sometimes I wish it didn’t."


How My Boyfriend Used My Weight To Keep Me With Him — Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

"An abusive ex convinced me he was special because he celebrated my not-thin body. When I lost weight, he lost his leverage over me."


"When doctors started reading me as male, my size was still the same — but my obesity was cured."


I Was Pregnant, And Then I Wasn't — Laura Turner

"In the aftermath of a miscarriage, the loss of someone I never knew has been more devastating than I could have imagined."


"Sometimes I wish I could ask America when, exactly, it made its mind up about us."


Losing My Mom Taught Me How To Grieve For America — Miguel Morales

"Every single day since she died, I have wished for my mother back. But I’m glad she won’t be here to witness the next four years, and that she gave me what I need to get through them."


"I thought I agreed with my radical queer friends: Marriage is dull, outdated, and heteronormative. But that was before I got a civil partnership at 23."


For more Best of 2016 content, click here!

Rachel Sanders is the deputy culture editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Rachel Sanders at rachel.sanders@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.