Sexuality in Color: The Body Is Not an Apology

This week's spotlight is shining down on one of my favorite resources, The Body Is Not An Apology.

TBINAA started in 2011, when poet and activist Sonya Renee shared a selfie of herself in a black corset on Facebook, explaining a very simple concept: no one should have to apologize for or feel ashamed about their body. She knew that there are lots of times that we are made to feel as if our bodies are unattractive, undesirable, and unlovable, and she wanted to start a movement to push back against that. Fairly quickly after she posted her picture, other people started to fearlessly post their own selfies in which they, too, were celebrating their bodies, which eventually led to an online and in-person community with thousands of people across the world writing, sharing, connecting, and fiercely loving themselves.

As per its website, The Body Is Not An Apology is "an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others. Through information dissemination, personal and social transformation projects and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world."

Yes, please.

What started out⁠ as a solitary selfie has blossomed into a website that provides all sorts of resources relating to intersections of identity⁠ and experience, self-care, and radical self-love. There's an online magazine, forums, workshops and webinars, and, of course, tons of user-submitted selfies. (Every Monday is #badpicture day, where everyone's selfies that are less than perfect are put on display, so that we can celebrate who we are every single day, whether or not we've got the right angles, lighting, or makeup.) Each of these offer a different set of experiences and perspectives from folks who are on their own journeys towards a stronger and more loving relationship⁠ with their bodies. I find this site particularly impressive in its commitment to celebrating not only one's self, but also the power that that self has to create change and show up for one's own community and those beyond. I personally believe that in order for me to create change, I have to start by addressing how I'm feeling, and working through the love and loss that I carry around within my body and my soul.

The online content is conveniently divided into categories of identity/experience (but by no means implying that they are mutually exclusive⁠ ), and there you can find articles and resources updated regularly. Here are a few of the latest pieces that I found particularly affirming this week:

And finally, one of the poems that started it all. Please do yourself a favor and watch Sonya's performance as well - it keeps me going.

"The Body Is Not An Apology"
by Sonya Renee

The body is not an apology. Let it not be forget-me-not fixed to mattress when night threatens to leave the room empty as the belly of a crow. The body is not an apology. Do not present it as a disassembled rifle when he has yet to prove himself more than common intruder. The body is not an apology. Let it not be common as oil, ash or toilet. Let it not be small as gravel, stain or teeth. Let it not be mountain when it is sand. Let it not be ocean when it is grass. Let it not be shaken, flattened or razed in contrition. The body is not an apology. Do not give the body as communion, confession, do not ask for it to be pardoned as criminal. The body is not a crime, is not a gun, the body is not a lost set of keys or wrong number dialled. It is not the orange burst of blood to shame white dresses. The body is not an apology. It is not the unintended granule of bone beneath will. The body is not kill, it is not unkempt car. It is not a forgotten appointment. Do not speak it vulgar. The body is not soiled, it is not filth to be forgiven. The body is not an apology. It is not a father’s backhand, is not mother’s dinner late again, wrecked jaw, howl. It is not the drunken sorcery of contorting steel round tree.  The body is not calamity. The body is not a math test.  The body is not a wrong answer. The body is not a failed class. You are not failing. The body is not an apology. The body is not a crime, is not a gun. The body is not crime, is not sentence to be served. It is not prison, is not pavement, is not prayer. The body is not an apology. Do not offer the body as gift. Only receive it as such. The body is not to be prayed for, is to be prayed to. So, for the ever-more turtle tenth grade nose, hallelujah. For the shower song throat that crackles like a grandfather’s vitrola, hallelujah. For the spine that never healed. For the lambent heart that didn’t either. Hallelujah for the slowly pulp of back, hip, belly. Hosanna for the errant hairs that road the base like a pack of (?) wolves. Hosanna for the parts that we have endeavoured to excise. Blessed be the cancer, the palsy, the womb that opens like a trap door. Praise the body in its black jack magic even in this. For the razor wire mouth. For the sweet God ribbon with it. Praise for the mistake that never was. Praise for the bend to fall and rise again, fall and rise again. For the raising like an obstinate Christ. Praise the body that bends like a baptismal bowl for those that will worship at the lip of this sanctuary. Praise the body for the body is not an apology. The body is deity, the body is god, the body is god. The only righteous love that will never need repent.

Know of a blog, organization, or resource that belongs here? Send it to our curator, Al (that's me!), at al AT scarleteen DOT com.
Interested in contributing as a guest writer for our Sexuality in Color series, or any other part of Scarleteen? Check out our information for writers and then take it from there! Experienced queer⁠ and trans writers of color of varied abilities and experiences are always strongly encouraged to apply.

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  • Al Washburn

This week we (ahem) take a second to reflect on the myriad of ways that you can practice self-care, and review how important it is, especially for marginalized folks, to love and protect ourselves fiercely in a world that does not often leave room for either.