The Importance of Inclusive Language and How Being in Community Helps Us Learn

posted by 
Connie Sobczak
  /  
March 21, 2017

In a PowerPoint slide I used to conclude my recent talk at the Circles of Change conference, I shared a photo of two girls I met at the Washington, DC Women's March, in which they are holding their sign that read, "BUILD KINDNESS NOT WALLS!" My caption for the slide read, "Change the world, not your body."

I was trying to communicate my hope that these powerful young women will not get derailed from their dreams by the damaging and shaming messages about bodies that we are bombarded with daily. However, I had the opportunity to see the misguided nature of this statement through a gentle comment made to me by the fabulous Jes Baker (themilitantbaker.com), who also presented at the conference.

After saying how much she appreciated my presentation, Jes told me that she previously used the same statement until a transgender professor she knew pointed out that trans individuals are changing their bodies and changing the world. My limited view from my social location as a cisgender female stopped me from seeing how the words, "change the world, not your body" could actually be harmful to someone who wants to change their body to be in alignment with their identity. Being true to one's self by living authentically in the body that feels like one's own is a world-changing act of courage, especially since we live in a society where everyone is expected to remain in the easily identified boxes of “woman” and “man.”

I love how life gives us learning opportunities. A one-minute conversation expanded my awareness and now I can share what I learned with others.

I realized while in my bath just now the numerous other ways in which I misspoke. Gotta love baths for quieting the mind enough so that truths can emerge!

o   Our bodies are changing every moment we are alive, even if we don't consciously do a thing to them. As I write these words, my body has transformed on a very subtle cellular level. Aging is the not-so-subtle way of being reminded that my body changes constantly. And I am doing much more to change the world in my older body than I did when I was young. Our bodies are altered from the minute we are born until the last breath we take. We change with each and every breath.
o   A person who has a mastectomy to save their life has a changed body. Does this make them any less capable of changing the world? Not even remotely. They have changed the world by undergoing a procedure that will hopefully allow them to stay on the planet.
o   A person who has plastic surgery to heal from a burn or an accident changes their body. Both the doctor who performs the surgery and the recipient who undergoes the excruciating pain of healing are world changers.
o   Any type of plastic surgery changes the body. Many incredible people in the world have chosen to change their bodies in one form or another. People tend to ask me how I feel about cosmetic surgery after they hear my story about how silicone poisoning contributed to my sister Stephanie's death. My response is always the same: First, it's none of my business what people do with their bodies. I do hope, however, that someone considering cosmetic surgery has spent a good amount of time listening to the wisdom of their body to know whether or not the procedure is going to hinder or enhance their life experience. But not every person has the capacity for this listening process if they've never been taught, so no matter what happens, I believe they go through the experience to learn something about life. We are here to learn and grow!

These are just a few of the ways in which bodies change, and there are ever so many more. It is still my hope that the girls I met will remain aware of—and fully live in—their authentic selves; that wherever their body journey takes them, they will use their incredible power, unobstructed by the noise of those who profit from promoting self-hatred, as the change agents this world so desperately needs.

So here's my revised statement:

Choosing to love and live in our bodies is an act of rebellion. Change the world in whatever way you are called to do so.

We invite you to join us in our mission to give people inspiration and practical tools to grow in self-love and know their magnificent, authentic beauty.

Be Body Positive Professional Training: May 12-13

Be Body Positive Leadership Summit: August 4-6

Connie Sobczak
Connie Sobczak, author of Embody and Co-Founder of The Body Positive, loves to watch the light and power that emerge when people recognize and embrace their magnificent, authentic selves.Her favorite pleasure activities include eating delicious meals, and rock climbing and running as fast as she can down mountains with her daughter Carmen. She gets true rest by getting lost in a good book. She is currently in love with The Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich, and The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri.
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