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 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!
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:
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.