The Body Is Not An Apology

Fostering Radical Unapologetic Self Love, Body Empowerment and Healing Around the WORLD!

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Transitioning while Non-Binary

by West Anderson, Content Writer


[Image description: Two photos side by side of the author from the waist down. They are standing. They are a young, thin white person. In the left hand photo they are wearing a green watch, a plaid shirt with blue, purple, and gray stripes, black jeans, and shoes with blue, purple, and gray shapes. In the right hand photo they are wearing a lacy pink dress and brown oxford shoes. These are photos from the same day, displaying two different outfits that they like to wear.]

Many people have asked the question, how can you transition if you’re not male or female? What are you transitioning to?

The answer is different for every non-binary person. I know some people who have started hormones or had different surgeries. I know some people who started dressing differently. I know some people for whom the only transition they needed was to think of their gender in a different way, and shift their internal sense of themselves, without changing anything externally.

Some of what I personally did to transition has to do with dysphoria. Dysphoria is broadly defined as “discomfort or distress that is caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex assigned at birth” (World Professional Association for Transgender Health). Dysphoria for me can appear in many different ways, and often comes and goes without much rhyme or reason. On days I feel dysphoric, it can mean that I can’t find any clothes that make me feel comfortable with my presentation. It could also mean that I feel really uncomfortable with my chest, and can’t stand the feel or look of it. Dysphoria can leave me paralyzed, unable to move or dress myself. Some people feel dysphoria over their faces, voices, shoulders, hands, genitals, or any other part of their body.

But not all trans people experience dysphoria, or the same kind of dysphoria. They feel comfortable with some or all of their bodies. Some don’t feel the need to change in order to alleviate dysphoria. There are people who believe you need to have dysphoria to be transgender, but I am not one of those people. If you learn about gender, and explore your own and find you are more comfortable with a different label than the one given to you at birth, that’s all I believe you need to be transgender.

There are definitely some things I changed because to continue as I had would be too painful. But as someone who deals with dysphoria off and on, I don’t feel that my entire transitioning process has been dictated by dysphoria. And that brings me back to the original question I want to ponder – how does one transition while non-binary?

It might be easy to say, well, if you’re assigned female at birth, then binding, buying clothes from the men’s section, and cutting your hair means that you’re transitioning from feminine to masculine. And someone who was assigned male at birth identifying as non-binary and starting to wear more makeup and feminine clothes could be seen as transitioning from one end of the spectrum to the other side. But I hate dichotomies. It’s true, I threw out some skirts and dresses. I own more v-necks. I cut my hair short. But I also have been buying new colors of lipstick recently and picking out cute dresses on thrift store hunts, so I don’t consider myself to be transitioning toward masculinity. I’m non-binary, in all the ways I dress and present myself and all the ways I change my body and appearance to better suit my internal sense of myself.

It used to stress me out, thinking about having to prove to people that I am transgender and that I am transitioning. But I’m starting to realize and truly internalize that I don’t need to do anything to prove that I am trans, especially if it’s for the benefit of other people and not myself.

I don’t think I’ll ever be done transitioning, and I don’t think that, for me, transitioning means not doing x, or starting y. I transitioned by leaving the tiny box I had been forced into. I transitioned by looking at myself in the mirror and knowing I didn’t want to be a boy or a girl. I transitioned by not wearing clothes that made me uncomfortable anymore. I transitioned by asking people to use a different name and different pronouns. I transitioned by fighting for those pronouns. I transitioned by starting to wear sports bras – something that has changed the shape of my chest permanently. I transitioned by letting my body hair grow out in the ways I wanted it to. I transitioned by growing my nails out and learning to give myself manicures. I transitioned by buying more pink clothes. I transitioned by working out more so my arms looked the way I wanted them to. I transitioned by making myself pins, patches, and shirts with my pronouns on them. I transitioned by standing up for my gender in the classroom. I transitioned by telling my mom to only use my chosen name and pronouns.

I feel like transitioning isn’t quite the right word for what I do. I reify my gender through these actions and in my actions every day. It isn’t showy, its components change daily, and it will never be finished.

One thing that helped me validate my own tiny transitions is the realization that cisgender people reify their gender too. There is a quote I love from a piece called Dress to Kill, Fight to Win: “First, there is no naturalized gendered body. All of our bodies are modified with regard to gender, whether we seek out surgery or take hormones or not. All of us engage in or have engaged in processes of gender body modification (diets, shaving, exercise regimes, clothing choices, vitamins, birth control. etc) that alter our bodies, just as we’ve all been subjected to gender related processes that altered our bodies (being fed differently because of our gender, being given or denied proper medical care because of our gender, using dangerous products that are on the market only because of their relationship to gender norms, etc). The isolating of only some of these processes for critique, while ignoring others, is a classic exercise in domination. To see trans body alteration as participating and furthering binary gender, to put trans people’s gender practices under a microscope while maintaining blindness to more familiar and traditional, but no less active and important gender practices of non-trans people, is exactly what the transphobic medical establishment has always done.”

We are all valid in our bodies and genders. The way we see ourselves and dress ourselves and take care of ourselves should be what makes us happy. It can be a struggle, for both cis and trans people, to love ourselves and our bodies. But I believe in each of our abilities to support one another and ourselves on our journeys to self-love.

Filed under gender non binary transitioning transgender the body is not an apology west anderson

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My Judaism As I Step Out On My Own

by West Anderson, Content Writer


[Image description: Two unbaked loaves of challah sit on two metal cookie sheets in the sun. The challah is three strips of dough, braided together.]

It was Friday night. I had just stepped back into my apartment after driving my parents back to their place. My mom and I had spent the day making challah, something we hadn’t done since I was a kid. That night was the first time my parents and I had had Shabbos at my house. As I walked into my apartment, it still smelled indefinably the way Shabbos with my parents has always smelled. The scent is mostly that of warm bread and baked chicken, but it lingers and fills up the whole house even after all the food has been put away in a manner my dinners never produce.

Lately, I’ve been feeling sad at how many Jewish traditions seem to be slipping out my memory as I enter my twenties and my life away from my parent’s home. I’m proud of being Jewish, and I love the holidays and songs and rituals. Every time I draw another blank on some piece of Judaism I once knew, I feel loss and guilt creeping up my shoulders. I want to hold onto these traditions and make them my own, instead of only being something I did with my mom, and don’t do now that we no longer live together.

My mom teaching me about Judaism and guiding me through the rituals will always be probably the most important part of my cultural connection to Judaism. I never want to let go of the way my family is intertwined with my knowledge and love of being Jewish. Even now, when I try to sing blessings before I eat and share stories of my holidays with my partners, it feels like something is missing if my mom isn’t there making hamentashen while I eat all the chocolate chips, if my step-dad isn’t in the kitchen chopping up apples for charoset while I crush walnuts.

As I enter my twenties and the beginning of living on my own, I know that my practical day-to-day relationship with Judaism has to change. Fortunately, my parents do live just down the road and I can have them here to do things like what we did that Friday night. But it’s time I take a more active role in my connection to Judaism. I’m excited and scared. I still feel like I don’t know enough, and I won’t do things right the way my parents will. But the sense of peace and happiness that washes over me when I taste the challah I baked with my own hands, smell the good food smells building in the oven while family relaxes around my house, and watch the Shabbos candles burn down until they sputter out on their own, is magic. It’s magic that works for me, that I feel spiritually and culturally connected to. I’m really looking forward to diving into Judaism once more, going to meet it as an adult rather than being brought toit as a child.

Filed under judaism faith religion the body is not an apology being jewish west anderson

118 notes

On Gendering Strangers

by West Anderson, Content Writer


(source: queerty)

[Image description: On a pink background, two white outlines of people are sitting close together at a round table. The one on the left is smiling and tilting their head away while the one on the right leans in towards their ear. In the top left corner, in black text, it reads, “You had me at your ask of my preferred gender pronoun.”]

I’ve had several non-binary people come to me over the years to ask how I deal with being misgendered by strangers and acquaintances. You know – parents of friends, friends of friends, teachers, waiters, cashiers, and so on. The hundred-odd people you can meet in a day that you will never have a close relationship with, or that you will never see again.

It’s a tricky situation. I don’t expect them to know that I’m non-binary. How could I? They’re not mind readers, and I’m not visibly gender non-conforming in a way that confuses people. Even if I were, chances are the person is not going to default to my preferred pronouns they/them/their. Visibly gender non-conforming, trans people (especially trans women, and especially trans women of color) have to deal with everything from the discomfort to the violent outrage of cis people. In many ways, I’m lucky to only have to deal with getting misgendered by strangers. But it still sucks, because there is no good way (that I have found or am brave enough to try) to politely inform a waiter that me and my partner are not, in fact, ladies.

Try giving a primer on gender while handing change to a cashier. Or piping up about your pronouns in a lecture hall filled with several hundred students. There are some situations where I can explain things in private, like with teachers, but then you have to hope for the best with the teacher’s reaction. I had a really wonderful creative writing teacher that I loved a lot, and I explained my gender and pronouns to her pretty early on. It still took her a full year to stop using the wrong pronouns in class, and it took me a full year to feel comfortable correcting her in front of thirty or so people who didn’t know I was trans.

My partner, who is also non-binary, recently emailed their professors about their preferred name. One said that they would have to get their name changed with the school. The others were okay with it, but they have been messing up every single class for the past five weeks.

This past week, we were doing an icebreaker exercise in one of my classes where we introduced the person sitting next to us. Another non-binary person in the class tried to correct someone who was misgendering them as they introduced them. They covered their mouth with their hand, leaned over, and said “Actually, my gender pronouns are they/them.” The person looked confused, and said “Anyway, she’s a third-year transfer…” I watched my friend’s face go bright red as they tried to smile. I felt for them so much. I’ve been in that situation too. I don’t think the person who misgendered them is a bad person. They just didn’t know what my friend meant, and it was an awkward situation in which to try to explain it more.

Basically, I have to pick my battles. Is it worth getting into with this person? Am I going to be interacting with them a lot? Do they seem like they would be receptive to changing their language for me? How often am I going to have to remind them? How much am I going to have to explain?

It would help immensely if people, both cis and trans, worked to refer to strangers with neutral language until they can ask about their gender or pronouns. I know that seems like a lot to ask, or perhaps that it would be awkward to ask someone what their pronouns are, but for the many people who have to deal with the awful sensation of being misgendered hundreds of times daily, it would help. This isn’t just a problem non-binary people or people who use non-binary pronouns face. Trans men and women also have to deal with being misgendered daily. If we all worked to shift our culture until asking for pronouns became as accepted as asking someone’s name, the source of a great deal of pain for many people would cease to exist.

If asking for pronouns seems ridiculous or rude, I encourage people to look at the reasons why using neutral language or asking for pronouns feels uncomfortable or offensive. Many of those reasons are wrapped up in the rigid gender roles and gender performances our binary system requires of us all. Perhaps we feel asking a cis person’s pronouns would imply they aren’t performing their gender correctly – they don’t appear male or female. But in an ideal world, none of us would have to “perform” our gender “correctly.” We could just exist however we like, with our bodies, presentations, and roles not tied to a certain gender, and with our worth not wrapped up in “being a real man” or “being a proper woman.” I think that world can only benefit us all.

Filed under gender non binary transgender preferred pronouns pronouns the body is not an apology west anderson

35 notes

When Etiquette Promotes Inequality

by Content Writer Rev. Katie Norris

[Image: Navy Blue fabric hardcover book with “Emily Post’s Etiquette” printed in gold lettering on the front. Image by Joe Wolf from Flickr Creative Commons.]

As I mentioned in a previous post, I grew up on proper etiquette. I have a love/hate relationship with etiquette, and one of the things that made me hate it was when I started to see how it can promote inequality.

In high school, I started to notice how etiquette rules have placed me in an unfair position of privilege. When I was in high school, I got into a car accident that was my fault. I had to go to court, and I was told that when I go, I should wear my school uniform (from an all-girls Catholic high school), nice shoes, tights, and my hair in a bun. I was told that I needed to show that I was a responsible youth and that I did not look like “other kids” who were there — the ones who were “irresponsible” and thus needed a greater punishment than I did.  I was also told to remember the rules of etiquette about using titles, only speaking when spoken to, and sitting up straight with with my legs crossed at the ankles. I remember, at that young age, pondering what it meant that just because I could dress up and knew how to follow the etiquette of dress, posture, and communication, that I would be treated better than someone else who might have done the same thing I did but did not have the privilege I did. All of this just seemed so wrong. Of course, there was also race and class privilege going on here as well, but I clearly remember all of this being cloaked in the language of etiquette and “proper form.”

When I was little, I often hated all the rules of “appropriate dress.” (I still hate most of those rules.) It was made clear to me that it was bad to not follow dress codes; after all, I did not want to look like a “ragamuffin,” did I? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “ragamuffin” as a child who is dressed in rags and is usually dirty and poor; a ragged often disreputable person. There is a whole lot of class oppression and judgment in that one word, all cloaked in the guise of etiquette. As an adult now, I also know that as a white, middle class, cisgender person, I can get away with breaking dress code rules more than people who are of a different race, class, or gender identity than I am.

There are certain rules of etiquette I still hold to, however. My friend, Ms. Jennifer Laurence, helped me process through an issue I was having with titles after I became a minister. Ms. Laurence is a classically trained butler and household manager, and a hospitality consultant, in the Chicagoland area. She uses her expertise in etiquette and protocol in her consulting practice with clients. If someone is going to formally address me, it bothers me when they do not do so correctly, especially if they are addressing my husband as well. Either they use “Mr. and Mrs.” and don’t even use Rev." for me, or they use “Mr. and Rev.,” which is also incorrect. I consulted Ms. Laurence about proper form when addressing a couple where the woman has a higher title than the man. She said my title outranks my husband’s, so it should go first, and we should be addressed as “Rev. and Mr.”

This issue matters to me for a few reasons. First, I worked hard for that title and I like to use it. Second, being an ordained minister is a calling, an essential part of who I am. My name, Katie, is an essential part of who I am because of the history and meaning behind my name, and I feel the same way about “Rev.” Third, as a woman, our titles and the work we did to get them are always seen as “less than” in comparison to a man. If my husband were the “Rev.” no one would leave it off his name or use it incorrectly. My Dad is a doctor and everyone refers to him by his title. As a woman, claiming the title is important from an equality perspective.

Our etiquette rules also fail to consider differences in culture, thus making people judge other cultures unfairly. Plus, we show a lack of respect for another culture by not learning the etiquette of that culture. For example, in the US, it is considered good etiquette, upon meeting someone, to greet them by looking them in the eye and shaking hands. However, in Malaysia, you do not shake hands unless you know the person well, and you do not shake hands with a woman unless she offers first. So, if someone is from a different culture, does not follow our etiquette rules, and does not shake hands at an interview, that does not mean they are inconsiderate and should not be hired. We need to remember that etiquette changes depending on where you are.

This post barely scratches the surface of how we hide racism, classism, and oppression in the guise of etiquette. I hope that it starts a conversation that asks us to look at the meanings, needs, and unspoken messages when we insist on etiquette rules for other people.


Rev. Katie

Filed under etiquette etiquette and shame inequality racial inequality classism

33 notes

When Etiquette Promotes Body Shame

by Content Writer Rev. Katie Norris

[Image: Pink, tattered cover of an old paperback book by Claire Wallace with the title “Mind Your Manners: A Complete Dictionary of Etiquette for Canadians” in black letters. There is a graphic of a stylized white hand holding a black glove and circles around the book have text inside them. The text circles say: “How to plan social events,” “How to dress for every occasion,” How to write all letters,” and “How to behave in every situation.” The top right of the cover says the book cost .50 cents. Image by Ann Douglas from Flickr Creative Commons.]

I was raised with good etiquette. I knew every rule — such as you don’t start eating at dinner until everyone has been served and the host starts eating. I learned how to dress in different situations, how to greet people, and how to sit properly. I knew how to be a host and how to be a guest, in any situation.

On the one hand, I loved all of that formality, and good etiquette made me feel older. Since I was well-behaved, I was often allowed to do more things than other kids were, and I liked that added responsibility. On the other hand, I hated it. I hated that accidentally putting my elbows on the table was considered disrespectful when I did not mean to do anything bad. I hated that I had to dress in clothes I was completely uncomfortable in and that made me feel ugly and vulnerable. I hated that there were rules as to what was appropriate for a girl to do, and that running and climbing were not good etiquette for a young lady.

I have noticed that I have extreme amounts of body shame from extreme etiquette rules. I fear that everything I wear will offend someone. I recently went to an awards dinner and when I saw the photos later, I realized I had forgotten my etiquette. All other award recipients wore suits and jackets for the men, and a dress and jacket for women, all in dark colors. There I was in a sleeveless 1950’s style dress that had a light pattern in green and purple. I missed a rule, and I felt totally ashamed about it.

Recently, I read an article that reflected the ways in which etiquette, when explained poorly and with shaming language, can be detrimental. In the article, Don’t Discount Value of Etiquette in Business World, Colleen Harding, owner of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol says, "How you dress is really important. At Christmas, no one wants to grab the ugliest package from the tree. They go for the one with the prettiest bow." It is very common for people to teach etiquette using shame tactics. Who wants to be the ugly package? No one.

On the other hand, the most well known guide to etiquette, the Emily Post empire, states:What does etiquette mean to you? To us, it means treating people with consideration, respect, and honesty. It means being aware of how our actions affect those around us. Why? To help us build successful relationships.”

That definition of etiquette would be fine with me. What I think we forget, though, is that how we teach etiquette matters. Are we comparing people to ugly Christmas gifts, or are we helping people navigate managing everyday life with diverse groups of people?

In researching this post, I contacted my friend, Ms. Jennifer Laurence. Ms. Laurence is a classically trained butler and household manager, and a hospitality consultant, in the Chicagoland area. She uses her expertise in etiquette and protocol in her consulting practice with clients. Ms. Laurence agrees with Harding that etiquette is about making others around you comfortable, but she says that etiquette is not supposed to be taught with shame tactics. The conversation around etiquette should be about what shows respect and consideration for the people around you — and for yourself. I love this description from Ms. Laurence of her views on the etiquette of dress:

“It is my opinion that one should ALWAYS dress to the best that THEY can as required by the occasion. This in my opinion shows respect and an attempt to show the host that you have put some effort into the invitation you have received. Here is a simple example: Say a poor farmer and his wife are invited to the White House, and all they have for him is jeans/button up plaid shirt and for her, a worn work dress. If they press and clean those items with pride, they should be received into the Oval Office as if they are wearing Prada! And a true diplomat such as the President would see that pride that they were wearing the best that they had and honor that effort…and even might comment on that “lovely” dress the woman is wearing to make HER feel comfortable! THAT is etiquette on both counts…the couples because they tried their best, and the dignitary because they recognized that commitment and effort and tried to make them feel comfortable.”

That kind of etiquette I can get behind.

As a child, I learned about etiquette in a way that made me totally ashamed of my body — not just from the outside, but from the inside as well.  I remember being called an “inconsiderate brat” as a child by an adult I barely knew because I did not eat ice cream while I was a guest at someone’s house. I am lactose intolerant and cannot eat ice cream, which this adult thought was not true. In fact, he said that, even if it were true, I should eat the ice cream anyway, out of respect. So, for the sake of etiquette, i.e. “respect,” I should make myself sick.

When I did a Google search for “etiquette and shame,” an interesting article showed up about bathroom etiquette. In Etiquette, Shame, and the Huffington Post, Dr. Michael Sykes talks about an interview that was supposed to focus on bathroom etiquette in the workplace. He says that the interview ended up not being at all about etiquette; instead, it was about shame. People are so ashamed to have bodies that the whole conversation revolved around how to hide using the toilet and how disgusting bodies are, rather than revolving around questions of etiquette, such as not talking on the phone in the bathroom. I know quite a few people who have actually gotten physically sick because they are so afraid to use the bathroom in public, thinking that going to the bathroom was bad etiquette.

We often talk about etiquette and all the “rules” we “should” follow without thinking about whether the rules are necessary in the first place, how we are wording such rules, and what message the rules are sending. If we are using etiquette as a way to shame, control, or judge someone else, then we are using etiquette incorrectly. If we judge someone as worth less because their suit does not fit “correctly” or they put their elbows on the table, then we have let etiquette go too far. If people feel ashamed of their bodies due to etiquette rules, then we are defying the main point of etiquette, which is to be respectful.


Rev. Katie


Filed under etiquette body shame body shaming dress codes cleveland Emily Post shame etiquette and shame work

45 notes

Social Justice Conversations: Why Asking People to Look at Their Own Issues May Not Be Helpful

by Content Writer Rev. Katie Norris

[Image: Three black conversation bubbles on a white background. Image by AJ Cann, Flickr Creative Commons.]

As a minister who works on advocacy and social justice issues, I am always looking at how we talk to one another in difficult conversations. Some of those difficult conversations take a bad turn from something seemingly simple.

I remember sitting in a group of people talking about weight acceptance and combating fat shame. At one point, someone said that they were uncomfortable with the images in the media that typically depict overweight people always eating “junk” food and thin people eating “healthy” food, when in reality, weight is not an indicator of what types of food you eat or an indicator of health. Another person in the room responded right away, yelling, “We can’t just let people eat junk and die! People need to be taught to take care of their own bodies and be responsible.”

If you work in any profession that teaches about communication, from business communication to psychology, you learn that an intense, extreme reaction to something, particularly when it is out of proportion to what has been going on in the room, means the person was triggered. Something in their own life makes a topic extremely sensitive for them and they get fearful and lash out. Right away, I saw that the responder was triggered and that the reaction was more about the person than the conversation at hand. And I knew what was coming next.

Someone in the group replied to this person with “You sound really upset about this. We were not saying to promote anyone being unhealthy. Maybe you need to look at your own issues with this to discover more about why you are reacting so strongly to this.”

I knew, right then, that the conversation would take one of two courses. The person who reacted strongly would feel shamed, stop talking, and probably never feel safe coming back to the group again. Or, a huge argument would ensue.

This interaction went the way of argument.

I get it that yes, usually strong reactions are the issue of the person with the reaction, but it is rarely beneficial to tell them so. In groups like this, I am not that person’s therapist and it is not my job to help them unpack their baggage. The “Maybe you need to look at your own issues” reply sounds condescending, even if it is not meant to be. And it shows that no one is responding to the pain and fear in the original response, which is what needs to be addressed.

So, I suggest two other ways to respond that are more more compassionate and are less likely to shut down the conversation — without giving in and agreeing with the responder. These tips apply to in-person interaction as well as online forums.

1. Ask the person to clarify. In the story above, I might have asked “Can you tell me more about what you are thinking about this? What is your experience?” This response shows that I heard the fear and concern this person is expressing and that I won’t just shut it down. I am willing to walk with them into that place, talk about it, and learn more about their perspective. Usually, this question allows them to tell their story and they talk about why they are so afraid. Most often, at that point, they realize on their own that their reaction was strong and, perhaps, more about them than what was actually said by the group. I would also advise that, if the person says, “My Mom ate McDonald’s two times a day, got sick, and I had to care for her and then she died at 55,” no one point out that the person just revealed their own issue or baggage. They probably already realize that, and it’s for them to process.

2. Tell your own story. I might remember a part of my life in which I said something similar to what the responder said, but have now changed my reaction. I might have said something like the following:

"It is really scary to me that there are people who are dying from weight related illness. I had a few friends in high school who were anorexic and their lives were in danger. My own health has gotten worse during the times when I eat “junk food” and I get over a comfortable weight for me. But for me, these images of fat people as the only ones who eat junk and are therefore “bad or irresponsible” — and thin people as the only ones who eat healthy and are therefore “good and perfect” — have contributed to my disordered eating and distorted body image. When I was on diets all the time, I felt intense shame over anything I ate that was not “perfect,” which created a lot of self-hatred for me and I then judged other people like that as well. I started to look down on bigger people eating a hamburger, but then I looked with jealousy at a thin person eating a hamburger. I knew this mentality was hurting not only myself, but others as well, because I was judging them based on a small amount of information. It has been really helpful for me to see images of people of all sizes eating different things, having different kinds of lifestyles, and seeing how health comes in many sizes.”

Telling my own story shows the person who responded intensely that yes, we all struggle with these issues, and that is okay. It also allows them to share their own story. Plus, in my story, I pointed to a change in ideas and a new perspective, which stemmed from me looking at my own issues. It’s the same message as “Maybe you need to look at your own issues,” but presented in a much more accessible and shame-free way.

If there is anything I have learned about working with others on difficult subjects is that we all have our own issues! We all carry our own baggage, and we are all afraid. When we ignore that, we ignore the humanity in the room and just end up arguing. I always try to remember that if someone else has an intense reaction and I start to feel my chest or stomach get tight, or I get a bit anxious or angry and I want to say something right away, then my own issues are showing up. I try and take at least ten slow breaths to calm myself, see the other person, and respond with compassion and truth.


Rev. Katie

Filed under social justice conversation Rev. Katie Norris advocacy communication story conversation tips

52 notes

Talking About Cultural Appropriation With Young Kids

by Content Writer Rev. Katie Norris

[Image: Handmade Halloween notecard that has a black background with patterned papers in white with orange dots, white with orange jack-o-lanterns, and black with orange stars. There is a black bow tied around the card and in the middle a white circle with a spider web that says “Happy Halloween” with a black spider hanging from the web. Image by Diane Jaquay, Flickr Creative Commons.]

As soon as October 1 rolls around, many people start planning Halloween costumes, and with Halloween costumes come many posts about cultural appropriation. Simply defined, cultural appropriation “refers to the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group.” But this definition is far too simple. A lot of people, around the world, adopt elements of a culture different from their own. According to this definition, anyone who cooks food from a culture not their own is practicing cultural appropriation. A far better definition — one that speaks to the true issues of cultural appropriation — is the following: “Cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups—often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.”

There are many great articles and videos about cultural appropriation and the damage it causes. What I have not found in all of this information is anything that discusses how to talk to young kids about cultural appropriation in a way that they understand.

In the past few weeks, my son has been around when we have been talking about cultural appropriation. First, he saw me looking at these photos from the We’re a Culture, Not a Costume poster campaign by STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) at Ohio University, and he wanted to know what they were about. Then, we were at an arts festival and my husband and I got into a conversation about belly dancing because some of the belly dancers in one of the dance troupes were white, and I had just read the article, Why I can’t Stand White Belly Dancers.

I can tell you that all of our explanations of cultural appropriation were totally inadequate for our ten-year-old son. The concept was confusing to him. I could tell it made him a little annoyed, because it seemed judgmental to him for people to say that doing something from another person’s culture was automatically “bad and wrong.” He was also a bit scared, as if he was now worried that anything we might do could be cultural appropriation, and that we would accidentally offend someone.

It is hard to understand. I used to train at a Zen temple, and we sat on Zafus and Zabutons for meditation. Is that cultural appropriation? Or is it cultural exchange?

Cultural exchange is defined as “engaging with a culture as a respectful and humble guest, invitation only.” That is tricky though, because who invites you? My Zen teacher was invited into the Zen tradition and ordained, but does that invitation extend to me? If someone asks me about my invitation, how do I prove that it is a good and appropriate invitation?

There are a lot of questions about the boundaries of cultural appropriation, and most people agree that the lines are blurry. Some people are more strict about what is appropriation than others. I have no perfect way to explain cultural appropriation to young children. I can share with you our best attempts with our own son. I encourage people to comment with other ways they have taught their kids about it so that we can learn from one another.

What I have been trying to help my son understand is that, just as we talk about how racism is prejudice plus power, cultural appropriation is also about power. I am trying to help him understand that historically, people with power, like those of us who are white, often just take whatever we want from another culture with less power, without asking or without much consideration for the people we are taking things from.

His school has talked a lot about Columbus and how the pilgrims came to America and just took over, oppressing the Native Americans. So, he understood that if, it was not all right for a group of people in power to take away land from another group and torture them, then it is not all right for people in power to take another culture’s hairstyle, dress, or rituals.  

I have tried to explain to him that when we like something from another culture that we might want to do, we need to check our intention and our understanding. For instance, if we want to take Hapkido, what understanding of the culture do we have? And will we take it at a place in which Hapkido is part of their culture and they invite people to take classes? I also tell him that we need to listen to the people from the culture. If the majority of them think it is not okay for us to do something, respect that, and just don’t do it.

In all of this, though, it is important that he knows it is okay to mess up. Honestly, so much in America has been culturally appropriated that some things we might not even know are from another culture. We will continue to have this conversation with him, especially since my husband works with people from all over the world and we are often invited to do things in a different culture. I also think this conversation will evolve in our society over time and we will have more of an understanding of where the boundaries are.


Rev. Katie

Here are two videos that explain cultural appropriation:

WTF is Cultural Appropriation by the1janitor

Cultural Appropriation: Why Your Pocahontas Costume Isn’t Okay: Aaliyah Jihad at TEDxYouth@AnnArbor

Filed under cultural appropriation halloween kids Rev. Katie Norris cultural exchange stars ohio university

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Letting Go into Singledom

by Levi Caudill, Guest Writer

Source: Rohan7Things

[Image description: Against a black background in white print, the text reads, “I like being single. I’m always there when I need me.”]

When someone like myself chooses to forego their search for a partner in life and rely solely upon themselves to find and maintain their happiness and contentment, there is a certain process they may go through: Letting go. Letting go of all the preconceived notions of what was expected of them. Letting go of the ideas that go along with the straight and narrow. Letting go of all the what-could-have-beens. It’s like a mourning process. You’re mourning the things and ideas that you yourself have given up.

Like the American dream. No matter their race, religion, sexuality, social status, etc., many people want their own piece of the American pie. They want the house in the suburbs, an SUV in the driveway, children to take to soccer and/or dance practice and, of course, the family pet. Again, there are exceptions, but when driving through most subdivisions, you are likely to see this exact scenario.

When choosing a life of singledom, you must let go of this idea. You have to find and chase your own version of the American dream, no matter what it looks like. For me, my American dream is where I’m at right now. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine, and I made it happen. I may not own a home or an SUV, I may not have children or a busy social life, but I’ve taken a little piece of the American pie for myself. It may not be exactly what I want, but it’s pretty damn good, if you ask me.

First, I moved to Florida last year. I got rid of most of my possessions and took what could fit in my car – along with seven 14x14x14 boxes of “randomness” that I had to have shipped – and hit the road for a new start. Halfway across the country from 99% of my support system, I knew a few people in the Orlando area, so I wasn’t completely alone, but you get the point. And it was, by far, the best decision that I have ever made. I spent 11 years in the Kansas City area, with the last five of them on the emotional rollercoaster from hell. It was time to jump the tracks and open a new chapter in my life.

I mean, how you could I not love Florida? I was born and raised in Kansas. I spent 30 years landlocked with winters that could chill you to the bone. Now, I can look outside my window at palm trees, I’m 35 miles from Daytona Beach, and we have 80-degree weather during the winter months. When I’m having a bad day, I can drive to the beach, plant myself in the sand, and sit in the peace that is the ocean. Granted, I may not be in Florida forever, but it’s definitely the perfect fit for me now.

Second, I work from home. Although my job couldn’t be father from something I’d rather be doing, it could be much worse. No Starbucks stop every morning, no commute into an office, no work wardrobe needed, no lunches out – all things that save a ton of money. Though I am more than burnt out after being in the same position for seven years, I have a newfound appreciation for my employer. Without my work situation being what it is, it would have been nearly impossible to start this new chapter in my life. Besides working from home, I work Monday through Friday, I have five weeks of paid time off each year, I make close to what a lot of what my friends with college educations do (and I don’t have student loan debt, as I forewent college as well), and most importantly, I am covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows me to take paid time off (at no risk of losing my job) to manage my mental health needs. There are so many reasons to be thankful, even if I have to remind myself of this constantly so I don’t lose my sanity.

There also other things that you must accept in singledom.

Being the third wheel. Whether it’s going out to dinner or going out on the town, I am always the third wheel because most of my friends down here are coupled. This doesn’t bother me for the most part though. When watching them interact with each other, it’s hard to not want what they have for a brief moment in time. Whenever this thought enters my head, it is always pushed out by the flood of reasons I’ve chosen the life of singledom.

I’ve gotten so used to being the third wheel so many times during my life that it’s actually like second nature to me. I don’t feel that I stick out or that others are wondering why I’m alone. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time that I felt like that. There won’t always be someone to balance out the time you spend with your coupled friends. Sometimes you’re just going to be the tag-along. While this is something that doesn’t bother me, it’s certainly something that must be accepted by those who are choosing the single life.

Special occasions. Valentine’s Day. No flowers, no cards, no candy, no date. I’m personally okay with this as I’d rather watch movies instead.

Summer vacations. You’re either vacationing alone, vacationing with friends (back to the whole third wheel thing), or vacationing with your family. I actually prefer to vacation with my family. It’s always sure to be a good time when my sisters and I get together, listen to Nicki Minaj and Tyga, all while driving my mother crazy with our differing tastes in music.

Christmas. No significant other to buy for. No one special to wake up to on Christmas morning. I actually prefer it this way as well. You don’t have to rack your brain for that gift that’s going to wow them. I’ve woken up at my mom’s house every Christmas for 31 years. I can’t imagine having to share the holidays with someone else’s family. I am selfish in this sense. I want to wake up to MY family and spend the entire day with MY family.

Birthdays. No special surprise from a partner. No birthday date. Just you or you and your family or friends. For me, this is ideal – spending time with the people who have always been there and who will always be there.

Date nights. While most are out with their significant others, I am at home watching Dexter and eating Totino’s pizza, taking my own self out on the town, or tagging along (here comes that third wheel again) with others.

None of these things were very hard for me to accept. To me, giving these up to be happier and more stable overall was totally worth it. Very seldom (if ever) do I really crave any of these things. If and when I do, I immediately push those thoughts away by reminders of why I’m living my life this way. There are always reminders and affirmations of why I chose singledom. When I see someone fighting with their partner, when I hear someone complain about the dating world, when I see people that are so desperate for their own American dream, I feel empowered by my decision. It’s like an affirmation for my affirmation. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

I will say that I once had the American dream with someone. But that dream soon became a living nightmare. While things were intriguing and exciting at first, I soon began to realize that it wasn’t for me. There were definitely things about that person that made me run for the hills (lots and lots and lots of things). However, when looking back, I don’t think I could have ever stayed in that situation forever. There were too many variables that I wasn’t okay with. Do I miss the kids of the person I was with? Absolutely. Do I think of them often? Sure do. Even though I knew that our life wasn’t a good fit for me, it was hard to tear myself away from them. They were actually the only reason that I stayed for as long as I did. In the end, I had to realize that, while I loved them, I also loved myself and I had to put myself first. While the kids were the best part of it, being in that relationship was the worst decision I have ever made. I’m still suffering the consequences.

Sometimes, I see people with such a strong desire to have their own piece of the American pie that they search endlessly for that one person to help them achieve their very own American dream. I see them bounce from person to person and from situation to situation. But to each their own. Who’s to say if it’s right or wrong? I just wish that more singles would revel in their singledom, even if it’s not forever. Just breathe, sit back, and enjoy life as it is before everything changes someday.

And above all, appreciate the art of being free.

Filed under levi caudill the body is not an apology singledom being single radical self-love

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The Body is Not An Apology is HIRING!

The Body is Not An Apology is a global movement focused on Radical Self-Love and Body Empowerment. In the three and a half years since our founding, we have grown exponentially, reaching over 100,000 people weekly and boasting over 40,000 Unapologetic Posse members from the U.S, India, Australia, Singapore, and many other countries all across the world!

We are in a season of rapid growth and are looking to expand our work and our team. Multiple Leadership Circle positions are currently available.Leadership Circle positions include a small stipend. We welcome all applicants who want to serve the cause of radical self-love and social transformation. Transgender people, people of color, aging people, people with disabilities, men, those with intersectional identities and people from outside the US who are passionate about issues of radical self-love and social change are especially encouraged to apply. 


TBINAA Content Writers/Curators (7 positions)

Content Writers/Curators are a central element of the TBINAA philosophy and our community education. Content Writers/Curators are strong writers who are willing to be vulnerable, insightful, and daring with their content. They provide in-depth ideas and analysis of current-day issues regarding radical self-love and identity. They source web content on hot topics, illuminate under-discussed issues, and challenge body terrorism. Content Writers/Curators write about issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, weight, size, aging, religion, parenting, mental health, and other topics related to loving ourselves and one another unconditionally.

Responsibilities include:

  • Write articles about radical self-love as a vehicle for radical social transformation

  • Source web content in various formats (print, podcast, videos, etc.) for sharing and publication

  • Research and post articles about current issues

  • Collaborate with other writers

  • Work with our Content Manager on topics, edits, revisions, and framing

  • Participate in monthly meetings

Social Media Administrators (4 positions)

Social Media Administrators ensure the visibility of TBINAA via social media platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Social Media Administrators ensure that content from our websiteis transferred to our social media pages, and share memes, affirmations, and images related to radical self-love. Social Media Administrators will also create affirmations and caption TBINAA content to attract readers and interest in the main site.

Responsibilities include:

  • Increase the visibility and impact of TBINAA.

  • Communicate the mission, vision, and principles of radical self-love to social media audiences.

  • Maintain and update TBINAA social networking vehicles, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, multiple times daily.

  • Respond to followers’ comments, inbox messages, and concerns in a timely manner.

  • Monitor threads to ensure users are respecting TBINAA Community Dialogue Agreements.

  • Increase the number of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr followers on our pages.

  • Caption graphics and provide video transcripts for accessibility.

TBINAA“Bad” Picture Monday/Instagram Coordinators (2 positions)

The Body is Not An Apology’s “Bad” Picture Monday project continues to garner international attention for its focus on deconstructing image consciousness. We are seeking an individual who can generate interest, engage new participants, and expand radical self-love through “Bad” Picture Monday and Instagram.

Responsibilities include:

  • Collect and post “Bad” Picture Monday images from Unapologetic Posse Members and TBINAA staff

  • Manage our Instagram account that houses “Bad”Picture Monday images

  • Upload images and memes related to radical self-love.

  • Caption graphics and transcribe videos for accessibility.

  • Track the press and online presence of “Bad” Picture Monday.

  • Develop marketing tools and promotional ideas to share the project.

Special Project Assistant to the CEO

Are you creative? Are you a “take it and run” sort of person? Founder and CEO Sonya Renee Taylor NEEDS YOU! The Body is Not An Apology is an ever-growing movement whose reach increases each day. We have amazing events, activities, and projects launching all the time. The Special Projects Assistant could be helping to coordinate a poetry event in Los Angeles with the biggest names in slam or design a radical self-love fashion spread for New York’s Fashion Week. Sometimes, the assistant may just be answering emails from Unapologetic Posse Members around the world. Who KNOWS what is next? We need an organized, enthusiastic disciple of RADICAL SELF-LOVE to make it happen.

Responsibilities include:

  • Assist the TBINAA founder in developing new projects.

  • Contribute to the creative design and development of TBINAA campaigns, projects, and activities that spread our message around the world.

  • Organize TBINAA resources for easier access.

  • Answer emails and field questions regarding our community and activities.

How to Apply

Applicants should complete our online form at :

Additionally, please submit your resume and letter explaining your interest via email to

Ideal candidates are committed to compassionate and non-judgmental radical body positivity, radical inclusivity, and social justice. Candidates should be self-starters, enthusiastic, passionate, team oriented, and organized. College level applicants may receive college credits for their Leadership Circle work.


All Leadership Circle positions are virtual; thus, applicants must have reliable high-speed Internet connections and be skilled and responsible regarding electronic communication. Since the positions are remote, anyone anywhere in the world can apply.

Filed under The Body is Not An Apology women men transgender disability people of color latina Asian black native american middle eastern fat mental illness parents social justice Self Acceptance Body Love

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UNAPOLOGETIC! SaraEve, Performance Poet and Epilepsy Advocate

Image description and graphic created by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, Content Manager and Writer


[Image description: The graphic consists of a photograph of a young white woman sitting on a bed with white sheets and a white pillow visible behind her. The top of her head, shoulders, and upper torso are visible, along with a partial view of her face. She wearing a turquoise tank top and is looking down and away from the camera. Her black hair is shaved on the top and a number of intracranial EEG leads are coming from the top of her head. The text at the top of the graphic, on a black background, reads, “Every Body is an UNAPOLOGETIC Body!” with the “The Body is Not an Apology” logo to the right of it. To the right of the photograph is the text, “SaraEve. Living with Epilepsy. ‘You are so much more than your broken.’”]

Filed under SaraEve Every Body is an Unapologetic Body unapologetic memes the body is not an apology radical self-love