Canadian magazine NOW Toronto recently published their second annual Body Issue.
The issue features Torontonians with incredibly diverse body stories, like drummer Stephen Bowles, who says breaking his back made him more empathetic towards others.
“Before, when crossing the street, I’d be upset if someone ahead of me was going slowly,” he tells the publication. “But now I realize I don’t know what it took for them to get to this point and I should honor the fact that they’re here.”
There’s also human rights activist Akio Maroon, who discusses the realities of life in a black woman’s body.
“Being stopped by the cops is really hard for me,” she tells the magazine, “because when they pull their guns I don’t know if this is my last moment on earth. Is this my last opportunity to call my daughter or my family and tell them I love them? Every single day might be my last, just because I live in the skin I’m in.”
And Xica Ducharme, a burlesque performer and stewardess who discusses both the racial and gender-based discrimination she’s faced at the hands of others.
“It doesn’t matter how much the world tries to put me down,” she says. “I will stand on those heels, naked, in front of anyone, holding a fan to cool myself off from all the struggles. Making myself beautiful. Standing tall.”
Personal trainer and youth program coordinator Adam Benn discusses how fatphobia early in life continues to affect his self-esteem.
“I was one of those overweight children,” he says, “so a lot of my early experiences were defined by being fat, feeling unattractive and not feeling good about myself… Even doing this photo shoot was highly traumatic. Taking off all my clothes and being in front of people is hard because of that instinct to second-guess myself.”
Writer and performer Katie Sly explains why, for her, nudity is “very much a point of strength.”
“My body has been possessed and owned by people without my permission on so many occasions — and fuck it, I’m taking my body back,” she tells the magazine. “You can do what you can do to me, but I will still be here, and in this body, and totally unashamed.”
Refugee and activist Biko Beauttah, who covers the issue, discusses her evolving body image as a trans woman, as well as her experiences living in a shelter with others seeking asylum.
“For many of my fellow refugees, the shelter was the first place in a long time where they did not live with the fear of being shot by rebels, eaten by wild animals at night, beaten or raped by soldiers,” she says. “I got to hear everyone’s story and promised myself that when I left the shelter, I would devote my life to giving a voice to refugees, as they are the most vulnerable among us.”
Bo Hedges, who co-captains Canada’s wheelchair basketball team, talks about his role in the representation of differently abled people.
“It’s very easy to make an athletic white male like me representative of disability and call it ‘diversity,’” he says. “Still, I think showing disability in these pages is better than having none at all, and if I can show that I’m comfortable in my own skin, maybe it will inspire society to become comfortable with more atypical disabled bodies.”
Chiamaka Umeh, Esther Jun, and Rebecca Perry of Toronto’s Next Stage Theatre Fest discuss religious stigmas against nudity, passing positive body image onto future generations, and looks vs talent in entertainment.
“Recently I said to [my daughter], ‘I love your cute little belly,’” says Jun. “And then she touched my belly and said, ‘I love your belly, too, Mom!’ I almost died. She loves it the way it is; she doesn’t know anything different. I figure I should probably learn to love it the way she does.”
And finally Tiq and Kim Katrin Milan, both journalists and activists, were temporarily banned from Facebookafter posting the photo from their shoot with NOW — though a similar photo of Lady Gaga and Taylor Kinney was trending on the site at the time.
“There isn’t a lot of diverse representation of black queer couples loving each other and celebrating each others’ bodies and beauty,” Kim tells the magazine in a quote that now seems even more significant.
“For many people involved with trans people, it’s a hidden thing, and we want to challenge that narrative. There’s nothing secret about the way we love each other: we love each other out loud.”