BodyImage4Justics is pleased to present this reflection by Sarath Suong, a community organizer whose work is centered around the unique intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Sarath is a co-founder and current Co-Director of the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) and Southeast Asian Queers United for Empowerment and Leadership (seaQuel).
I was born a refugee. Immediately, my body was protected from harm and from hunger. My family cared for my body; they nourished it, they nursed it, they encouraged it to grow. They sheltered my body from violence, from the awful ways United States capitalist racism can mistreat and abuse brown bodies like mine.
I struggle with sharing my body. Doesn’t it belong to my family? How much of it is obligated to my lover? Isn’t ok to say “no” when the community needs me? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to compromise with my body much, much more. I listen to it now. I slow down now. I say “no” now. I am now ok with being alone with my body.
As a cisgender man, my body is validated every day. As a queer man, I work hard to accept my body as is. As a Khmer man, I am privileged to have physically survived. As a queer, cisgender Khmer man, I’ve learned that my body is as complex as my soul. And my relationship with it will always be changing.
What doesn’t change is this: I inherited my body from my ancestors. I have their eyes, their nose, their hands, their heart. This knowledge gives me peace and helps me hold my head high. It pushes me to take better care of my body. Because my body is my ancestors’ gift, their legacy to this world.
– Sarath Suong, Revere, MA