Today’s reflection on body image is by BodyImage4Justice founder, Justice Roe Williams.
Body Image is a large umbrella that encompasses so many dimensions. I will start with how I see myself and then move into how others view me.
For a very long time, I could not move beyond my skin. It crowded me with mixed messages of hate and love. The dichotomy of this or that. I learned very early to hate the skin that I’m in and love the idea that light skin to white skin is beautiful.
I grew up a very dark child from the summer tar that winter wiped into charcoal grey. As was the feeling in my heart each time I was pushed aside, ignored, demonized because somehow I could not wash the hate away. Yet in my way I knew I was loved.
To unveil the layers of hate, my continuing journey of finding all of me has given me moments of divine joy, to know that I can be all that I am and still have love. Each day I find my strength in knowing that, no matter the challenge, the source to continue comes from a deeper space, which is a genuine need to love. I use this as my armor, although please remember that armor can be punctured–but I have become very skilled at the mending.
I didn’t think about gender at an early age. I saw me, and I saw me in this skin, no questions asked, just a sponge full of intention. And my intention was just to live the good life, better than “Good Times” at 939 Virginia Ave Court, I wanted us to “Move on up” in this world watching my mother struggle yet still being the rock for aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who all lived in our two bedroom project home.
There I observed and experienced a life so loving yet misunderstood. I wasn’t different, yet I so longed for sameness: to be light like my mother, to be bodied like my brother. I wanted value to my life. I wanted to feel worthy!!!! I wanted to feel like they did on TV, normal. In many ways, like Nellie Wong, “I longed to be white”, I longed for a mirror reflection of the same.
I connected Whiteness to everything right, clean and intelligent, and so far from who I believed I was. In Church, Jesus was white man living in Africa, the birth place of all shades of Black. This was reinforced by my mom, who hung white Jesus in the front room of our home. I was terrorized in school by illogical gestures of statehood when more people like me are placed behind bars, in bars, or under bars.
I tried to live my life in absences of gender, in absence of feelings I had no language for, so my revolution was movements in Black. In 1998, the death of Rita Hester changed me. I was no longer in fear of being exactly who I am. I came out fighting harder and more passionately than I have ever in my life before. I began stitching my life together bit by bit.
Black Trans man, revolutionary, lover, and so much more…. I am not the same, yet I honor this otherness I have. I honor all of who I am!!
– Justice Roe Williams