The Body is Not An Apology

While at the Southern Fried Poetry Slam in 2010, a friend of the author unhappily confided she might be pregnant. When asked why she and her casual sex partner hadn’t used condoms, the friend, who was handicapped by cerebral palsy, said “My disability makes sex hard already … I just didn’t feel like it was okay to make a big deal about using condoms.” Shocked by her friend’s immediate discounting of her worth and dignity, Sonya Renee Taylor uttered the phrase that has become her trademark: “Your body is not an apology.”

Taylor has three societal strikes against her: she’s Black, a woman, and overweight. But instead of allowing society — and herself — to feel ashamed and hide away from the world, she discovered her natural intelligence, the sense of self and worth we’re all born with, to emerge in what she calls “radical self-love.” It’s an absolute acceptance of our value, what Taylor sees as “the transformative foundation of how we make peace with our bodies … the bodies of others, and ultimately change the world.”

Although the concept is straightforward, adopting it is not easy, as a lifetime of social programming must be overcome. To aid in the quest, Taylor has formulated the Three Peaces and the Four Pillars of Practice. She’s scattered “radical reflections” and “unapologetic inquiries” throughout the book. She encourages readers to discard “ableism,” the discounting of disabled people, as well as “queerphobia” and “transphobia,” on the road not just to radical self-love, but extending that understanding to fellow humans. No one is excluded from radical self-love — not by gender expression, race, creed, sexual preference, physical ability, or any other stumbling block placed in a person’s way by a judgmental society.

Taylor leads the way in a spectacular manner: she poses naked on the cover of the book, lying on a bed of leaves and flowers that form wings and a crown, her intimate parts covered by purplish-blue blossoms and artful placement of the book title. She not only help readers along the path, but guides them to it, traveling with readers along the path of no apologies.

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