Many of us are getting ready to celebrate love in the various forms it appears in our lives this Valentine’s Day weekend. But we all know, the best love often starts with the love of self. Here at the The Body Is Not An Apology we believe self-love is full of action, of gratitude, of creating safe space and activism. We spoke with a few dynamic, internationally known activists on just what they’ve learned about self love by constantly showing up to marginalized spaces prepared to fully be and defend themselves. They also share a bit of advice on what it means to cultivate actionable steps for yourself.
One man surely creating change in disability activism and self-love is Leroy Moore, Jr. who works tirelessly on the behalf of injustices against people with disabilities and special needs students. Many know Moore as the founder of the Krip-Hop movement where he gives voice to disabled hip-hop artists around the world, but he is also a founder of the National Black Disability Coalition.
“My intersectional activism with my cultural Art like Krip-Hop is what I have to do to see, read and listen to people who share my identity as a Black straight disabled man! Can you imagine going through life without knowing yourself and the rich history you came from?” said Moore when asked how his activism has created a platform for self-love.
“It might be radical to the so called ‘mainstream’ but for Krip-Hop Nation, my poetry, my journalism and my activism is a must to not only continue what my Black disabled ancestors laid down, but to add another path for future generations,” said Moore on his hope to create the same amount of safe space and self-love for others.
Another activists that could be seen in headlines across the news last summer after she fearlessly interrupted President Barack Obama at the White House is Jennicet Gutierrez. Gutierrez’s demand?
The “release of all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.” But that was not the beginning or end of Gutierrez’s work to free and protect Latina trans women facing deportation. Gutierrez is an undocumented trans woman who fights tirelessly with Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia TQLM). Familia:TQLM is the only national organization that addresses and advocates for the issues most important to the LGBTQ and Latino communities.
On undocumented queer activism as a form of radical self love:
So far one of the most difficult challenges I had to cross was interrupting the President, because not only did I confront the most powerful man but I got completely out of my comfront zone from the routine of fear I was used to navigating. Afterwards, I felt like fear was no longer controlling my destiny.
When is comes to love and being a part of the LGBTQ community and a trans woman, it seems that love is not really a part of our lives. That we are unworthy of love. I remember when I used to stand in front of the mirror and I used to hate myself because I was letting the opposition take the best of me – which is my own body, my feelings, my heart, my own existence.
But I believe through activism, I came to realize that loving myself against all this opposition is a revolutionary act. You are standing up proudly and loudly and saying this is who I am and I am a part of this nation.
On ways activism has called you to love yourself more:
Now that I have been exposed to my own community and I am able to speak and share my story with transparency, I think that is the way that I envision people coming to terms with who they are and embracing themselves. Often times the feelings we want to express get shut down. Like when I say, ‘mother I think I’m a transgender woman’ she’s like ‘ no, you can’t do that’ then all of your feelings go deep inside you and makes it more difficult to start loving yourself.
For me, having these spaces where people can come and open up is something that helps walk out that self love.
On lessons learned about yourself through activism:
One of the things I have discovered in this process is that we never know how powerful we really are. I read so many different comments about my action (2015 presidential interruption) and so many were very supportive, but also there were so many negatives. However, just reading those who truly understand what we need to be liberated in this society. I learned how other people really see so much potential in you.
We all have that potential to reach and really find our own inner power.
On ways others can better love themselves by taking action:
My advice is to reach out if you feel alone. It’s okay to feel alone at times, but know that there are people, communities and organizations willing and ready to embrace you. Go in your journey at your own pace. Sometimes the pain is part of the growth and as painful as that might be, feel it and know it’s just temporary. Let is pass. Once it passes, do whatever you can to reach out at your own terms. Speak out at your terms, don’t let anyone else – even myself as a figure in the movement – make you feel you have to do it now or you have to do it this way. Whenever you feel ready, you will know and it will be the right time… but don’t ever give up.
You are worthy of living and you are worthy of being loved.
Click the next page to hear more from some of our favorite voices: queer activists Kim Katrin and Tiq Milan and body positivity activist Jes Baker on cultivating self-love in radical, world-shifting ways.