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Join the circle. Honor us. Share your story:
ELizabeth: "My mom was considered "beautiful" - certainly she thought so. Everyone said so. My prevailing image of her is her anxiously looking into a mirror, studying her face for signs of decrepitude. She didn't look past herself to see her children.

"My looks have interfered with my career" she'd say, ticking off the imagined jealousies that kept her down. "You, on the other hand, have an interesting personality". Nothing to look at was the unspoken message. And without looks, what
status did a woman have?

When I was away from her at my uncles camp, I felt my body from the inside out. I felt healthy, and the vital beauty of living fully animated me. One day I stepped out naked onto the landing of our dorm. The boys were coming back from the lake, and before I ducked inside, I stood there a full moment, knowing I was radiant and lovely. The air felt like silk.

When I came back to my mothers house, I quickly lost those feelings. I was dark, hairy, and fat. She was tall, blond, and thin. Her beauty needed to be fed by my comparative ugliness.

I became convinced I was a conglomerate of a list of "flaws": too fat, short calves, too much facial and pubic air, my labia too large and lumpy, my feet too broad and strong. The list grew all the time. I became crippled by my self-image and hid under layers of clothing, like a night creature hiding from sunlight.

I was hiding from how I felt about myself. Swathed in self-hatred because I didn't fit the standard of beauty my family environment embedded in my consciousness."

Sarah: "I am round. I love food. The tastes, smells, textures, ritual of preparation by hand. You might say I have a long-standing and highly satisfied love affair with the stuff of life.

I'm not a skinny, and as a kid this was a problem. My weight wasn't cool, and I was teased.

Well, it gets better for us chubs, too. College saw friends who like me fro me, and dug my cooking. And boyfriends who found my full curves delicious. Eating, sex: the best of both sensual worlds!

When I look at my body I don't see a failure to be thin anymore. I see a ripe mango bursting with juices. I see a perfect melon (two in fact) ready to be plucked. I see a feast of a woman.
Savory and tender."

Leia: "I'm of Samoan ancestry and I'm never, ever going to fit the fashionable look of thin and angular. I'm round,
full, and wide, like an ancient earth goddess.

I felt like a smudge as as kid, never "cute". I busied myself with academic achievement, but I smoldered with resentment that I couldn't be one of the pretty people.

Fortunately, because I'm smart, I started reading feminist ideas about body image, and thinking about what defines beauty. Because it was important to me to feel beautiful.

This lead to a revolution inside. Who the hell laid down the law that the way I look isn't beautiful? Who said my sculpted cheekbones, rounded womanly body, and plunging black hair isn't stunning?

Fashion magazines did, and they have an agenda: they make billions of dollars from making women feel inadequate so we'll buy their products. Which is pretty shitty, if you think about it.

I started buying clothing that weren't "fashionable, but which looked good on me, on my body. Jewelry that accented my neck and eyes. I created and owned my own aesthetic values.

Now I feel like myself. That is, a goddess.

Karin: "I want to talk about my cunt, because it took me such a long time to see it as beautiful. Looking in the mirror as a kid, I noticed all the wrinkles and skin textures that were different than on any other place on my body. Looked a bit like a chicken wattle. I wasn't sure if this was quite normal, because sex was the stuff of fairy tale bliss to me, and I couldn't see this lumpy bumpy chicken wattle as the center piece of my romantic fantasies.

I got a bit obsessed trying to find out if something was wrong with me, but this was 1958 and women weren't exactly sharing vagina circles then. Actresses in male porn magazines didn't seem to have anything down there but a hole. Good god. Was I a freak of nature?

Finally an artist friend of mine who had viewing experience volunteered to take a look. I was so relieved when he said that my cunt wasn't deformed. He showed me some sketches he'd done of other women and I thought "we all look different but kind of...beautiful".

And thus, after a childhood of fear and worry, began a new phase in my life: my True Romance with the real me. Now I have a large Georgia O'Keefe over my bed (Light Iris, clearly a cunt) that I wake up to and wink at every morning.

Trans Nation
I wasn't comfortable with my body until I started hormone treatments. I was a sex diva babe in a drab accountants body. Like my body was another person I lived with, not me.
My curves and hips and swag ain't drab now. I'm in living color, baby. It's perfection. Like a soufflé. Just right.
Trans nation, I'm here for you, we're the future.

My mom had both her breasts removed while fighting breast cancer, and for a long time it was clear that she considered herself... no longer sexual. "Oh, well, there other things that are more important" was her stock line. How I I express how much it hurt me to see her feel incomplete and less desirable? My mother? The loveliest person I know, inside and out?

I came on her crying in the shower. Her eyes showed me her sadness. I put my hand against her chest and we cried while I told her how beautiful she is.

Now she has a partner. They're happy. And she tattooed the most whimsical butterfly nipples over her breast scars. They're amazing. She loves the tattoo and she loves her body.
Leslie, Surrey England

Kim: "Like all the women in my family were raised to think it was the bomb to have big boobs and asses which okay we do. So I was looking at myself in the mirror and I thought what do I really see? What is the last time I reflected on what my face and posture say about my feelings? My character? Cause we're too busy checking our make-up.

I took off my make-up and clothes and didn't know how to feel about the naked person in front of me. I turned away
from the mirror and felt like I didn't exist at all without a reflected image.

I really don't know how to be a person away from the mirror! The mirror tells me how I should look tells me I've
made the cut tells me I'm hidden.

So I'm learning about turning away from the mirror and being naked."

Dionelle: "My body image growing up was about being shaped by being a skinny, average guy without a muscular physique.
I always kind of expected to be a sexual disappointment because I couldn't whip off my clothes and draw gasps of admiration like leading men in movies do. I started running to get some muscle tone, but that didn't create any hulking contours.

When I started having serious relationships and becoming more sexually confident, my body attitude /image got better. Women I connected with seem to appreciate what I had to give more than care about a Mr. Universe body.

If being giving and caring were the values boys were raised with instead of looking like Actor Fantasies, a lot of us would be more comfortable as who we are to begin with."

Dancing Alive
I really had no body image or visual grasp of my body most of my life. Sex just happened through the flesh, it wasn't of
the flesh.

When I started taking dance class I experienced the miraculous expressive way my body moves. Life imitated art when sex became much more alive for me. I stopped acting through my body - I became alive in my body. As my body. One with my body.

Now I tell my family and circle that you have to wake up to your body and move to appreciate it. Sex is a whole new vital journey when you're senses are alert.

Move the body, move the spirit.

Hannah: "I don't fit fashionable ideas about looks. I've never wanted to. In the community I am sheltered by, our values
are to be plain. Humility in all things.

When I married, I saw the excitement in my husbands eyes when he looked at my body. His fire ignited mine. I began to see my body as beautiful. The textures and shapes and colors sensual. We bathed together and explored each other.

In a subtle way, everything is more intense since this awakening. At the same time, more relaxed. A balance is struck.
It is good to be awake to the beauty of the body. Gods form is glorious in us."

Lux: "As a boy I didn't identify with the male prototype of solid muscle and testosterone. My body felt more like the elements of wind and water. Creeped my father out, my grace and lightness. I was lithe, not thick.

I retreated to physical images of men like Leslie Howard and Rudolf Valentino, or rangy tennis stars. I couldn't make my heart hard and I couldn't understand sports were boys slammed into each other. I wasn't "gay" still I identified more with the way women approached their bodies, with softness. Alive to touch and touching.

My body image comes from a place of oneness with spirit. I move/breath/feel/am. The source of peace about your
body is self-love."

Betanny Louisa: " After four major operations, the best plastic surgeon in Buenos Aires told me that I have an illness: I am addicted to surgery. Perhaps I knew she was right. That didn't stop me from finding another surgeon to carve me up. A thinner nose, fuller lips, bigger breasts, tighter buttocks, less sag under my eyes, snugger vagina, less fat on my hips. 
Would I ever be good enough to be wanted, she had asked me. I simply could not consider that question. Of course no woman is ever good enough would have been my answer. My father left my mother after twenty-eight years for a younger woman. My parents only rewarded fashionable beauty. Everyone woman on television is physically perfect and rich. 
One night while my lover whom I desperately wanted to be good enough for caressed me, I realized I had no sensation in my nipples and the sides of my hips where I had had recent surgeries. When my doctor asked me,  I couldn't even remember for how long this had going on. I was so obsessed with how I looked that I had tuned out how I felt. For a long time, it seemed.
It turns out to be a not uncommon phenomenon for people to loose sensation in their body where operated upon, and this sensation, once lost,  doesn't always return. It has been over a year and a half, and I still have no sensation in my nipples and only dull sensation in my hips.

It took a loss of this magnitude to shock me into awareness of my predicament. I had given up the sexual sensations that I adored to look a little more like a woman I thought would be wanted. Wanted by my parents, by men, by the judgment of the world.
In the year since I have become devoted to the culture of the body from an entirely different perspective. Health and self - acceptance, self LOVE, come from the inner embrace of your own happiness, not the approval of others. 

I don't know when I'll be ready to share my bed again with a lover. Or my life. I just need to be with people who see my radiance from another place. I don't think you can have intimacy without identity, and I don't know what it was I had before with lovers, but I'm not going back there.

It's exciting, it's frightening, it's better, to finally be making choices based on values that make me feel good about myself. It's what life is all about.
*Please send feedback if you know who this beautiful sculptor is!!
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