Toronto's Now magazine has released its annual Love Your Body Issue, and once again it's a beautiful ode to the skin we live in.
As in years past, a group of locals posed nude and talked about their relationship with their bodies after a tumultuous year. They talk about body hair, colonialism, gender expression, and the fraught pursuit for perfection.
The magazine used just six models this year (fewer than usual) due to COVID-19, and you can read about how photographers shot the images safely here.
First up is Denise Mcleod, an Anishinaabe producer, comedian, and textile artist who is two-spirited or Indigiqueer.
"Posing for Love Your Body is about creating space for other people to be inspired, to have somebody see a face that looks like theirs," she told Now.
"There’s only one story of Indigenous women and two-spirited people that’s usually told in the media: one of tragedy and victimhood. We need to hear other stories of Indigenous people and Indigenous queer folk."
Emma Hewson is a musician and teacher who talked about the pressure to perform femininity.
"I was fortunate that my mom was a tomboy and I lived with brothers, so I wasn’t modeled after a lot of super-feminine behavior. Whenever I would do anything feminine, I got a lot of attention," she said.
"I remember feeling really uncomfortable trying feminine things, and I felt like it was inherently sexual and felt pressure to perform a certain gender identity. I just wanted the freedom to be able to try things and try different gender presentations without getting comments on it."
Gelek Badheytsang is a writer and podcast host who talked about caring for his body after COVID-19 upended everything.
"I also believe that taking care of your body is a requirement in the work of dismantling injustices and building movements. We are bombarded every day by the unrelenting forces of capitalism, white supremacy and colonialism," he said.
"Having a strong base (weightlifting), good heart and lungs (cardio) and healthy mind (sleep, therapy, meditation) are vital in order to meet these forces head-on. In that way, being kind to, and mindful of, your body — loving your body — becomes a deeply radical and revolutionary act of love and justice."
Jessie Olsen, also known as Bae Savage, is a podcaster who talked about how weight fluctuations have impacted her.
"We live in a world where life is harder if you’re overweight. When I was at my thinnest I was treated better, I got better customer service. But I can kill myself to lose weight or I can just live my life and focus on being true to who I am and connecting with people in ways that feel authentic," she said.
"In the future, I will lose weight and I will gain weight. But that no longer has permission to change how I feel about myself."
Arianne Persaud is a nonbinary writer and documentary filmmaker who talked about how race and gender intersect.
"I’m Black and brown, and people often are like, 'What are you?' So this racial ambiguity feels tied up in or similar to the gender ambiguity," they said.
"I realized that striving toward ambiguity is toxic because it’s just reinforcing the same thing. Now I’m saying that there’s masculine and feminine on two ends and then nonbinary is supposed to land squarely in the middle of that, encompassing both or something, but that’s just not how it is at all. We need to see more representation of nonbinary people in order to have more concrete representation of this anti-ambiguity nonbinary existence."
And Gary Alderson, who works in sales, talked about finding confidence as he ages.
"I’ve probably regressed in the last five or six years. I got a tattoo, I got my ear pierced, things I always wanted to do. Maybe I don’t want to get old?" he said.
"But I feel the freedom to be more self-expressive than I have in the past. I don’t think of somebody being elderly until they’re in their 80s. I think attitudes are changing ever so slowly."