Toronto, Canada-based NOW magazine invited 12 diverse locals to strip down for their Love Your Body Issue to promote body confidence.
Among the brave men and women who bared all for the feature are Akio Maroon, a pregnant mother and human rights activist; Xica Ducharme, a transgender activist, burlesque performer, writer and flight attendant; and Bo Hedges, co-captain of Canada’s wheelchair basketball team.
Maroon says being pregnant actually helped her feel more confident while posing naked.
“It felt like this mothering experience: here I am, and my body’s taking care of a life,” she told NOW. “And it’s presenting that to a world where black women are normally seen as hyper-sexualized.”
Maroon, who works as an activist in the sex workers’ rights movement, says she was pulled over by cops last summer for no reason other than her skin color.
“Being stopped by the cops is really hard for me, because when they pull their guns I don’t know if this is my last moment on earth,” she says. “My skin color and my body represent so much negativity. It’s really important for me not only to show my body in a positive light, but also to use the tools I have to make a difference.”
Ducharme hopes her nude photos will help bring awareness to her cause as a transgender advocate.
“When I became an activist, I said to myself that if I have to get naked to get people to hear me out, I’ll do it,” she told the magazine.
Ducharme said she never felt accepted by her family and faced constant harassment after identifying as transgender, leading her to attempt to commit suicide at age 19.
“I grew up in a very religious Mormon family in Honduras,” she said. “I felt like my family didn’t love me for who I was. I was also suffering discrimination at work. Out in the streets, I was getting harassed.”
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Now living in Canada, Ducharme still faces discrimination, but has found one place where she feels like she can truly be herself.
“The only place that I actually feel safe is on the dance floor,” she said. “Every time I’m there, people are so accepting and inclusive.”
Hedges has been in a wheelchair since he fell out of a tree at the age of 13, breaking his back and severing his spinal cord.
“Before my accident, I didn’t think about my body that much,” he told the magazine. “I grew up on a ranch, climbing trees and riding horses. My body was just a means for having fun and a tool for completing tasks.”
Despite his physical disability, Hedges says he was determined to still do all of the things he loved.
“After my accident, my perception of how I use my body changed, but eventually I realized I could do all those same things, especially when it came to sports,” he said. “I just had to adapt.”
Hedges, who is now a professional Paralympic athlete, hopes his posing nude for the magazine will help others to better accept people with disabilities.
“If I can show that I’m comfortable in my own skin, maybe it will inspire society to become comfortable with more atypical disabled bodies,” he said. “To that end, when people see me competing at a high level and then getting into my day chair to do interviews, I hope I’m bridging the gap and helping them understand the capabilities of people with disabilities.”