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It's rough out there for people who don't love their body. This blogger wants to change that.

'Every single baby step toward positive body image and attitude should be celebrated.'

It's rough out there for people who don't love their body. This blogger wants to change that.

Posting these real photos of myself is one of the scariest things I've ever done.

These photos are untouched. All photos taken by Emil Costrut, provided by me.


But I'm doing it anyway, and here's why.

I'd love to be one of those people who doesn't care about what others say about me.

But when you're already insecure to begin with, having those insecurities mocked is a little bit difficult to overcome. I've been called "ugly," "fat," and "gross" many times over the years, both online and in "real life."

If you keep hearing these things often enough, you have to make quite a big effort to stop believing them; only then can you still feel beautiful.

Today, I feel beautiful.

I used to hear: Ugly. Fat. Gross. Stop Eating. Kill Yourself.

But it took some time to get here.

When I was little, I was skinny — the kind of skinny that caused people to jokingly ask my mom why she wasn't feeding me. Then, one New Year's Eve, I got a very bad case of food poisoning, which lead to my hospitalization.

The hormone they used to kick start my liver (which had failed) caused weight gain, so much so that a few months after leaving the hospital, I weighed almost twice as much as before.

I started feeling insecure about my body when I was in primary school.

Some people say small kids are angels, but I beg to differ. No one can be quite as cruel as a kid. I was bullied for my weight, for my teeth, for my style. At that age, it was very hard not to listen.

Even when I was a child, I always loved browsing through my mom's glossy magazines. They were a safe place for me for a long time, especially when I was being bullied.

However, no matter how many pages I flipped, I never saw anyone who looked like me. My body type was only given as a negative example, as something you had to get rid of, as something that was mocked by society. The "juiciest" news in tabloids, besides sex scandals, came when a celebrity gained weight.

As a developing teenager influenced by what society defined as a model and ideal body for women, I became obsessed with my weight.

There were several years during which I felt worthless, unlovable, and ugly because I thought the only thing that mattered was being skinny. At one point, it got so bad that whenever I entered a room, I would first analyze everyone to see if I was the heaviest in the room.

Even now, it's very hard for me to lose weight. That's why my biggest fear for years, since I've been blogging, was that people would see what I really looked like and judge me.

It's easy to hide a little extra weight with the right clothes, the right angles, and Photoshop. We've never edited anything excessively on my blog, Wings for Liberty. But from today on, I don't want to liquify anything at all, not even a little bit.


Why am I sharing these photos of myself?

Because I want curvy teenagers like me to be able to see girls like themselves, all prettied up in fancy clothes and photos.

I want them to feel proud of their bodies. Some days it's hard to not listen to the mean voices, but if you don't learn love yourself, who will?

It's not going to happen overnight. Dark thoughts tend to linger much longer than the good ones.

But every single baby step toward positive body image and attitude should be celebrated. Your beauty and value are represented by so much more than your body.

Now I see: Honest. Beautiful. Brave. Proud. Happy.

By posting these photos of myself, I'm facing my biggest fear so that I can kill, once and for all, my biggest insecurity. I am honest and unedited in these photos, both in my body and thoughts.

Most importantly, I'm proud of how I look.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."