I have more than enough on my plate today.
I’ve got a trip to Cuba to finish prepping for. A Small Group Leaders Manual to go over and make notes. A retreat for fabulous queers of faith to work on & fundraising to finish getting ready. A sermon to finish. A devotional to clean up and print off. All of this by Friday evening.
But I needed to pause.
I was checking Facebook for a message from a fellow youth worker I needed to respond to, and I saw a notification in my feed about a post in a youth workers group I am a part of. It was regarding swimsuits for females on trips. “Two-piece or no on mission trips?”
I had to pause. Knowing that we are leaving this weekend for a trip to Cuba where we will visit the beach while we are there, I had to think about this. This is a common question, and one that I have to answer each year. It really does suck, because there are a lot of things in play here. There are societal standards, body-image-issues, sunburn, parental expectations, and I am sure more that I’m not even getting close to now. As my friend MTB says, “I have a no thong rule… for everyone.”
Society and the church have always said you must dress a particular way. You must cover your bodies [read girls and women] so men don’t get excited, aroused, or are tempted to do or say something towards you. You must be respectful of your body and therefore hide it. And so on…
No. We have to teach everyone that it’s not okay to cat-call whether you are male or female or otherwise. It’s not okay to stare because of someone’s body. Someone else’s body is not there for you. It is there because God created each of us as beautiful and wonderful creations. You have no right to anyone else’s body. Only to yours. It is not okay to judge someone else’s appearance because it’s none of your business.
We have to change the conversation, not the bathing suits. We have to change the conversation to one of love, acceptance, inclusion, conversation, and respect. We have to stop blaming one group because of the actions of another. If seeing someone in a 2 piece bathing suit just causes you to think thoughts you deem bad, then shut your eyes. One person’s body is not another person’s lustful piece of meat. One person’s body is just that, their body that is to be respected.
I wholeheartedly agree with MTB. But, here’s where I am with bathing suits and this is what I tell all my youth, male, female, and otherwise: “It’s your body, and you should feel comfortable and confident in it. Wear 2 pieces or one, I don’t care. But everyone, even if you are wearing long sleeves and pants to swim in, everyone of you better be lathered in a minimum of 30, preferably 50, SPF sunscreen head to toe.”
I will not tell any of my youth, of any gender or sexuality what kind of bathing suit they can or cannot wear. But I will help them to be smart in navigating cultural norms and acceptable behaviors as followers of Christ. I will help them start to change the conversation and be comfortable in their own skin and to teach others the same. And I will respect those who wish to cover themselves, because it is their body and their choice. And I will stand right by their side the whole time cheering and supporting them.
Our bodies are beautiful gifts from God. So please, don’t go disrespecting it with a thong.