exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Tag: Activism

Mary-Berkley Gaines

Mary-Berkley Gains


Date of Interview: January 29, 2017

Name: Mary-Berkley Gaines

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Birmingham, AL


How often do you bathe or shower?

Probably… every other day, every day. Trying to cut back ::laughs::.

If you were an underwater creature, what would you be?

Mermaid. For sure. For sure, I’m a mermaid, most definitely. Ariel was my favorite when I was little, I love the ocean, I’m a Pisces. I’m a water baby, it’s just me. I actually had a fashion blog that was called the Teal Siren. I’m such a mermaid. And now it’s a thing so I have to chill on that because everyone wants to be a mermaid and I am one. I was one first, just so we all know the deal ::laughs::.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about radical self love. Being body positive. Self acceptance. Growth, just like, progressing as a human. Making my world and my community better. I feel like we can always push ourselves to be better. It’s my life, starting my organization and now we’re an official non-profit… Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham started as just a website and it’s now it’s own entity. It’s crazy! I’m a founder and I started it, but now it has this own life. It’s amazing.The people… we wouldn’t be anything without the community and the people and having people identify with it. We have followers from all over the country and even some people from different parts of the world. I think that in Birmingham we are the heart of the civil rights movement. We are where things went down, so it’s only natural that we have this project that we can be progressive with and move forward with in a different way. There’s always been that history, I think people forget that we are a city of activists. There’s still a strong community of people. There are all these protests for different things every other week, especially now and we can’t forget what our history is. It only makes us better and stronger. I think people connect it with a lot of negative things but it’s positive in some ways because we can continue to better ourselves. Being in the Bible Belt is really hard but we’re a pretty progressive city and we are a city in a very conservative place.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

Well! I think giving myself a break. I’ve always been really hard on myself and being a bigger person, being a plus size girl and having eating disorders and struggling with that and body dysmorphia and going through a lot of stuff and having PTSD and depression, anxiety, mental illness, having a learning disability growing up. Going through all this stuff, I never gave myself a break. It’s a lot going on and I never gave myself credit and was really hard on myself. So now, I can push myself forward and progress but I still have those checks and balances of telling myself, “you can’t do anything but take it one day at a time”. So giving myself a break is my biggest accomplishment.

What is something you still struggle with?

Probably still struggling with trying to get over that thing of being a human and that I’ll fuck up and that it’s okay. Being flawed and knowing it’s okay for me to be… that I’ll fuck up and it’s okay for me to be on this journey.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual or otherwise.

I think they’re really important. You can learn something from every relationship and I feel like we need to be more intimate with people and that intimacy isn’t just a sexual thing. I love that I have friends that I can be like that with, that we can cuddle and hold hands and love on each other without it being a sexual thing. I love that I have sexual relationships where I’m respected enough that I can explore them. I’m queer and I’m noticing as I explore what queer means to me, I’m finding out so much more about myself and I’m glad that I’m in a place where I can do that. It was hard growing up queer in Alabama. I always knew I had an attraction to women, that’s how it started, but I never was really comfortable with that. Well, I was comfortable with it but you know, when you’re younger it’s kind of weird to come out. You don’t really know how to navigate that. So, I only came out a few years ago. I struggled with that because there’s not really a gay scene here and it was kind of what’s the point if I’m going through all this shit if I can’t go out and express it or meet people. But then, as I got older I realized that I wasn’t the only one. It just took me going through college and having those experiences to finally figure out that I’m queer! And like, it’s a thing and I can experience it. It’s been about three years. It’s been great!

Lauren Dove

Lauren Dove


Date of Interview: June 15, 2016

Name: Lauren Dove

Age: 27

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Location: Washington, DC


Do you enjoy living in DC?

I want to stay in DC. I do, I like DC. I moved here around August, and with how things have turned out I’m planning on staying for awhile.

Where did you move here from?

I moved here from Seattle. I was living in Seattle for a year. So… my partner, John, is in the military and got stationed here, so, yeah. And I knew somebody in the Lamont Street Collective, and got in touch with them saying. “look, I’m here in this area.” Came down here and started hanging out, now I’m working in Mt. Pleasant.

Are you passionate about art or activism?

I am passionate about both! I have an art degree. I try to be active where it matters. where it counts. I’ve been kind of active since I’ve been in DC. Medical marijuana activism and marijuana legalization activism. I use substances often, I use marijuana daily and then use other substances… uh… “as needed.” Kind of like recreationally. Mostly like, acid and mushrooms. I use them to understand myself more. And uhh… marijuana I use mainly to treat my bipolar disorder. Any kind of, anything that alters my mind, I try to use substances accordingly. In concurrence with my bipolar disorder, either using it to bring myself down, or to balance myself out in some way. I try to do it in some responsible manner, and from a deep place or self-awareness. No willy-nilly using.

Have you ever had a breakthrough, using substances with mental health?

Oh absolutely. I think that the first time I used LSD was a life changing experience. And that was three years ago, probably. I was in Colorado, and it was negative 25 degrees outside, and I tripped in my house by myself. And I ended up going on the most incredible walk. Like six good hours by myself of just tripping in my house. And most of it was spent looking at things, listening to records, internalizing a lot. It was really beautiful and hard to explain. It was one of those things… I’m not spiritual at all, or religious, but if I could say anything was remotely spiritual in my life, it would be that first LSD trip.

What do you think is one of the most prominent things you’ve learned about yourself?

I’ve learned that… that I can’t quite do what other people do. Let me give you some context. A couple years ago, I was living in Philadelphia and had some really great opportunities working in design and had a career kind of going for me, but I learned from that, and the immediate post-college graduate experience, trying to find a job, trying to make a name for myself, umm… ’cause that’s what you’re supposed to do… You’re supposed to graduate, get out, do what you went to school for, and be successful… And instead of that happening, was actually I was on prescription medication for a long time with my psychiatrist and I had a COMPLETE break. And one of the things I’ve learned about myself in the past couple years, is that I can’t DO things the way that normal people do. I understand my limits in a much better way. And I realize that, you know, sleep is important. Umm, that an office job is just certainly not for me. I’ve suffered a couple mini mental collapses to be where I am at the moment, and whether that involves drugs or not, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But what I have learned is that I can’t do things the way that other people can do. I can’t drink. Drinking will send me into the hospital. Drinking will actually give me a really bad mental response. So I avoid alcohol. It’s been weird, my life has been really weird. Sequence of trial and error. And a lot of the errors that most people do in their everyday life, but for whatever reason I fucking can’t, so… you know, it’s fine. I’ve learned what works, and what doesn’t, and I’m much happier for it. Instead of trying to force something, which is what I was doing for a long period of time.

What are you most afraid of for yourself?

I’m actually afraid, or mildly afraid, of success. Career success, typically. Because I won’t know what to do with myself. I feel like that might be the nail in the coffin. If I actually succeed in my career… then I’ll be miserable. That’s actually my greatest fear. Everything else, I feel like I’ve dealt with before. So basically, fear of the unknown. So maybe it won’t happen, and I’ll live fearless. I don’t know.

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