Did you know that 71% of transgender youth ages 13-24 who identify as straight have been diagnosed with an eating Disorder? According to a survey conducted by Trevor Project and National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), 54% of LGBTQ youth who do not identify as straight have also also diagnosed with an eating disorder. While we focus a lot on people living with an eating disorder and any number of other intersecting identities, there are many forms of intersectionality which can include gender identity, and/or expression, and/or sexuality, and/or race, and/or ethnicity, and/or class, and/or spirituality/religion.
No matter how you identify, present and/or describe yourself, here are 3 important things to keep in mind if you are living at an intersection of multiple identities.
- You’re not alone. Eating disorders make us feel alone, as can living in a minority/target identity. And you’re not. When the voice that exists within all of us gets louder – the one that makes you feel invalidated and underappreciated – and convinces you to use coping strategies that move you further away from the person you want to be and/or the life you want to live, gently and compassionately remind yourself that you are not alone. If you deny yourself from loving or being loved, you are reinforcing that pesky voice in your head. Remember that there are other people out there who share similar stories, present in a way you identify with or think the way you do that want to know you and share in your mutual experiences. And maybe, just maybe, there are ways of finding them, through blogs, and videos, and other supportive resources.
- It’s okay if you’re feeling crummy. If you’re struggling, then you’re alive, and that’s the most important thing of all. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you for experiencing emotions; all human beings struggle at different points in their lives. Whether you are a person dealing with emotions that overwhelm you to the point of engaging in eating disorder behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, depressive behaviors, or other potentially unhealthy behaviors, remember that it’s okay and normal to struggle. We are all doing the best we can. Taking a step back to inventory our emotions during especially challenging moments is a great way to make sure we are utilizing healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable feelings rather than engaging in maladaptive behaviors that probably won’t help us move toward the life we want for ourselves. For those who are tired of living with an eating disorder and feel ready to receive help, know that reaching out for support is an act of agency and a moment of hope for you. You are brave and powerful. The survey that I referenced before, completed by the Trevor Project and NEDA, found that 58% of respondents who were diagnosed with an eating disorder and identified as a person within the LGBTQ community have also considered suicide. If you’re ever feeling on the brink of doing something that would keep you from being a living member of the LGBTQ community, not only are you not alone, but in order for more of us to not be alone and more of us to be able to help each other through the struggle, we need each other to live and be alive. Don’t wait for an intake, please seek help now – whether you go to your local ER, call a hotline, chat with a person, or call your local crisis line.
- What makes you different is a gift to yourself and to the world. In every moment we choose to share ourselves with those around us, we make a difference for ourselves and each other. Every time our intersecting identities show up in the myriad of ways they may, and each time we move towards them rather than away, we are empowering ourselves and others to embrace all that makes us unique. I am grateful for all the individuals that I have seen be unapologetically true to themselves as it has certainly motivated me to do the same for myself and those that I love. Your life and all the pieces of your identity matter.
If you or someone you love are struggling in some type of way – whether it be acceptance of certain identities, dealing with uncomfortable feelings and/or engaging in unsafe behaviors, you are never alone. We are here for you.
Christine Lang, MSW, M.Div., is an adolescent clinician in the partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs in Amherst, providing individual, family and group counseling for adolescents and families with eating disorders. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English from Clark University, a master’s of divinity from Pacific School of Religion, and a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Simmons College. Christine is particularly interested in working at the intersection of trauma and addiction, and how that connects to identities of gender, sexuality and religion/spirituality. She utilizes Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy in her relational, strengths based and trauma-informed approach. In her spare time she enjoys reading and writing poetry, taking pictures outside and spending time with friends and family.