Are All Bodies Good Bodies? (September 2019)
Article written by Vaughn Darst, Nutrition Therapist (www.allgendernutrition.com)
For most people, recovering from disordered eating and healing your relationship with food demands that you grapple with a string of questions about your body. How will my body change? How will I feel about my recovered body? Will I be able to accept the body I have when I am no longer manipulating my food and movement?
For transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) folks, the questions can be endless. And for many of us, they don’t feel like questions but rather absolute statements. If I am bigger/smaller the world will NOT see me as the gender I am. If I gain weight, it will be in the wrong places so that I will be misgendered even more. I will never be treated as the gender I know I am if I recover.
The world we live in is poisoned by diet culture, but even more so, it is coded by gender. When you identify as something other than the gender you were assigned at birth (transgender, nonbinary, agender, etc.), manipulating your body through food and exercise can feel like the only way to survive. There are very few famous transgender and nonbinary people in the media, and nearly all of them reflect a flawless, mostly unattainable image of the perfect trans person: entirely cisgender-passing, ripped muscular transmen and hairless cosmetically sculpted transwomen. Being visibly trans, or not cisgender passing, can be downright unsafe – particularly if you are a transgender woman of color – and it almost always means having a harder time finding employment and housing.
How can we ask trans and GNC folx to work towards recovery while it is still so risky to be visible? We all have a role to play in making it safer for trans and GNC bodies to exist, and therefore to positively contribute to the recovery efforts of individuals in these communities. If you believe that #allbodiesaregoodbodies, then what actions can you take to make your community, your business, your spiritual organizations and nonprofits more inclusive of people of all genders? How can you highlight the voices and needs of trans and GNC people who are disabled, fat, and/or non-white? How can you financially support the social justice work of out trans leaders? If we want a world where all bodies are good bodies, we are going to have to create it together.
References & Resources
- Chodzen G, Hidalgo MA, Chen D, Garofalo R. Minority Stress Factors Associated With Depression and Anxiety Among Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth. J Adolesc Health. 2019;64(4):467-471. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.07.006
- Tabaac A, Perrin PB, Benotsch EG. Discrimination, mental health, and body image among transgender and gender-non-binary individuals: Constructing a multiple mediational path model. 2017. doi:10.1080/10538720.2017.1408514
- Gordon AR, Austin SB, Krieger N, White Hughto JM, Reisner SL. “I have to constantly prove to myself, to people, that I fit the bill”: Perspectives on weight and shape control behaviors among low-income, ethnically diverse young transgender women. Soc Sci Med. 2016;165:141-149. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.038
- Thapliyal P, Hay P, Conti J. Role of gender in the treatment experiences of people with an eating disorder: a metasynthesis. J Eat Disord. 2018;6(1):1-16. doi:10.1186/s40337-018-0207-1
- Guidelines for the Primary and Gender-Affirming Care of Transgender and Gender Nonbinary People Introduction to the Guidelines. http://www.thetaskforce.org/static_html/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf. Accessed November 14, 2018.
Vaughn Darst is a Nutrition Therapist serving queer, trans, and GNC youth and adults in their journey towards a healthy relationship with food, movement, and their body. He can be reached at @allgendernutrition on Instagram or [email protected]