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Eating Disorders in the LGBT Community

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October is LGBT History Month, and the first week of October is known as Mental Illness Awareness Week, which makes October the best month for sharing stories of struggles and successes as well as learning about issues that might not be so well known or understood in the community. Like eating disorders.

We all know the stereotype of the “typical” eating disorder patient: the white and wealthy woman who is young and vain; the mean girl, the cheerleader, the girl who’s “going through a phase.”

That’s all bullshit.

The truth? Eating disorders affect any gender, race, body type and sexuality. Eating disorders are not caused by one thing but by many complex issues stemming from behavioral, biological, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors. It’s not a phase and it’s not something you can grow out of it. It’s a lifelong battle, as common as autism but with less funding for research and treatment. And because of the stereotypes, because of the dismissal of this mental illness that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, it’s deeply affecting the LGBTQ community that is almost defenseless against it.

I would know. I am a bisexual woman and I have battled with bulimia and anorexia for most of my life and continue to struggle with them today.

Now when we talk issues in the LGBT community, eating disorders aren’t always the first ones to pop up, if they ever do. However, LGBT-identifying people are more likely to develop an eating disorder than someone who is straight. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), some of the potential factors that could lead to eating disorders are the fear and anxiety of coming out and possible rejection, harassment, bullying and discrimination because of their sexuality, discordance between one’s sex and gender identity, homelessness or an unsafe home life, body image stereotypes in LGBT communities, and the lack of family/friend support and lack of treatment and education in the LGBT community. All of these factors can lead to depression, anxiety, and the need for a coping mechanism, all of which are factors that can lead to an eating disorder.

Under all the weight loss and the dieting, eating disorders are all about control; control of one’s body and to an extent, control over your outward identity. I developed my eating disorder at a point in my life when I was in the thick of my depression when I felt the most out of control of my life. I felt that I had at least some control over my weight, and it kept me grounded and stable, that I had some control over something, and I clung to it. When you feel like you’re drowning, an eating disorder can seem like a life vest.

Instead, it’s an anchor.

It’s easy to imagine and understand why someone who feels like an outcast because of their sexuality and gender identity might fall into an eating disorder. When people feel like their life is sinking because of something they can’t control, an eating disorder can feel like the only thing they have some control of in their lives.

However, eating disorders are an addiction. You become completely obsessed with losing weight, with purging, or counting calories. It completely takes over your life and makes your main focus in life continuing your eating disorder until it eventually takes your life. You can’t quit anorexia or bulimia at the drop of a hat; it’s a life-long struggle to recovery, made even more difficult in a world where most people don’t understand and discriminate against, people with an eating disorder. It’s even worse when you’re discriminated against because of your sexuality.

Some statistics, given by the NEDA:

  • As early as 12 years old, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than their heterosexual peers.
  • One study shows that gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.
  • Elevated rates of binge-eating and purging by vomiting or laxative abuse was found for both males and females who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or “mostly heterosexual” in comparison to their heterosexual peers.
  • Compared to other populations, gay men are disproportionately found to have body image disturbances and eating disorder behavior (STATS). Gay men are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among men who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
  • Compared with heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had a significantly higher prevalence of lifetime full syndrome bulimia, subclinical bulimia, and any subclinical eating disorder.
  • Black and Latino LGBT have at least as high a prevalence of eating disorders as white LGBTs

As you can see, eating disorders affect everyone in the community. However, research on LGBT populations and eating disorders is limited, mainly because there’s still lots of research that still needs to be done in order to better understand eating disorders. Also, many LGBT members are still “in the closet” when it comes to their mental illness. Eating disorders are all about secrets, and anyone who’s LGBT knows how to keep a secret. When already trying to gain acceptance for one part of your identity, trying to gain acceptance for two can feel completely impossible. Constantly worried about rejections from loved ones, and the constant state of admissions seems unbearable. It’s why I stayed silent about my illness and identity for so many years, out of fear and self-preservation.

But people die from eating disorders every year because they stay silent. Because they are afraid.

I refuse to become another one of those statistics.

There is a silver lining to all of this. According to studies, a sense of connectedness to the gay community was related to fewer current eating disorders, which means that feeling connected to your community may help the fight against eating disorders.

 

So for this Mental Health Week and this LGBT History Week, do your part. If you are affected by an eating disorder, speak your truth and find ways to seek help. If someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, be an ally to them. To quote the great Troy Bolton, “We’re all in this together.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek more information at nationaleatingdisorder.org, or by calling their Helpline at (800) 931-2237 or text “NEDA” 741741.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 18:08:41.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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Same-Sex Marriage in the US: A Decade of Change

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On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court announced the decision to make same-sex marriage a right in all 50 states. People all over the country celebrated, pride flags were flown, and for the first time, the White House was lit with rainbow lights. The decision was a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement, but behind it all was decades of litigation, activism, and advocacy.

In 1996, a law called the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It defined marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” in the United States constitution. Individual states were able to recognize same-sex unions, but on a federal level, the words wife, husband, and spouse, were reserved specifically for heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples were also denied social security survivor’s benefits and were unable to jointly file taxes. For almost a decade, the DOMA remained.

After 40 years of being together, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer traveled to Toronto to get legally married in 2007. A year later, their union was officially recognized by their home state of New York . In 2009, Spyer passed away at the age of 77. She left her entire estate to her wife, Windsor. Because of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize their union as a marriage and Windsor was required to pay over $300,000 in taxes on her inheritance. Windsor decided to challenge this because she was legally married and should have therefore qualified for an unlimited tax deduction on the inherited estate. After approaching several gay-rights advocacy groups, she was repeatedly denied and was unable to find representation.

Finally, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP agreed to take on the case. In 2010, her case was filed and made its way through the circuits and in 2013 it had reached the United States Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Windsor and announced that DOMA had been unconstitutional. By the same margin, the Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage three years later.

In September of 2017, Windsor passed away at the age of 88. She left behind a legacy of activism and change, and hope. At her funeral, Hillary Rodham read a eulogy. “Because of her, people came out, marched in their first pride parade, married the love of their life. Thank you, Edie,” reported the New York Daily News.“Thank you for being a beacon of hope, for proving that love is more powerful than hate.”

Edith Windsor has helped to change the lives of thousands of LGBTQ couples and her legacy will continue to live on. Do you have a story of how legalizing same-sex marriage changed your life? Tell us in the comments!

Originally posted 2017-10-25 13:58:13.

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ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED: WHAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE

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You are planning a trip and have booked your flight, now it is time to pack!  Depending on your destination or the length of travel, your suitcase should be filled with items that will be comfortable for your leave. While everyone packs differently, there are certain things that are essential and should always be added to your carry-on- This will help you prepare you for the unexpected.

ALL TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

If you are traveling alone, with a group or significant other, make sure everyone has their documents, IDs and passports readily available when requested. As a backup, keep your information and photocopy of your passport stored on your phone. Try putting them in a travel document holder for better organization.

PHONE CHARGER

Never assume that you have enough battery juice to get you to your destination.  Anytime you have a few minutes to spare, charge your phone to give it quick boost of power. There is nothing worse than needing to use your phone in an emergency and not having enough battery life left.  Invest in a portable charger from Walmart, Amazon, or eBay for backup in case of emergency.

MEDICATION

If you have essential medication that you take a regular basis, pack those in your carry-on. Don’t settle and just pack a day’s worth a meds, pack all of them. If you put them in your checked luggage, you are taking a risk with your health if your luggage is lost or stolen.  It also doesn’t hurt to pack over-the-counter medication as well.

ELECTRONICS/ENTERTAINMENT

First, never trust baggage handlers to treat your luggage delicately or gentle.  If you have anything fragile that you need to take with you on a trip, please put it in your carry-on bag.  Electronics are fragile and expensive to replace. Besides, you may need something to keep you occupied throughout your flight.

Remember laptops are not allowed in checked baggage because they have lithium batteries and are a fire risk. Because earbuds are crap and never last as long as you may want, pack an extra pair just in case.

CHANGE OF CLOTHES AND TOILETRIES

Yes, it is 2017!  I know it is unfathomable but even with all this technology that airlines have, they can still lose your luggage.  Believe me, it can and still happens.

By packing a set of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on, you are guaranteeing that you have at least one set of changing clothes and can brush your teeth.  It also helps if you have an extended layover without access to your checked luggage.

SNACKS

Due to airline security, all liquids over a certain ounce will be rejected.  However, snacks are not.    Dollar Tree is to the go spot to stock up on snack at a reasonable price. Snacks are good in time of stress or simply when you are hungry. Airline peanuts and pretzels are not enough to fill you up.

Plus, if you are sitting next to cranky child or travel companion, try sharing some of your snacks with them. It may make your travel better.

What essentials do you always pack?  What do you feel was left off this list? Would love to read your thoughts and comments below.

Originally posted 2017-10-24 18:01:31.

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Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The LGBTQ community has faced violence for hundreds of years and the transgender community has sadly faced the brunt of these heinous acts. Every year, hundreds of trans folks around the world are murdered, purely for being trans. For many reasons, the majority of these murders are either not reported, or not classified as a hate crime against a trans person. Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is a day set aside to honor those that we do know were killed due to their identity and/or gender expression.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Americans are desensitized to violence – on any news station on any day, there are multiple reports of accidents and attacks. When trans murders are reported, they are but a minor blip on the radar, often forgotten by the public by the next day. These reports often misgender the victim, and erase their identity. GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) provides a resource kit for journalists, especially tailored for TDoR. These simple changes in language have a major impact in how the individual is respected, validated, and honored. The report becomes less sensationalized and more personal and grounded.

History Repeats Itself

TDoR is a fairly new event considering the number of years these tragedies have been occurring. It started in November 1999 to honor the still unsolved murder of transwoman Rita Hester on November 28, 1998. Each year there is a list of names from November of the prior to current year of trans folks that were murdered. As of October 14, 2017, there are a total of 87 reported murders worldwide caused by transphobia. Again, it is important to note that this number is incredibly low, and inaccurate. Most trans murders go unreported, or are misclassified. These names are confirmed through news sources, and have been reported specifically as hate crimes towards trans folks. Brazil had the most murders at 65, while there were 24 in the United States, the most being in Maryland and Texas.

Vulnerability Factors

Being trans in and of itself is dangerous, and trans folks face violence of all types on a regular basis. Transgender women of color sadly face the worst of it.

For the last five years NCAVP has documented a consistent and steadily rising number of reports of homicides of transgender women of color, which continued into 2017. In August of 2017, NCAVP has already collected information on 19 hate-violence related homicides of transgender and gender nonconforming people this year, compared to 19 reports for the entire year of 2016. 16 of these homicides were of transgender women of color.

For an indepth study and database about the murders of transwomen, click here.

How to Host a TDoR Event

Here are the guiding principles of Transgender Day of Remembrance:

  • All who die due to anti-transgender violence are to be remembered.
  • It is up to us to remember these people, as their killers, law enforcement, and the media often seek to erase their existence.
  • Transgender lives are affirmed to have value.
  • We can make a difference by being visible and speaking out about anti-transgender violence.

Options are infinite of what one could do during this event. Some ideas include (but are not limited to):

  • Candlelight Vigils / Marches
  • Roundtable Discussions
  • Performance Actions
  • Political Rallies
  • Read-Ins
  • Art / Photography Displays

What is most important is that every name on whatever list you choose to use, is read aloud. On this day, we remember each person that was murdered, and give them our attention and respect.

A great way to end the event is to distribute printed material with follow-up actions. Where can people who are moved go to help? How can they pass the message on to others? TDoR is not just a day of memoriam, but also a call to action.

Events near You

The following is far from a complete list of TDoR events being held this year, but is certainly a good place to start looking for ways you can participate. TDoR is November 20, which lands on a Monday this year, so many events are being held on the weekends.

United States

California

San Francisco LGBT Community Center

1800 Market Street

San Francisco, CA 94102

Monday, November 20, 2017

5:30 PM – 8:00 PM PST

 

Illinois

Center on Halsted

3656 N Halsted

Chicago, IL 60613

Monday, November 20, 2017

5:30 PM – 9:30 PM CST

 

Brave Space Alliance

1434 W 51st St.

Chicago, IL 60609

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2 PM – 6 PM CST

 

Washington, D.C.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, DC (MCCDC)

474 Ridge St. NW

Washington, District of Columbia 20001

Monday, November 20, 2017

5:30 PM – 8 PM EST

 

Massachusetts

First Parish UU Church of Chelmsford

2 Westford St. (on the Chelmsford Common)

Chelmsford, MA

Saturday, November 18, 2017

6 PM – 9 PM EST

 

Cathedral Church of St. Paul

138 Tremont St.

Boston, MA 02111

Sunday, November 19, 2017

6 PM – 8 PM EST

 

Harwich Community Center

100 Oak St.

Harwich, MA

Friday, November 17, 2017

A light dinner will be offered starting at 5:30 PM EST

The program will begin at 6:15 EST

 

North Carolina

Fayetteville, NC

Saturday, November 18, 2017

4 PM – 6 PM EST

 

Indiana

First Presbyterian Church

512 7th St.

Columbus, IN 47201

Saturday, November 4, 2017

7 PM – 8 PM EST

 

Missouri

Courtyard by Marriott St. Louis St. Peters

4341 Veterans Memorial Parkway

Saint Peters, Missouri 63376

Monday, November 20, 2017

7 PM CST

 

Europe

France

Cinema the Variety

37 rue Vincent Scotto

13001 Marseille, France

Monday, November 20, 2017

7 PM – 8 PM UTC +01

 

United Kingdom

ARC Stockton Arts Centre

Dovecot St.

TS18 1LL Stockton-on-Tees, United Kingdom

Monday, November 20, 2017

6 PM – 9:30 PM UTC

 

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” – Santayana

Originally posted 2017-10-24 14:35:28.

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