The Deviant Body: A Queer/Trans* Perspective on Eating Disorders

As an eating disorder survivor, bodies and how they are culturally perceived is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Having wasted many years of my life trying to demonstrate—indeed, create—social value for myself by attempting to change the way my body looks, I understand that as a person AFAB* and regularly presumed to be a womyn, my value is reliant almost entirely on how well I conform to certain standards of beauty. (For what it’s worth, I conform to these in some ways, and not in others.) Social acceptance is important for most people, but for womyn-identified and AFAB people, this kind of acceptance still relies primarily on the way we look. Failing to meet these strictly-enforced standards of beauty effectively means that you are bad, undesirable, unwanted, even immoral—a waste of space, if you are even acknowledged at all.

Since my diagnosis as a teenager, I’ve tried to pay attention to how eating disorders are portrayed in the mainstream media. I don’t believe it’s changed much in the decade or so since I became interested, although I can’t back this opinion up with anything other than my own observations. Still, it seems like it’s only been within the last few years that the mainstream media has begun to really acknowledge that people other than young, white, middle- and upper-class womyn suffer from eating disorders. While the narrative is slowly shifting to recognize that men can also have eating disorders (and it grinds my fucking gears to see that these diseases are taken more seriously because of this), it is rare to see coverage of this phenomenon in people of color, gender and sexual minorities, and poor people, despite the fact that young womyn of color and poor people may be particularly vulnerable to EDs, as well as underdiagnosed and undertreated. I’ve noticed that for many people with an ED or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) with whom I’ve talked or whose work I’ve read, reducing the amount of space you take up in a capitalist, racist heteropatriarchy fundamentally against people like you makes getting smaller pretty appealing. Who’da thunk it.

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