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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Transcreature from the Pink Glitter Lagoon

I was a thirteen-year-old lesbian. I was also a fourteen-year-old bisexual. Then a fifteen-year-old queer grrl, a sixteen-year-old genderqueer and, finally, a seventeen-year-old transboy. Luckily, the last one stuck and I won’t be doing any more tiresome coming out in the foreseeable future. But, having spent time in all those identities, I’ve also spent a lot of time in feminist spaces. Early on, feminism was shiny and attractive to me because Kathleen Hanna was shiny and attractive to me. Only after many long hours of really paying attention to the lyrics, zine-ing, researching, and workshopping, did it became a no-brainer. Women deserve fucking rights. Period.

Once I spent a little time in radical spaces, my views on this changed. Sure women deserved rights. But what defines a woman? Someone labeled a woman at birth? Only straight women? Only white women? Only women without disabilities? There are a lot of ways to be a woman and even more ways to be perceived as a woman. And what exactly does “rights” encompass? What good is closing the wage gap when women of color, trans women, women with disabilities, fat women, low-income women, and countless others can’t get jobs to begin with? What good is it when they have to worry about being attacked on their way to the interview? In the wise and feisty words of Emily over at Tiger Beatdown, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

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