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Check out the latest issue of Connections, our alumni newsletter!


It’s Pride! Let’s Talk About Eating Disorders in LGBTQIA+ Communities

By: Jamie “OJ” Bushell, alum of The Renfrew Center 

Pride, held annually in June, is a time for LGBTQIA+ folks to celebrate ourselves and the history of our movement that has gotten us to where we are today. It’s a time to honor what it means to be our authentic selves. It’s also a time for allies to show their support to loved ones. 

LGBTQIA+ folks experience eating disorders at disproportionately higher rates than their cisgender heterosexual peers. Here are some statistics: 

→ Transgender individuals have a higher rate of eating disorders than their cisgender peers.

→ Gay men are thought to only represent 5% of the total population of men, but among men who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.

→ Women identified as lesbian, bisexual, or mostly heterosexual were about twice as likely to report binge-eating at least once per month in the last year.

→ Black and Latinx LGBs have at least as high a prevalence of eating disorders as white LGBs.

There are a multitude of reasons why these statistics are true. Some reasons include: 

  1. Discrimination, violence, and bullying 
  2. A lack of affirming care
  3. Pressure and a need to hide their identity to stay safe
  4. Internalized stigma
  5. Lack of support from family and friends
  6. Financial, food, and housing insecurity

Additionally, transgender and non-binary folks who experience gender dysphoria may use eating disorder behaviors to suppress or accentuate primarily gendered features or secondary sex characteristics. 

One protective factor for LGBTQIA+ folks, and eating disorders in general, is the influence of community and social support. Feeling connected to and supported by a larger community helps reduce eating disorder symptoms in LGBTQIA+ individuals. During Pride Month, we continue to fight and advocate for recovery, ourselves, and the opportunity to love who we are and who we are becoming. 

(Sources: National Eating Disorders Association, Diemer et al., 2015)

Jamie “OJ” Bushell (they/them) is in recovery from an eating disorder and is the co-founder of thirdwheelED, a blog and social media platform that documents eating disorder recovery through a queer lens. OJ writes about the intersectionality of eating disorders, trauma, sexuality, and gender identity/expression. OJ uses their experience of seeking treatment for their eating disorder as a queer person to help raise awareness of the need for culturally responsive and affirming treatment and recovery support services for queer communities.

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