Eating Disorders In The LGBTQ Community

Is it just me or do I notice that gay men are more fit overall compared to lesbian women? Everywhere I turn my head, there is not one day where I don’t see a gay man’s picture or article that shows their good-looking physique. Another thing I’ve noticed is that, lesbians are portrayed as a bunch of chunky people. My goodness, does that mean that gay men take care of themselves, but lesbians don’t? For our transgender and bisexual brothers and sisters, they don’t seem to fall into this extreme too much compared to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

I’ve seen plenty of gay guys as being well-dressed, fit, muscular, looks like they barely have any body fat on them, and overall, make the girls fall for them, only to be heartbroken when they find out their eye candy guy is gay. I’ve seen this and heard of it from friends one too many times. Whoever taught them to take care of themselves, they did a great job on it.

As for my lesbian sisters, what happened? I mean, we do have our share of pretty people from butch to femme and anywhere in between, but compared to our gay brothers, we don’t even compete half the time. I don’t mean to diss us as a group, but this has been my observation.

One thing I’ve found out though about our gay brothers is that looks sometimes is all that. By that I mean, if you ain’t good looking, you’ won’t be approached as much. Self-image is a very big thing in the gay community that it can be very ridiculous.

Eating disorders are some of the products of this self-image obsession. What are eating disorders? According to Mayo Clinic, “Eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which you’re so preoccupied with food and weight that you can often focus on little else. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder” (Eating disorders, 2012).

According to National Eating Disorders Association, “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” (“Eating disorders in,” n.d.).

Other statistics from this article include the following:

  • Research is limited and conflicting on eating disorders among lesbian and bisexual women.
  • While research indicates that lesbian women experience less body dissatisfaction overall, research shows that beginning as early as 12, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers.
  • In one study, gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight in the last 30 days. Gay males were 7 times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males.
  • Females 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.
  • 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.
  • In a 2007 study of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB)-identified participants, which was the first to assess DSM diagnostic categories, rather than use measures that may be indicative of eating disorders (e.g., eating disorder symptoms), in community-based (versus those recruited from clinical or academic settings) ethnically/racially diverse populations. Researchers found:
    • 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.
    • There were no significant differences between heterosexual women and lesbians and bisexual women in the prevalence of any of the eating disorders.
    • Respondents aged 18–29 were significantly more likely than those aged 30–59 to have subclinical bulimia.
    • Black and Latino LGBs have at least as high a prevalence of eating disorders as white LGBs
    • A sense of connectedness to the gay community was related to fewer current eating disorders, which suggests that feeling connected to the gay community may have a protective effect against eating disorders

(“Eating disorders in,” n.d.)

I find this deeply disturbing, especially personally knowing people who had eating disorders. It’s such a tragedy that people, not just our LGBT brothers and sisters, experience eating disorders due to a wide range of reasons, which usually stem from acceptance, self-image issues, and internalized homophobia, etc.

There is treatment for this, but the person who suffers from an eating disorder must make the first choice to seek help. Resources are available out there.

Here are some contacts that can help:

National Eating Disorders Association

  • Hotline: 1 (800) 931-2237
  • Monday – Thursday from 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM (EST)
  • Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (EST)

Lookup the nearest treatment center near you

Other links I recommend for more information:

References

  • Eating disorders. (2012, Feb). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eating-disorders/DS00294
  • Eating disorders in lgbt populations. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/eating-disorders-lgbt-populations

Author: Thoughts Of A Queer Asian

Thoughts of A Queer is a site that started back in 2009 as an outlet for me to write about my Coming Out story and my journey as a queer Asian woman. When not writing, I work in the healthcare field, tend to my dogs and cat, and live happily with my wife in our beautiful home.

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