// Embodying Pride by Taking Up Space: Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ+ Community Embodying Pride by Taking Up Space: Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ+ Community
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Embodying Pride by Taking Up Space:
Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ+ Community

By: Matthew Murray, MS
June 18, 2021
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Embodying Pride by Taking Up Space: Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ+ Community

Last week, our community in The Alliance’s LGBTQ+ pro-recovery eating disorders support group reflected on what it means to have pride and how pride is expressed. This is, of course, personal to everyone. Pride can be internal and external. It can mean protest, celebration, connection to community, gender euphoria, survival, and so much more. I shared with the group that I believe the thread weaving these facets of pride together is the tenet that you deserve to take up space. This universal truth represents a sort of North Star, a guiding light, at the intersection of queerness and eating disorder recovery.

LGBTQ+ folks are at greater risk for eating disorders than cisgender heterosexual folks and have unique and nuanced experiences with food and body. This can be for several reasons, not the least of which is living in a world that can be hostile to who you are, a world that tells you that you don’t deserve. From this hostility grows an internalized shame, engendered by those who believe queerness is a threat. In truth, eating disorders can offer a haven from that hurt, for a time. All the while, though, eating disorders strip away your authenticity by thriving off your shame. That eating disorder voice twists and compounds itself with shame, a duality that reinforces the message that you don’t deserve. Yet, that is a lie. You do deserve, recovery is possible, and hope is not lost. So, what does it mean to take up space and what does that have to do with recovery?

To me, taking up space at its core means showing up as your authentic self. It means that you deserve to belong, and in that belonging, have your identity respected. You deserve meaningful relationships with folks who speak your language and understand the communities you inhabit. You deserve to have your voice heard and concerns taken seriously. You deserve providers who understand that LGBTQ+ folks are not a monolith. Providers who are willing to learn that connection to and expression of body and gender is complex for queer folks, that gender euphoria cannot be sidelined for recovery, and that they are stakeholders in dismantling barriers for LGBTQ+ folks in the healthcare landscape. Of critical importance here, you deserve freedom from eating disorders. You deserve to nourish and protect your body. You deserve recovery.

Help is available, help that honors the intersections you embody. Seeking it requires vulnerability that can open you to hurt. It’s in that hurt that I want to acknowledge that the concept of pride is complex, and maybe feels or is inaccessible. Maybe queerness has cost you. It can cost family, friends, opportunities, and life milestones, and those losses need to be grieved. Maybe you can’t be your authentic self because it isn’t safe for you, you aren’t ready, you aren’t sure what that authentic self is, or the LGBTQ+ community actively marginalizes identities you hold. None of these invalidate queerness or change that you deserve to hold pride. If you can’t express yourself the way you need to right now, that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever.

The reality is, none of this is really meant to be easy, though we certainly wish it was. Recovery, authenticity, and vulnerability are hard work because healing is hard work. It takes time and you deserve to heal at your own pace, with the grace to stumble. You deserve to have compassion for yourself, knowing that healing strips down the walls the eating disorder built, allowing you to cultivate and celebrate the authentic self that shame covers up. Water can manifest in a tempest or a slow trickle, but over time, wash away the hardest of stone all the same. There is immense power in claiming the space you deserve to take up.


If you or a loved one is currently struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to know that you are not alone. The Alliance is here and we understand what you are going through. Connect with us at https://Findedhelp.com/ to find eating disorder treatment options near you today or visit our site to learn more about our free, virtual, therapist-led LGBTQ+ pro-recovery eating disorders support group.

 


Matthew Murray, MS (he/him) is a PhD Candidate in clinical psychology, researcher, and clinician-in-training working with eating disorders in Chicago, IL. His research focuses on the intersection of eating pathology and sexual and gender identity, particularly symptom manifestation in disaggregated LGBTQ populations and the degree to which such research can contribute to culturally effectual models of treatment. He has additional interests in community support for eating disorders, eating disorders in males, and behavioral health interventions.

Matthew is co-chair of his doctoral program’s student Diversity Committee, working with other student leaders and faculty to address equity gaps in the program. He additionally co-facilitates The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness’ LGBTQ+ Pro-Recovery Eating Disorder Support Group and has provided several talks exploring cultural considerations in eating disorder conceptualization and care. Matthew has experience in legislative advocacy and is ultimately interested in advancing policy aimed at improving eating disorder treatment access and safety for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized populations.

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