Did you know that the transgender community is at disproportionately high risk for eating disorders? According to a 2015 study, transgender youth are four times as likely to fall victim to eating disorders. Let’s take a closer look at how the transgender community is affected by eating disorders, and what we can do about it.
What Is Transgender?
There’s some confusion about what being transgender means, so let’s clear that up first. If a person is transgender, the gender they identify with does not line up with their biological sex. They may be born as a biological female, but identify as a masculine male. Or, they may be born a male, but identify as a female. They may also identify as neither male or female, or somewhere in between. Being transgender is not a lifestyle choice.
Body Image Issues
Body image issues are common in people who struggle with eating disorders, which can lead to self-harming practices aimed at bettering one’s appearance. For example, body image issues involving a person’s weight may cause them to develop Anorexia Nervosa. Similarly, transgender people can develop eating disorders as an attempt to make their physical bodies better match their gender. A transgender male may try to lose weight through extreme dieting methods in an attempt to look more feminine, while a transgendered female may use unhealthy eating methods as a way to try and “bulk up.” Because transgendered people often feel trapped in bodies that don’t reflect their genders, they are at high-risk for body images issues and subsequently, eating disorders.
What Can We Do?
There are steps we can take to support the transgender community as a whole as well as those who struggle with eating disorders. It’s important that we acknowledge and validate every person’s identity, no matter how they choose to identify themselves. It’s also important to be respectful of people’s privacy, and be mindful of the types of questions you ask—you may be acting invasively without realizing it. Practicing proper communication and showing compassion is essential to fostering a supportive environment for the transgender community.
If our society is able to break the negative stigma attached to the transgender community, we will be better equipped to help those affected by eating disorders. Over time, people may feel more comfortable coming forward about their eating disorders in order to seek the help they need. If you’d like to learn more about how eating disorders affect the transgender community, contact us today.