Eating Disorders and Body Image Issues

I’ve discussed before about being diagnosed with an eating disorder, as well as dealing with body dysmorphia (which either led to the disorder or added to it). It took me several years to actually get a diagnosis because many of the doctors I dealt with looked at my weight and said I couldn’t have one. This of course plays into the stereotype that eating disorder = skinny or malnourished, which isn’t true.

But I’d like to discuss what goes on in my mind, even after working to overcome my eating disorder and working towards a healthy diet and body image. I will fully admit that I still have a ways to go, even if I’ve for the most part overcome the issue.

Imagine you’ve been working out, eating right, and you’ve been slimming down and toning up. You’re feeling good about yourself and how you look. A friend calls you up and invites you out, so now you’re going out to eat.

Now think about what you want to eat, doesn’t matter what it is, think about it and that you’ve decided to order it.

It comes to the table, you’re smelling the food, your mouth is watering….

And then suddenly you think about how you’ve lost weight recently and eating this will make you gain it all back. Your mind leaves the thought of eating this delicious meal and begins screaming at you that if you eat even the tiniest of bites, you will balloon into this giant fat and ugly person. You see the fat dimples on your body, you feel the shame of not being skinny, of not looking like what people say you should look like.

You push those thoughts away as best you can, because this is something you REALLY want to eat, you’ve got your favorite dish in front of you, and you really REALLY want it.

But you just can’t stop thinking about how you’re going to get fat again.

You take a bite, and it tastes better than you remember it, but that taste quickly sours as you swallow that bite, your mind’s eye showing that piece of food going directly to your stomach and you can swear you feel your pants becoming tight, even though you know you’ve dropped a size and they’re loose on your hips.

You tell yourself that it’s all in your head, that you’ve lost weight, you’re looking good, and this meal isn’t even that bad for you (if at all). You just can’t shake that image though. Each bite you take makes you feel worse, the mental images getting stronger and stronger to the point that you don’t even want to finish. You try your coping techniques, you go through the steps you’ve learned while working to overcome your disorder, and it brings a small bit of peace to you.

You finish the meal, but you feel guilty. You didn’t need to finish it all, you finished it because you’re a pig, you could have easily only eaten half and saved the other half for later! Only pigs finish the whole meal! OINK OINK!

You feel the urge to go and find something to get the food out of you, but you know that your go to method would require you to eat more (specifically carrots and apples) and the thought of doing that makes you want to cry.

You make it home and you write it all down so you can tell it to your doctor, that you still need help, but as you’re doing so the voice tells you it’s pointless, because what’s the doctor going to do? Tell you to work on your coping skills more? To seek mental help perhaps? All things you’ve done and have done for years.

So what do you do? How do you cope? Do you backslide and struggle again, or keep pushing forward as best you can?

More people than we know deal with eating disorders every day, going through struggles like this, even people who are supposedly “cured” still struggle at times. The stigma of being overweight adds to the issue, especially with the common belief that eating disorder = skinny. If you are someone who is struggling, you are not alone, and there are resources and support structures out there. The hardest step though…is to reach out and say you need help.

Breaking Down Point 3 of “Gender Ideology Harms Children”

For those just joining us, please read the following links to catch yourself up:

Introduction

Point 1

Point 2

A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking.

This significantly downplays the suffering and struggle that people with Gender dysphoria go through on a day to day basis.  Confused thinking is “where did I leave the remote?” not, “I want to rip my breasts off because they don’t belong there!”.

Yes, Gender Dysphoria (and before that, Gender Identity Disorder) are listed in the DSM V as mental disorders, no one is denying this.  The reason it is listed there is that Gender Dysphoria is a symptom of being transgender, and can actually be treated with therapy, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and surgery.  Gender Dysphoria can “go away” or significantly lessen when treatment is applied, but the person still remains trans. The citation that the ACP uses even states that the reason Gender Dysphoria is in the DSM V is “Persons experiencing gender dysphoria need a diagnostic term that protects their access to care and won’t be used against them in social, occupational, or legal areas.”

When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.

Transgendered individuals are suffering in both mind and body and the DSM V covers that in depth.  What the ACP is hoping for in this point is that people either won’t have access to the DSM V (which runs from $19.99-59.99 to rent on Amazon, or between $52.00-124.78 to purchase) or that they will take what they say on faith because they are after all doctors and they would know this sort of stuff…right?  For those of us who have access to the DSM V, we can see that it covers the fact that Gender Dysphoria itself is a mental illness which can cause physical and psychological effects.  When treated, the effects of Gender Dysphoria either lessen or in some cases go away all together. We are beginning to see that mental disorders have physical effects, so stating that the “problem exists that lies in the mind not the body” is at best misleading and at worst disingenuous and dangerous.  

On top of this, using the phrase “otherwise healthy biological” child muddies the waters and pushes back to that point that transgender people believe they can somehow change their chromosomes

(Just an FYI, we know we can’t change our sex chromosomes.  We’re not stupid)

These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V).

This is probably the only honest thing they have said so far in this article.  However, to downplay Gender Dysphoria to just a “mental disorder” would be like saying an eating disorder is merely a “mental disorder”.  There are very noticeable physical effects in both disorders. In fact, many mental disorders have physical symptoms and effects.

The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.

Not only have they not been disproved, but they are constantly being evaluated and improved/evolved as new data arrives.  We used to consider Gender Identity Disorder to be a paraphilia (a sexual disorder where the person is aroused by abnormal sexual desires, such as necrophilia or pedophilia), but now we know that the disorder has nothing to do with sexuality or sexual arousal.

Here is some “clarification” provided by the ACP:

Regarding Point 3: “Where does the APA or DSM-V indicate that Gender Dysphoria is a mental disorder?”

The APA (American Psychiatric Association) is the author of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition(DSM-V). The APA states that those distressed and impaired by their GD meet the definition of a disorder. The College is unaware of any medical literature that documents a gender dysphoric child seeking puberty blocking hormones who is not significantly distressed by the thought of passing through the normal and healthful process of puberty.

From the DSM-V fact sheet:

“The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.”

“This condition causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

I will be discussing the portion about puberty blockers and hormone therapy in a later point, however I would like to point out that even the ACP is admitting that there is no literature (studies, documentation, etc) that backs up their personal views.  This allows us to question even further whether or not the ACP is merely cherry picking their data, twisting data, or simply ignoring facts that exist that do not support their personal opinions. We can already see this in their other articles on topics such as abstinence only education, gay adoption, and sex education.  Because of this, we need to continue on carefully, calling to account each point they make and demanding evidence of their claims, as opposed to allowing them to simply get away with being taken as truth due to their status as an “authority”.

Citations used:

DSM V Fact Sheet

Gender Dysphoria: DSM 5 Reflects Shift in Perspective on Gender Identity

-Continue on to point 4-

Breaking Down Point 2 of “Gender Ideology Harms Children”

For those just joining us, please read the following links to catch yourself up:

Introduction

Point 1

DISCLAIMER: Please remember that the natural science side of studying and understanding gender is still in its infancy as far as science goes.  What is stated within this blog may be updated as new information arrives. While the social science side of gender has been studied for far longer, it too is still in its infancy in the official sense.  Historically speaking though, the concept of gender has been around since ancient times.

No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one.

Let’s break this one down by each point, shall we?

No one is born with a gender.

This is a line that is repeated over and over in many of the anti-trans movements and even in many of the less accepting feminist circles out there.  Currently there is no definitive study of when our sense of gender appears, but general consensus is that we start to become aware of our gender identity around the age of 7-9 (sometimes earlier depending on circumstances and development speed).  Having siblings of a different sex can also “speed up” awareness of one’s gender identity.

One thing so far is clear when it comes to gender identity:  We need to have a sense of self before we can have a sense of gender.

So at least on this aspect, the ACP is correct.  Since we are not born with a sense of self, we technically are not born with a sense of gender, which could be perceived as not being born with a gender.  However, the science community is still out on that topic, so we may learn someday that we are in fact born with our gender and it merely takes until we are self aware before we are aware of our gender.

Everyone is born with a biological sex.”

I have yet to see anyone argue this point.  This is like saying “water is wet”. Yet in this simple statement is something that glosses over people with various disorders or chromosomal differences.  This leads to the assumption that one is born either physically male or physically female and disregards those who are intersex, androgynous, or who are born with any number of chromosomal abnormalities (48,XXYY, 48,XXXY and 49,XXXXY)

Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one.

Once again I would like to state that the natural science side of gender is still in its infancy.  While we are aware of gender as a sociological and psychological concept (as well as historical and anthropological), we are still just barely scratching the surface as to what gender is when we look at it through the lens of such fields as biology (neurobiology), chemistry, neuroscience, genetics, and many other fields.  As it stands right now, the most commonly cited study out there among deniers of gender is “Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic“.  The problem with this study is that most people read it and ran with the narrative that there is no such thing as a male or a female brain (as can be seen here, here, and here), while the study itself says something entirely different.  Just from reading the box labeled “Significance” we can see that the narrative being spread is not what is being said in the study:

Sex/gender differences in the brain are of high social interest because their presence is typically assumed to prove that humans belong to two distinct categories not only in terms of their genitalia, and thus justify differential treatment of males and females. Here we show that, although there are sex/gender differences in brain and behavior, humans and human brains are comprised of unique “mosaics” of features, some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males. Our results demonstrate that regardless of the cause of observed sex/gender differences in brain and behavior (nature or nurture), human brains cannot be categorized into two distinct classes: male brain/female brain.

Did you notice that last part?  Where it says that brains cannot be categorized into two distinct classes?  That is what people are using to justify the statement that there is no such thing as a male or a female brain.

This is highly problematic on many fronts.  

First of all, we need to remember that the common statement is that gender is a spectrum, not an either/or sort of deal.  So this study does actually back up that statement. It also states that there are some features that are more common in males than in females and vice versa.

This study focuses on trying to prove/disprove sexual dimorphism, which is not the same as proving/disproving gender (which a lot of people like to use it for).

But moving past the study, let’s look at a well documented case example that leads one to wonder if gender is at least in part biological in nature.  For those who have taken college level psychology courses, you are probably familiar with the case of John/Joan.  This case followed a man who was born biologically male but was raised female due to a botched circumcision.  While there was a sexual reassignment surgery done, and hormones and hormone blockers were administered to the child, and the parents did everything in their power to raise John as Joan, the child failed to identify as female.  Even though everyone around him was raising him to be a female, and he was given everything that should have convinced his body that he was a female, his gender identity still told him he was male.  He eventually transitioned to living as a male full time by the age of 15.

One interesting fact to note on the case of John/Joan is that he was one of a set of twins.  Twin studies are often preferred for things such as this, to see whether or not something is nature or nurture.  It allows scientists to look into something known as behavioral genetics, which you can read more about here.

Does this mean that gender is 100% biological/genetic and that culture and society have no influence on it?  Not in the slightest! There are definitely aspects of gender out there that are social constructs, such as what we define as feminine and masculine (toys, colors, sports, cooking, etc).  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t also biological factors at work when it comes to gender.

What this means is that instead of just closing the book on the topic, like the ACP has done, we need to keep up with the research and see what all we can learn and discover!

-Continue on to point 3-

Breaking Down Point 1 of “Gender Ideology Harms Children”

For those just joining us, please read the following links to catch yourself up:

Introduction

“1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health – not genetic markers of a disorder.”

The term human sexuality is misleading as the term can mean either “the characteristic quality of the male and female reproductive elements.” or “the constitution of an individual in relation to sexual attitudes or activity. This is a broad concept that includes aspects of the physical, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual makeup of an individual. It is not limited to the physical or biological reproductive elements and behavior, but encompasses the manner in which individuals use their own roles, relationships, values, customs, and gender.” according to the Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health. In general context, the discussion of sexuality deals with who the person is sexually attracted to, not their sexual chromosomes.

On top of this, no one is disputing that what is defined as sex (not human sexuality) is in relation to the type of gametes produced, in most cases XY and XX. What this point is doing it setting up confusion between sex (chromosomes) and gender (Category to which an individual is assigned by self or others, on the basis of sex). While gender and sex are often used interchangeably in general conversation, they are not the same thing. On top of that, gender is often based off of sex, and while most times gender and sex match up, such as a person with a set of XY chromosomes identifying as a man. There is however, a small percentage (.3%)1 who do not identify as their chromosomal sex. Those people are referred to as transgender.

Another thing that the point is doing in muddying the waters is conflating the term sexuality, which is used in both medical and general context to mean the sexual attraction one feels to another person, to sex.  Think about it, if you are best known for your platform against homosexuality, and many people accidentally (due to lack of proper information) think that transgender people are also almost always homosexual, it would serve one’s purpose to make sure that anyone reading the article would start to equate the two so as to push forward one’s agenda.

Transgender people can be homosexual (like myself) or they can be heterosexual.  If a transgender woman is dating a cisgender man, then she is a heterosexual. Unfortunately many people (myself included for the longest time) can’t seem to wrap their heads around how someone who was once a “man” can date another man and not be considered homosexual.  For anyone who is actually confused on this, let me explain:

Transgender woman = woman
Transgender man = man
Cisgender woman = woman
Cisgender man = man
Transgender woman + Transgender woman = homosexual relationship
Transgender woman + Cisgender woman = homosexual relationship
Transgender woman + Cisgender man = heterosexual relationship
Transgender woman + Transgender man = heterosexual relationship
Transgender man + Transgender man = homosexual relationship
Transgender man + Cisgender man = homosexual relationship
Transgender man + Cisgender woman = heterosexual relationship

So right off the bat we can see that they relying on an appeal to authority and people not fact checking them when it comes to their claims. When one actually stops and checks the information they are presenting, the “facts” that this group (which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) are putting forward quickly crumble and reveal their true faces.

To recap this first point, let me state the following:

  1. No one is disputing that sex in a medical context (and even in a general context) is referring to chromosomal sex (gametes XX and Xy)

  2. Human sexuality as they define it is not the same as the generally accepted definition and thus is used to muddy the waters for the points to follow.

  3. Gender is not the same as sex

  4. Sex is not the same as sexuality

1http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf

-Continue on to point 2-

Breaking down the misinformation of the article “Gender Ideology Harms Children”

For those who are not aware of the American College of Pediatricians, I would suggest taking a quick stroll to here, here, here, and here for a quick little introduction.

The group was formed in 2002 as a protest against of all things (GASP!) the American Academy of Pediatrics support for adoption by gay couples. These people are a lot like a medical version of Focus on the Family and other well known religious hate groups that are attempting to push things such as abstinence only education(which has been proven not to work), attacking homosexuality and people of the LGBT community,  continuing to talk about a completely debunked claim about abortion and breast cancer, and being used by complete nutcases like Michelle Bachman and John Boehner when they are trying to find “medical proof” to back up their discriminatory platforms.

Remember folks, if less than 100% of people disagree with you,that means that somewhere you’ll find someone who will agree with you!

As a pro-choice and pro-LGBT advocate, I have had several run ins with this group and people using their God awful “facts”. Nothing screams appeal to authority like finding the ONE group on the internet that agrees with you while the rest of the world is looking at you like you’re a moron. Also, if you haven’t watched the “If Google Was a Guy” series, put that on your to do list.

The ACP’s article on gender and children came onto my radar recently and I decided that I would do a nice little point by point breakdown of their article. Since it’s going to be a long breakdown, I’m going to divide it up to one point per post.

So strap in, grab your psych meds, and join me as we travel down the rabbit hole of ultra conservative selective science hatred that is the ACP.

-Continue on to point 1-