I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a post about this or not. But, I’ve been talking about body image issues and acceptance for several weeks now, and you would have to live under a rock to not hear about this issue recently.
Yep, I’m talking about Caitlyn Jenner.
I had originally planned to do a body image post about the LGBTQ community before the Vanity Fair thing even came up in the media. Then, I went back and forth. I don’t want this blog to be seen as a “reply” to hot button topics. I’ve read a lot of articles praising Jenner, and a lot of Facebook comments bullying Jenner, and a lot of in between. I’m mostly (pleasantly) surprised at how accepting the media was of Caitlyn. I was also sad to think people really believed she did this for a publicity stunt. One thing is for certain, though:
People are talking.
And you know what? I think that’s a good thing. The more we talk about something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, the better. Yes, some of it out there is tremendously negative, but hey, it’s still a conversation. And that is better than nothing. I think it was incredibly brave of Jenner to face the cruelty that can be our current society to find a happier, more comfortable, self.
So, let’s move on. I’ve said my two cents about Caitlyn Jenner, and now I want to focus on the rest of this world who did not have their transition or personal weaknesses pasted all over the internet.
First, let’s define what LGBTQ means, because I’ll be using that acronym a lot. The Welcoming Project states that LGBTQ is an acronym, with L standing for lesbian, or an individual who identifies as a woman and is romantically attracted to other women, with G standing for gay, representing individuals who identify as men who are romantically attracted to other men. The B represents bisexual, which can be any gender who is attracted to both females and males. The T stands for transgender, which can be defined as an individual who identifies themselves as the other gender (example: Caitlyn Jenner). The Q can mean queer or questioning, and both simply mean the individual may be unsure of their sexual identity or are exploring their identity (The Welcoming Project, n.d.). According to some awesome infographics provided by the Human Rights Campaign, 75% of LGBTQ youth believe that their peers accept their identity, but LGBTQ youth are two times as likely to have been bullied at school (HRC, n.d.). Not surprisingly, LGBTQ individuals who have “come out” report feeling happier than those individuals who have not (DoSomething.org, n.d.). Finally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports:
“Students who were questioning their sexual orientation reported more bullying, homophobic victimization, unexcused absences from school, drug use, feelings of depression, and suicidal behaviors than either heterosexual or LGB students; LGB students who did not experience homophobic teasing reported the lowest levels of depression and suicidal feelings of all student groups (heterosexual, LGB, and questioning students); and all students, regardless of sexual orientation, reported the lowest levels of depression, suicidal feelings, alcohol and marijuana use, and unexcused absences from school when they were in a positive school climate and not experiencing homophobic teasing” (2014).
I wonder how this feeling of ostracism effects these individuals feeling of worth and self. It can’t have a positive correlation on body image. Certainly, if an individual is already feeling uncomfortable with their bodies or gender identity, facing this society that forces unrealistic ideals is that much harder every day. It seems to me that these individuals simply need a safe space to openly decide who or what they want to identify themselves as. That seems simple, yet we still here tragic stories about youth who end their life because they felt like an outcast for just trying to be themselves.
This issue is a little bit out of my realm of practice when it comes to counseling or every day life, but it is one that is very important to me. One thing that I always encourage in my clients is that it’s ok to question what you want for yourself. It’s ok to be attracted to girls, or to boys, or to both! It’s ok to push the boundaries of your gender identity. To be successful in this world, you must first come to terms with who you are and who you want to be. Unfortunately, the world likes to think they know what’s best for every person, when in fact that just isn’t true. What’s right for me probably isn’t going to be right for you, or vice versa. We have to stop pushing our values and morals on to each other. As long as we treat each other with mutual respect and love and kindness, what can it hurt? How can one individual (ahem, Caitlyn Jenner) transitioning to a woman harm me all the way down in Texas? It can’t. Her life has no effect on mine. But if she were to stay a man and unhappy? Then her life would be a struggle. We can’t assume to know what each other is feeling or thinking – just ask. Don’t judge. Just listen.
And accept. Accept yourself for who you are. You are you, and I am so glad you are you. Without you, this world wouldn’t be what it is. If we were all the same, wouldn’t this place be a boring place to live? I certainly think so.
Yoga has helped me feel comfortable in my body. Yoga has helped me accept what I perceive as my flaws. It’s a struggle, every single day. But it has helped me feel accepted in this world of “fat shaming” and social media and all the people who feel the need to dictate what is acceptable and what is not.
Being a counselor has helped open my eyes to all the pain and grief that an individual can feel due to not feeling acceptance from their peers or families. Yes, it’s painful. But it’s real and it’s there and it’s happening all over the world. Make the conscious choice to work through your own biases, what ever they may be, and work towards pushing through them.
Be kind. Be decent. Be loving. Be accepting.
It’s, really, rather simple.
(I know, I know this post will irritate many. I hope, I hope, that it will inspire more. I didn’t have a lot of research or practical applications in this post, but it’s something that has been on my mind and I wanted to address it in the only way I knew how – through my words. Please, feel free to bring all negative and positive comments on this topic below. I welcome them ALL. Like I said, any conversation is a good conversation on any topic.)
I’ll sign off here with a short quote from, yet again, the book Yoga and Body Image. There is a great section focused on this issue, and I really encourage you to pick it up and read the whole book.
Rosie Molinary says: “And I find yoga, which leads me, finally, to settle into my body” (p. 217).
Happy OM’ing, and namaste. ❤
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm
DoSomething.org. (n.d.). 11 facts about LGBT life in america. Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-lgbt-life-america
Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Growing up LGBT in america: view statistics. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org/youth/view-statistics/#.VX8uQVVViko
Molinary, R. (2015). Meeting my own body. In M. Klein & A. Guest-Jelley (Eds.), Yoga and body image (pp. 214-220). Woodbury, MN: Llewllyn Publications.
The Welcoming Project. (n.d.). About the LGBT community and allies. Retrieved from http://www.thewelcomingproject.org/lgbtq-community.php