Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Queering Anorexia Nervosa and Domestic Violence: Lasting Impact

Experiences with interpersonal violence impact the survivor for the rest of their life.

Eating Disorders (not to be confused with disordered eating) are a lot like alcoholism, the individual with the disorder may be functional but they will always struggle with the disorder. It's an addiction to control.

This being said, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I have been having issues with my body lately. Even when you factor in that since going vegan 7is months ago I've lost 30 pounds. But still, it's tough.

I have this idea of what I think I should look like, and I'm not sure where it comes from. Granted, as my identity grows and evolves, so does this ideal me. But, the ideal me is always smaller and "more attractive" than I am. Catch me on a bad day and I can't eat because I am so far away from this ideal, I am so grossed out by my body on these bad days that I can't stand it. These days don't happen that often anymore.

Catch me on a good day and though I find myself attractive on these days, I'm still not comfortable with the difference between the ideal me and the real me. Some days we are very similar, but I still wish some things were different. I still wish some things were smaller, some things were bigger, more radiant, clearer, prettier. Me on a good day is probably no different than anyone else raised in this culture on a normal day.

And that's a huge problem, isn't it? We've been told, men, women, and everyone in between, that there is a way to be. We're told this from the moment we can understand images and television. So, that's part of the problem, and definitely part of what adds to my body dysphoria. Everyone deals with it.

And then, part of my personal dysphoria comes from the experiences I've had with domestic violence. He called me things related to my weight and image, that hurts, for a long time. See, words have a lasting effect, and those were words coming from somebody who said he loved me. I wasn't the only girl at my treatment center who had been in a domestic violence situation at some point before getting to that rock bottom place where we met.

All of this is common sense, yeah? But where does being queer come in, because that's what this is about. My current reality as a queer individual who happens to immerse hirself in queer culture, just due to the fact that I am a really social being and my friends also happen to be a part of the LGBT community.

So, how does my being queer affect who I am now and how I relate to this thing that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life?

Well, being queer complicates everything. It's tough because everything is so interlaced that I can never really figure out if some things are due to my eating disorder, or my experiences with domestic violence, or my queer identity or any number of things I have experienced in my life.

For instance, my ideal self right now is a thin, androgynous, flat chested individual. You can't tell if they are a boy or a girl. My current self is curvy like a river, or the goddess, and sometimes I'm fine with that. But sometimes, I just want to be that ideal, androgynous, version of myself. And I don't know how much of this ideal self has to do with my eating disorder, and how much has to do with my experimental identity as gender queer. Maybe it's both, maybe it's neither, and maybe it's not worth thinking about. And maybe part of it is an internal need to not meet the standard that men find attractive because I don't want to attract attention from men like the one who abused me.

It's all so intertwined that I can't find where one begins and another ends. And that, I think is the way all of our lives are. Our experiences make us who we are, and are constantly influencing the way we think and relate to the world.

So, I may be experiencing something from the perspective of a survivor of domestic violence, but I'm also experiencing it from all these other angles of my identity and experience. As a queer person, as someone with an eating disorder, as a feminist, as a photographer and artist, as someone who loves music, as a vegan, etc. It's all balled into one, and it's always complicated.

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