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Love Your Tree – Because Beauty Does Not Have a “Look”

For far too long we have perpetuated the idea that beauty has a "look" (read: straight size, cisgender,* white). Consequently, the way I experience my body cannot be untangled from my intersecting marginalized identities; as a Latinx, queer, transgender person, accepting my body is revolutionary.
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By Hayden Evans

When I was 12, I developed an eating disorder. I began my journey toward body acceptance a year later, shortly after I chose recovery. Now, at age 21, I reflect on my journey.

For far too long we have perpetuated the idea that beauty has a “look" (read: straight size, cisgender,* white). Consequently, the way I experience my body cannot be untangled from my intersecting marginalized identities; as a Latinx, queer, transgender person, accepting my body is revolutionary.

The bodies of my people have survived criminalization, oppression and harassment for years. Gender non-conformity was illegal in the United States until the late 20th century and is still illegal in many countries today. Just a couple of short months ago, legislation was passed that made it legal to deny transgender individuals medical care right here in the U.S. On May 15, 2020, the Department of Education released a letter banning transgender youth from sports under Title IX. The list goes on...

Transgender and gender non-conforming people are continually told that our bodies are wrong. And so, one of the largest steps I took toward accepting my body was redefining beauty. I began to recognize that the eurocentric, cisnormative beauty ideals we are taught throughout our lives serve only to keep people who look like me from embracing our full potential.

Despite the negative messaging LGBTQ+ individuals (especially BIPOC*) have been conditioned to internalize, I deeply believe our bodies are beautiful. We are told that our bodies take up too much space, are too loud, too bright, too confusing, too much, but this is not true.

I will say it again. Our bodies are beautiful.

As with beauty, we are told that eating disorders have a “look." However, the data shows us that eating disorders touch the lives of people from every community — including my own. As a bisexual person, I am three times more likely than my peers to develop an eating disorder or use disordered eating behaviors. As a nonbinary* person, my odds of living with an eating disorder are 30 times that of my heterosexual cisgender peers.

These numbers are even higher for people of color within the LGBTQ+ community. For LGBTQ+ individuals, loving our trees is more than a journey of happiness and self-discovery — it is a necessary form of resilience.

As our team at Envision:You collaborates with the Eating Recovery Center for Love Your Tree, LGBTQ+ stories like mine are elevated in a celebration of body diversity.

Further reading:

Diemer EW, Grant JD, Munn-Chernoff MA, Patterson DA, Duncan AE. Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Eating-Related Pathology in a National Sample of College Students. J Adolesc Health Off Publ Soc Adolesc Med. 2015;57(2):144-149. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.03.003.

Guss CE, Williams DN, Reisner SL, Austin SB, Katz-Wise SL. Disordered Weight Management Behaviors, Nonprescription Steroid Use, and Weight Perception in Transgender Youth. J Adolesc Health Off Publ Soc Adolesc Med. 2017;60(1):17-22. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.08.027.

Jones BA, Haycraft E, Murjan S, Arcelus J. Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in trans people: A systematic review of the literature. Int Rev Psychiatry Abingdon Engl. 2016;28(1):81-94. doi:10.3109/09540261.2015.1089217.

James SE, Herman JL, Rankin S, Keisling M, Mottet LA, Anafi M. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Transgender Equality; 2016. Accessed December 9, 2016.

Gordon AR, Austin SB, Krieger N, White Hughto JM, Reisner SL. “I have to constantly prove to myself, to people, that I fit the bill”: Perspectives on weight and shape control behaviors among low-income, ethnically diverse young transgender women. Soc Sci Med. 2016;165:141-149. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.038.

Watson RJ, Veale JF, Saewyc EM. Disordered eating behaviors among transgender youth: Probability profiles from risk and protective factors. Int J Eat Disord. November 2016. doi:10.1002/eat.22627.

Testa RJ, Rider GN, Haug NA, Balsam KF. Gender Confirming Medical Interventions and Eating Disorder Symptoms Among Transgender Individuals. Health Psychol Off J Div Health Psychol Am Psychol Assoc. April 2017. doi:10.1037/hea0000497.

*cisgender an adjective used to describe an individual whose gender is consistent with their sex assigned at birth

*trans/transgender an adjective used to describe an individual whose gender is not consistent with their sex assigned at birth

*nonbinary an adjective used to describe an individual whose gender does not fall exclusively within either the female or male category of the gender binary

*BIPOC Black, Indigenous, and people of color

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