Tag Archives: body culture

Review: Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues

against-me-transgener-dsphoria-blues-1389381288I’ve never reviewed any music on my blog before, but then again there haven’t been any records by bands I listen to that have mattered as much as this one. Punk has never quite lived up to its promise of being all-inclusive and all-accepting; sexism and homophobia have always been problems just as they are in other subcultures and societies. Maybe that’s why I find the candid honesty of Against Me!’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, about her identity (and the concept album she’s written about it) so refreshing. It doesn’t feel like it was over year and a half ago when she came out as transgender and intent to start hormone replacement therapy, but here we are: it’s 2014 and the album is only now out.

Rough Surf on the Coast
Grace has always written about gender dysphoria in her music (see ‘Violence’ on Searching for a Former Clarity, ‘The Ocean’ of New Wave, and ‘Bamboo Bones’ on White Crosses to name a few), but never in such a personal, obvious, or unapologetic way. While other public figures with a pop culture status have had somewhat public transitions, Grace stands out since she spends more than half of a given year on tour, on stage, performing music and meeting fans. Short of putting her musical career on hold and withdrawing from the public eye to transition privately, there wasn’t really any other way to go about it but to be as up front as possible.

In terms of trans* visibility, it’s pretty significant. There are many strong voices who are very open about who they are, but Grace’s presence, visibility, and accessibility in the music scene over the past fifteen years makes her stand out more than others. Since Against Me! never became so huge that they stopped playing club shows, it’s typically been easy to talk to the band after a set and say hello – despite a brief major label stint that resulted in some more mainstream commercial success.

Both Grace herself and the record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, matter in part for their degree of visibility. Continue reading

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2013 Year in Review

Currently reading: A Queer History of the United State by Micheal Bronski
Currently listening: Bubblegum by Kevin Devine

Another year over. If you’re new around here, this may be a great way to get acquainted! Here’s a handful of my favorite posts from the past year, along with some other developments.

March 1, 2013: Anorexia in Men on the Rise
I started off last year with a few segments discussing eating disorders in boys and men. I keep saying it, but it’s still true: I’m very grateful to the Huffington Post for their continued coverage and interest in the subject!

April 10, 2013: Striving For Perfection – Boys & Body Image
Another segment, this one with Al Jazeera English, where we were joined by my friend Claire Mysko and some other great panelists. Appreciate the good questions and discussion we had, check it out!

April 21, 2013: No More Gender Bias
I finally got a hold of the recording of the speech I gave in 2011 at the EDC Spring Congressional Briefing. Very honored to participate. You can watch the full thing at the link above, along with the full transcript.

April 19, 2013: Eating Disorder Advocacy in Washington DC
April saw another Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. I’ve been going twice a year for over seven years, and it’s still the most important thing I’ve done. Educating Congress and reforming health laws to meet the needs of people with eating disorders has the potential to help millions and save lives. Kari Adams of the Kari Adams Show was there with us, and she did a couple of interviews with people from the EDC about the work we do in DC.

December 7, 2013: …We Now Face Death
In November, one of my favorite professors died of pancreatic cancer. He never knew it, but he had a profound impact on my life and my recovery. In case you don’t have time to read it, at least heed some of his last words in the final email he sent out:

So, please use your life well. It truly is like having a bucket of gold dust with a little hole in the bottom. I know that we tend to see the value in something more, when we are about to lose it. Maybe that’s why I’m saying this stuff to you. But, I have understood the truth of the value of life for a few years now. When I look back over my life now, I see it as one of extraordinary value… How lucky I was! … It will be hard to equal the value of this life.

We should all be so lucky to look back on our lives and see the extraordinary value in them. RIP, Dr. Perdue.

In 2013:

We also had to say goodbye to Matt Ryd, who lost his battle with depression and eating disorders.

There were a number of policy achievements on the federal level:
-Health and Human Services released the final rulings for the 2008 parity law, which has important implications for patients with eating disorders, including the requirement for insurance companies to make available the criteria by which they deem treatment “not medically necessary!”

-The EDC put together a report on the benchmark plans for the state exchanges through the Affordable Care Act to see what benefits might potentially help people with eating disorders.

-The National Eating Disorders Association had a very successful Lobby Day as well!

And finally… here’s my own 2013 in pictures. I went to Brazil, I finally met face to face with some fellow ED activists, I finished the Gender Studies program I was in, won an award from the Virginia Social Science Association for a paper on eating disorders and health policy, and a whole lot more!

NEDA 2013 with Benjamin O'Keefe and Brian Cuban

NEDA 2013 with Benjamin O’Keefe and Brian Cuban

Award reception with Dr. Tim Brazil of the Virginia Social Science Association, April 2013

Award reception with Dr. Tim Brazil of the Virginia Social Science Association, April 2013

NYC 9-2013

Meeting with lovely friends and activists: Caroline Rothstein, Claire Mysko, Jenn Friedman, and Kendra Sebelius

Flying over Rio on the way to Salvador

Flying over Rio on the way to Salvador

Presenting at the University of Virginia, November 2013

Presenting at the University of Virginia, November 2013

Visiting friends in Asheville

Visiting friends in Asheville December 2013

Tomorrow is always a new day, and eventually it’s a new year. Here’s to 2014.

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Striving For Perfection: Boys & Body Image

I had another great opportunity to take part in a segment on body image and males. This segment was especially interesting to me because it had a broader focus, particularly due to the contributions of Alan Aragon. Alan is a nutrition and fitness expert, getting his start in the gym as a personal trainer. Nowadays he finds himself writing, blogging, and fairly well-known online on the fitness forums he helps moderate. I’m so detached from body-building and gym culture that I forget how many men are wrapped up in that stuff, so I got a lot out of the discussion too.

Here’s the full list of panelists:

Claire Mysko @ClaireMysko
Author, “Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?”
clairemysko.com

Niobe Way @youthresistance
Professor of Applied Psychology, New York University
niobeway.com

Ryan Salonen
Actor
IMDB credits

Alan Aragon
Nutrition guru
alanaragon.com

Simon Metin @smetin92
Medical Student, King’s College, Cambridge
Simon Metin on YouTube

I want to thank everyone at The Stream for covering this topic, asking good questions, and staying away from shock value media like lowest weights or the like. Also, it was great to be on Claire, whom I’ve had a few Twitter exchanges with but never anything like this.

Alright, I’m off to prepare for next week with the Eating Disorders Coalition. Maybe I’ll see you on Capitol Hill?

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April 10, 2013 · 12:13 pm

Anorexia in Men on the Rise – Huffington Post Live Interview

Happy Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion on Huffington Post Live on eating disorders in men this past Thursday. I’m excited that they chose to highlight this subject during awareness week, and appreciate the thoughtful questions they had for everyone on the segment.

You can watch the full segment below, which includes a young man named Alberto De Leon in Chicago who is currently in recovery from an eating disorder; Margaret Johnson, the editor for HuffPost Women; Amanda Webster, an Australian mother who’s son developed anorexia in childhood; and Dr. Gregory Jantz, an eating disorder specialist in Seattle. You can watch the full video below:

You may notice that the title on the video says, “Manorexia on the Rise.” Well, I don’t care for that term one bit, and I’m happy to report that when I emailed my contact on the production team, they changed it on the main video page and wherever else it was possible. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to edit out of the video stream, but I want to extend my gratitude for the quick response they had in changing it where they could.

I’ve written about my disdain for that term in the past:

If you’ve been keeping up with me on here, you have probably heard me talk about “gender inclusivity.” I believe for ED treatment, research, and prevention to advance, it has to be fully inclusive and not just catered to the majority. I almost slipped through the cracks of the resources available to me during my own recovery because it was all designed for women, and I mourn for other boys and men who find themselves in similar circumstances.

I grimaced at the original title because taking a word like “anorexia” and altering it to reference EDs in men carries the implication that men experience it differently in some way – otherwise, they would just call it anorexia, right? …In short, it by default is not gender inclusive.

It won’t do us any good to take notice of how our recovery culture is feminized if we just turn around and make it gendered in the opposite direction. Eating disorders are, more than anything, a matter of public health concern.

Thanks again to Huffington Post Live for having me, and for responding to my request regarding the segment title so quickly. If more media outlets handled this issue with the same level of care, we’d all be the better for it.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think!

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Filed under Activism, Eating Disorder Awareness Week, eating disorders, Interview, Recovery, Uncategorized

Public Perception of Eating Disorders – Huffington Post Live

In case you missed it last night, I had a last-minute invitation by the Huffington Post to join a discussion on the public perception of eating disorders! Also featured in the video are Claire Glass, a blogger who recently shared a story about her grandmtother’s life-long eating disorder, and two treatment professionals, Kim Dennis and Laura Discipio.

You can watch below:

Claire’s story is particularly moving and important, since, along with people “like me” who don’t fit the stereotypical perception of who can have an eating disorder, elderly people are often underrepresented or invisible in the conversation. You can read the full write-up about her grandmother here.

Special thanks to Jenny Churchill and everyone at Huffington Post Live for handling this subject so seriously and taking the time to talk about it! Responsible journalism is incredibly important when talking about eating disorders, because it’s already such a sensitive subject that it can be easy to make sensationalist stories which have shock value but lack substance. Both for this segment and another article I was interviewed for last year, they have an excellent track record!

PS – I’m on Google+ now. I don’t quite get it yet, but don’t let that stop you from adding me to your circles or squares.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think!

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Secular Spirituality, Atheism, and Recovery

If you’ve been through recovery, I’m wondering – how has your recovery been impacted (positively, negatively?) when the recovery culture dialogue turns to the almighty? It seems to happen a lot, and there’s a lot of faith-based stuff out there. And if that helps you recover, then I’m all for it! Everyone’s recovery will look a little different and be unique to them, and hope can be found in many different forms.

But for nonbelievers, the prevalence of religious language in recovery can present an additional hurdle – I know it did for me. Early in my recovery, before I got into more structured group therapy with a counselor, I was attending Twelve-Step groups that focused on eating disorders/disordered eating. I couldn’t recommend them for everyone, but it was what I needed at the time. I had hit an all-time low, and a friend told me about a group that met less than two miles away from where I lived downtown. I went the very next day, desperate for anything that might assuage the constant misery and physical discomfort I was in.

I honestly thought that I was going to go there, they would tell me what to do, I would do it and I would get better – just like going to the doctor and getting a prescription. I quickly found out that that wasn’t the case. But what I did find was a new perspective and a sense of hope – the people there spoke about their struggles with honesty and clarity, as well as an unexpected humility. One of the things emphasized in all Twelve-Step fellowships is admitting you don’t have control over everything, and as you work through that it can really give you some room to breathe. However, part of that admitting you don’t have control everything (a notion that often clashes with our Western sense of independence and individuality – but I challenge you to sneeze with your eyes open or to prevent the sun from setting) is turning that control over to a “Higher Power.”

Ugh.

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Fit, or Fitting In?

Well, this is an interesting follow-up to the ‘fitspo’ discussion last week. Sarah Robles, the top weight-lifter in America, is bound for the Olympics and can barely pay rent.

…And even though she’s the U.S.’s best chance at an Olympic medal, she’ll never get the fame or fortune that come so easily to her fellow athletes — in part because, at 5 feet, 10.5 inches and 275 pounds, she doesn’t fit the ideal of thin, toned athletic beauty.

“You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy,” she says. The 23-year-old from California became the highest ranked weightlifter in the country last year after placing 11th at the world championships, beating out every male and female American on the roster. On her best day, she can lift more than 568 pounds — that’s roughly five IKEA couches, 65 gallons of milk, or one large adult male lion.
(full article)

The thing is, if you passed Sarah on the street, a lot of people might make assumptions about her health based on her height and weight, and I doubt anyone would assume she was an Olympic athlete. She’s a prime example as to why I can’t stand that ‘fitspo’ crap – it promotes very narrow ideas of health, fitness, and attractiveness. If ‘fitspo’ is about motivation to work out, why isn’t there any with Sarah Robles? After all, she’s pretty damn fit!

Eat healthy and work hard, and you might be on your way to the Olympics, just like Sarah Robles!

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Uninspired

Hi, internet. Sorry I’ve been absent lately. I’m taking a summer class (for the first time in four years!) and, in addition to my regular job, it’s a lot of work. I’ll try to get posting again on a somewhat regular basis!

Currently listening: Have Heart - Songs to Scream at the Sun
Currently reading: Women and Politics

There’s something that has been bothering me lately. Around the time that Tumblr announced they would be actively screening and banning accounts & posts which promoted self-harm and eating disorders, I noticed a new trend.

Fitness Inspiration. Or, ‘fitspo’ for short. A little background: the type of stuff Tumblr was taking aim at (although how effectively they’ve implemented this policy is arguable) was content that actively promotes or encourages eating disordered behavior. Images of emaciated people, usually women, emphasizing characteristics of being extremely underweight that are circulated by “support” communities for eating disorders, but all they support is the continuation and reinforcement of life-threatening disorders.

The average person sees this crap and they are appropriately upset by it. However, it was quickly replaced by ‘fitspo’. This, it seems, is perfectly okay with the average person. Images of female athletes doing physically demanding activities, extreme yoga poses, or close-ups of some stomach muscles accompanied by some “motivational” captions.

On the surface, it may seem harmless enough, encouraging people to exercise and to eat well. Exercise is good, right? Food is good, right? As a runner, I can’t disagree with either of those sentiments. I enjoy exercising, I sleep better when I’m active, and I make sure to eat in a way that supports all the activity I do because I want to make sure I’m giving my body what it needs.

There are two things I don’t really ever look at, though: the mirror and the scale. Here’s why.

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The Sun’s Always Rising in the Sky Somewhere

Currently Listening: Against Me!: The Disco Before the Breakdown

I recently talked about how punk rock and sobriety had a big effect on my life, and the appeal that punk had because of its foundational ideals of acceptance of all people. Black, white, gay, straight, fat, skinny – there wasn’t any room for to judge people over such superficial things.

That doesn’t mean people didn’t bring their own prejudices and insecurities into radical or punk communities. It’s easy to say, “We stand for this,” but being ‘not prejudiced’ against a given group or type of person isn’t as simple as saying you aren’t racist/homophobic/transphobic/sexist and then denying all responsibility when you end up doing or saying something which actually happens to be prejudiced.

That’s because not acting or thinking in prejudicial ways is a process that evolves as we erode our own ignorance. You can be well-intentioned in your ideas and words, but that doesn’t always mean you don’t do or say anything that isn’t offensive to someone – particularly something you have zero exposure to or experience with.

This week sees one well-known punk musician coming out in a very public way over a matter which will put a lot of these issues to the test. Tom Gabel of the band Against Me! (yeah, they spell it with an exclamation mark) has a six page interview in this week’s Rolling Stone coming out as transgendered. She (Tom) will be changing her name to Laura Jane Grace and doing hormone therapy. She and her wife will remain together. It’s all over the internet already, so I won’t bother repeating all the same details that are available everywhere else.

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In Remembrance: Reanna’s Story

In my last post about Lobby Day, I mentioned a story shared at the Congressional Briefing by mother Tracy Smith, who’s daughter Reanna died from her eating disorder while waiting for treatment. Tracy has agreed to let me share her testimony here to further spread the truth about the severity and life threatening reality of eating disorders. I’m deeply grateful to Tracy for her courage and willingness to share this story, and hope that others will learn from it. 

Please note that some of the specifics regarding her daughter’s death may be difficult to hear and are rather emotional, and if you are in recovery from an eating disorder, please take care of yourself while reading.

The following speech was given by Tracy Smith on Capitol Hill on April 24, 2012, at a Congressional Briefing held by the Eating Disorders Coalition as testimony to advocate for the passage of the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (FREED) Act.

Tracy Smith testifies on behalf of her daughter.

It has been seventeen months since my baby was taken.

My Family has been devastated by an eating disorder in the worst way possible. On Nov 15, 2010, my Daughter lost her life to an eating disorder. In less than twenty-three months this disease came into our lives and took over my child. Physically, mentally emotionally and in every aspect that you can imagine. Due to misdiagnoses by her pediatrician, lack of education and no coverage for her condition by medical insurance we were alone in the very short battle!

This is Reanna Yvette’s Story.

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