Tag Archives: gender issues

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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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.

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

Quick Updates

Currently Listening: Murder by Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! Normally I try to have a ton of stuff to post and share, but life has been pretty crazy right now. If I did everything I wanted to do, I’d need about twelve more hours in the day and at least an eight day week!

Which is kind of a salient point for talking about NEDAW. Taking on more than you can handle or have time for can be a recipe for disaster, and I learned a long time ago that sometimes you just gotta let some things go.

Have you heard of NORMAL in Schools? They promote positive body image and eating disorder education  with a special focus on schools and universities. I’m now contributing to their blog about once a month, which means I will occasionally be dividing my writing between this site and theirs. My first post is about one of my favorite topics – gender inclusivity! It’s adapted in part from a seminar paper I worked on last year which discusses the gendering of eating disorder recovery culture:

Maybe you’ve never considered the idea that we have a gendered recovery culture. As a male who suffered from anorexia, though, I know it all too well. To create space and dialogue which is gender-inclusive means we need to examine the reasons that negative body image and eating disorders have historically been associated with women or regarded as a “women’s problem.” Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, this seems a fitting topic. After all, we have a huge recovery culture which has a cursory awareness of eating disorders in males but rarely includes them in a visible way.
-from ‘What the Heck is Gender Inclusivity?

While you’re there, check out other great contributors like Robyn Farrell, Caroline Rothstein, Becky Henry, and Carolin Costyn! I must say, it’s seriously an honor to have my writing appearing alongside so many other awesome voices.

Stay tuned for more updates for NEDAW 2013. What are you doing this week to educate and advocate for eating disorders? For yourself?

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2012 in Review

The New Year marks almost two years that my blog has been online. 2012 saw a lot of new visitors, and as I did last year, here are some of my favorite posts of 2012!

1) January 13, 2012: Smash Your Scale (And Anything Else Holding You Back!)
One of my favorite posts, and also one of my favorite stories to tell. The avatar for my blog (the smashed scale up in the corner) isn’t some stock photo – it’s actually the scale I smashed back in 2005 behind the alley of my first apartment.
“I can’t really understate how good it felt to smash that evil contraption. It was one of the biggest enablers of the eating disorder, and there was no way I could pretend that I was going to get better and still keep it around.”

2) February 6, 2012: Continue reading

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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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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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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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Eating Disorders Coalition Spring Lobby Day 2012!

Do you know what the FREED Act is? It’s the Federal Response to the Elimination of Eating Disorders, and it’s a bill that we need YOUR help to pass.

For over a decade, the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) has been active on Capitol Hill working with the federal government to help make eating disorders a federal health priority. With the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder, we need a bill like the FREED Act to help those who suffer from eating disorders get the help they need and deserve.

I’ve been volunteering with the EDC for 5 years now, and am currently a Junior Board member. Sometimes people ask me if I really think lobbying is worth it because of how complicated and partisan politics can be. I’ll admit, it can be discouraging. But those in office really do pay attention and listen to people who take time out of their lives to come and discuss issues with them. There’s so much misinformation out there about eating disorders that we need people who have had real-world experience with them to come and educate lawmakers. Putting a face and a name to a real story goes a lot farther than any statistics, no matter how shocking or upsetting they might be.

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Book Review: The Body Project

“Although eating disorders…are not caused by visual images alone, these pathologies thrive in an environment in which so many “normal” people work so hard (and spend so much money) in pursuit of the perfect body.”
-page 124 

Even though it came out almost fifteen years ago, a lot of people I’ve spoken to about this book hadn’t heard of it. So, it seemed appropriate to do a write-up for it and encourage more people to read it, because it’s excellent!

With The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, author and historian Joan Brumberg has pieced together a unique and invaluable historical account of how women and their bodies have been regarded in our country over the last 150 years using a combination of personal journals, medical textbooks, and other historical records.

Imagine being in the market for new clothing or undergarments and not having any standard sizes to reference. Prior to the sexual revolution of the 1920s, there wasn’t really any such thing as we think of it today. Undergarments were usually made by hand at home, and were far more about function than any fashion. As large companies began mass producing both undergarments and clothes, though, industry size standards cropped up to accommodate the emerging market, changing the way we thought about bodies and providing another form of measurement to scrutinize them by.

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