Pride Month: Tackling Eating Disorders in the Queer Community

June 20, 2022 by chrysalis

Pride month is a wonderful time to celebrate all the awesome things about being queer (bucking gender norms! embracing diversity in sexual and gender identity! drag race!). We reflect on the heroic work of our queer forebears and celebrate the progress we’ve made. Pride month is also a time for us to look honestly at the battles we still face. For LGBTQ and allied staff at Chrysalis, this means an opportunity to raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of eating disorders on the queer community.

People in the LGBTQ community suffer from eating disorders at significantly higher rates than their cisgender and heterosexual peers. A recent study found that adults who identify as gay, lesbian, and/or bisexual were up to four times as likely to report a lifetime diagnosis of an eating disorder as their heterosexual peers1. Eating disorders may be even more prevalent among transgender and non-binary individuals; one study found that 10.7% of trans men and 8.2% of trans women surveyed had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa1. Early research on non-binary individuals suggests that this group may experience a heightened risk of eating disorders compared to binary trans folks2. The disparity between queer and straight people starts young: compared to straight and cisgender kids, gender- and sexual-minority youth and adolescents were significantly more likely to report disordered behaviors like vomiting, over-exercise, fasting, and binging1.

In our therapy groups, we often talk about how eating disorders are a coping mechanism, helping people deal with difficult things when they don’t have other resources or support. This is still true for queer individuals with eating disorders, but how the disorder allows the person to cope may be different. For individuals without access to gender-affirming medical care like hormones or surgery, eating disorders may serve to lessen gender dysphoria by minimizing secondary sex characteristics like breast or muscle development or menstruation3. For others, eating disorders may be a way to numb the distress of living in a world that denies and shames queer people’s identities2. For both groups, transphobia and homophobia feed the development of the eating disorder.

What does pride month have to do with all this? For many, affirmation and pride in their identity can be the antidote to their eating disorder. Gay and bisexual individuals who experienced discrimination were at a significantly greater risk of disordered eating behaviors than those who lived in an affirming environment, indicating that acceptance and social support may buffer queer people from eating disorders1. Among gender-diverse individuals, access to and use of gender-affirming medical interventions was associated with increased body satisfaction and lower eating disorder behaviors4. To cut through the scientific jargon, affirming queer identities and providing access to necessary medical care helps queer people recover from eating disorders. Advocating for our legal rights and protections, speaking out against homophobia and transphobia, and celebrating pride in the queer community are ways that all of us across the gender and sexual orientation spectrums can fight the scourge of eating disorders in our community.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community struggling with an eating disorder, stay tuned for the announcement of our new outpatient therapy group! We’ll explore the intersection of identity and recovery in a supportive environment. If interested, please talk to your therapist to be added to the waitlist.


  1. Nagata, J. M., Ganson, K. T., & Austin, S. B. (2020). Emerging trends in eating disorders among sexual and gender minorities. Current opinion in psychiatry, 33(6), 562–567.
  2. Diemer, E. W., White Hughto, J. M., Gordon, A. R., Guss, C., Austin, S. B., & Reisner, S. L. (2018). Beyond the Binary: Differences in Eating Disorder Prevalence by Gender Identity in a Transgender Sample. Transgender Health, 3(1), 17–23.
  3. Coelho, J. S., Suen, J., Clark, B. A., Marshall, S. K., Geller, J., & Lam, P. Y. (2019). Eating Disorder Diagnoses and Symptom Presentation in Transgender Youth: a Scoping Review. Current psychiatry reports, 21(11), 107.
  4. Ålgars, M., Alanko, K., Santtila, P., & Sandnabba, N. K. (2012). Disordered eating and gender identity disorder: a qualitative study. Eating disorders, 20(4), 300–311.

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