COLUMBIA — Body image issues have long been a problem in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, but people have yet to fully realize the extent of it.
That was the message Tuesday afternoon when members of MU’s LGBT community came together for “Queer in the Mirror,” one of several presentations being held this week as part of MU’s campus-wide “Love Your Body” week.
Sponsored by MU’s Wellness Resource Center, the purpose of “Love Your Body” week is to help students improve their body image and prevent eating disorders.
“Homosexual men are at an increased risk for developing an eating disorder because of cultural pressures within the homosexual community to be thin,” said John Faughn, coordinator of MU’s LGBT Resource Center and the event’s speaker.
The stereotype that straight men like to date thin women, Faughn said, carries over into the gay community. Thus, many gay men assume that other gay men desire a thin partner as well.
Faughn also showed the audience of about 20 personal advertisements placed in Columbia publications by men seeking men and women seeking women that explicitly stated a desire for thinness.
“As long as men are supposed to be masculine and women are supposed to be feminine, many people will suffer in their attempts to conform,” Faughn said, reading a quote from Rebekah Smart, an assistant professor at California State University, Fullerton.
Body image in the transgender community was also discussed.
“Transgender is becoming a really hot topic on college campuses,” Faughn said, adding that transgender individuals are a “growing population with increased visibility.”
Faughn said that many of the body alterations that some transgender individuals desire to have, such as hormones, plastic surgery, and liposuction, are hard to get because of affordability.
“Most insurance (plans) throughout the country do not cover hormone insurance,” Faughn said.
Regardless of availability, though, people will often find a way to get the alterations, he said, explaining that some transgender women try to teach themselves how to perform plastic surgery and then give collagen injections and other small surgeries to their friends, without any medical certification to do so.
“If you’re transgender and you can’t get hormones, you’re going to get it on the street,” Faughn said. “It happens, and it happens here in Columbia.”
Joshua Barton, an MU student and member of the LGBT community, said that he was surprised to learn about that.
“The stuff about the transgender body image I hadn’t heard before,” he said.
MU student Ashe Koliebbi said she came to the presentation because, as a sociology and gender studies major, she wanted to know more about the topic.
“I like that it was really inclusive,” she said.