Mount Saint Vincent University researcher Dr. Phillip Joy, faculty member in the Department of Applied Human Nutrition at MSVU, has recently published the results of his project titled “Safe, Seen, Supported: Navigating Eating Disorders Recovery in the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community.” In partnership with Eating Disorders NS, Youth Project, and Change Lab Action Research Initiative, Dr. Joy aims to spotlight the gap in eating disorder recovery programs for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Through this research, Dr. Joy identifies barriers to accessing support while offering suggestions for health care providers serving 2SLGBTQIA+ patients.
A recent report from the Trevor Project found that 54 per cent of LGBTQ+ identifying people have been diagnosed with an eating disorder and transgender young adults are 15 times more likely than their cisgender peers to report
being diagnosed with an eating disorder. Dr. Joy and his team conducted qualitative interviews with 2SLGBTQIA+ identifying people to find ways to support 2SLGBTQIA+ community members experiencing disordered eating.
Key findings and recommendations from this research display a need to develop culturally responsive, accessible, and effective supports for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The study describes findings of distrust in service providers who may be judgmental, avoidant, or nervous in their discussions of queer identities, and need for a greater understanding of the relationship between shame sexuality gender identity, and body image. Recommendations include increased diversity among service providers (including, but not limited to, more 2SLGBTQIA+ representation) and more peer support from other 2SLGBTQIA+ people who have lived experience with eating disorders.
Dr. Joy and his team also offer suggestions for service providers to gain a better understanding of 2SLGBTQIA+ identities.
- Avoid assuming gender identity based on appearance or medical documentation. Instead, ask how people identify their gender.
- Avoid assuming that trauma is the central experience of 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Instead, recognize that support seekers could have trauma, but don’t assume its cause or expect it to be the focus of their treatment.
- Avoid using the phrase “preferred pronouns.” Instead, ask which pronouns they use as pronouns and gender identity are not a preference nor a choice, but rather the identity of the person.
- Avoid mistaking gender dysphoria with body dysmorphia. Instead, recognize that the two concerns can exist simultaneously, but therapeutic approaches should respect their differences.
- Representation matters. For example, Dr. Joy and his team collaborated with artist Daniel ‘Dapper’ McLaren to design information and resource pamphlets to use in programming with a focus on a range of 2SLGBTQIA+ identities.
Members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community face additional challenges not only in finding culturally appropriate therapeutic support options but also in accessing those limited options. As a result, Dr. Joy’s research provides important information for developing culturally safe, accessible, and effective support options for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Associate Vice-President, Research
Mount Saint Vincent University
Mount Saint Vincent University