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Taking a Look in the Mirror

Written By: Kenny Schreiber June 19, 2009 No Comment

Since before we were capable of looking in the mirror and enumerating our flaws, the mantra “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” has been etched into our brains. And magazines, television and movies have saturated our eyes with preconceived notions of what it means to be beautiful. Private scrutiny, coupled with public ridicule, can lead to severe body image issues among all youth, though at times it seems that LGBT youth are hit even harder.

At Youth First Texas, volunteer Kyle Erwin is hoping to address some of those issues and help change the youths’ thinking about body image. “The perfect people in the media,” he said “are typically shown as wealthy, loved, powerful, happy, smart, desirable, and successful.” He pointed out that this can lead youth to make judgments about themselves and consider themselves unlovable, undesirable and unsuccessful. Gay youth, he pointed out, “have greater desire to be thinner” or “want to acquire more muscle mass and reduce body fat.”

Kyle pointed out that among lesbians, the problems of body image seem less prevalent, due in part to their ability “to determine for themselves what is acceptable and what is not.” But he was also quick to point out that this does not mean there are no body image issues among lesbians.

Within the LGBT spectrum, Kyle believes that the research shows transgender youth have the greatest degree of body image issues. Much of this focuses on their birth sex and its conflict with their perceived gender. As an example he points out that “many natal females that have a male gender will restrict food intake to decrease body fat to delay or restrict the development of breasts or the widening of hips.”

Hoping to “promote insight, awareness, and growth,” Kyle is at the head of the Body Image Group, which meets on Tuesdays at 6:00pm. The group attendance is limited to a small number, to better facilitate what Kyle refers to as “self-disclosure,” a practice which he believes can lead to “healthy self-acceptance.”

“Negative thoughts about my body and myself make me feel like I am in a cage. I can not really be myself when I am consumed by these thoughts; moreover, no one else can see the real me,” said Kyle, who, in addition to promoting self-acceptance hopes that, if the youth take away anything they think about the following: “think about who and what you would be without the negative thoughts; What do you see?”

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