Category Archives: queer talk, gender issues and sexual identity

anorexia in men

male anorexia is a topic that is not talked or written about very much. anorexia in men is reminiscent of males with a history of sexual abuse, another topic that is underdiscussed, underreported and undertreated. perhaps one thing that they both have in common is a perception of weakness (a very real problem in anorexia, as we’ll see in a later post on this topic). while our ideas and concepts around gender are becoming more and more fluid, at base, the societal image of the male is unfortunately still one that needs to show unequivocal strength, will and power.

here are some findings from a study of male anorexia.

anorexia nervosa is a serious problem that affects over one million males yearly. it is often misdiagnosed and overlooked completely in clinical, medical and school settings because of the misperception that it is a disorder exclusively present in females. the DSM-IV largely contributes to this misnomer due to the gender-biased criteria. for example, one criterion is cessation of monthly periods.

the purpose of this study was to identify the etiology (i.e. causation and history) and clinical characteristics of male anorexia and devise a more comprehensive definition of anorexia nervosa that encompasses both males and females.

an additional purpose was to develop an instrument that identifies risk factors associated with anorexia nervosa in males and aid mental health and medical practitioners in making this diagnosis.

the assessment of anorexia nervosa in males questionnaire (AANMQ) was developed for this study to assess an expert panel’s clinical observations regarding potential misdiagnosis and treatment gaps among males with anorexia nervosa. this panel included one male anorexic, one parent of an anorexic male, and eight mental health and medical practitioners who were selected based on personal and clinical experiences working with male anorexics.

excerpts from the panel’s findings and literature review include these characteristics:

  • experts and literature agreed that a distorted body image is characteristic of male anorexia, patients and family did not
  • most did not feel that distored body image resulted from a “psychotic-like” mental orientation
  • all agreed that anorexia is accompanied by depression. other mental health difficulties that were proposed by some were borderline, obsessive compulsive, avoidant, and dependent personality disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anxiety
  • some of the professionals felt that alcohol abuse was part of the problem but most, including patients and their families, felt that was not the case
  • similarly, some of the professionals found drug abuse to be a problem but patients and family had not experienced it
  • there was no consensus as to whether sexual identity was an accompanying problem
  • in terms of physical health consequences, male anorexics seem to experience the same as females, e.g. cardiac and kidney problems, electrolyte imbalances, impaired metabolism, osteoporosis, and gastrointestinal difficulties.

another topic discussed was noncompliance with treatment.

the mental health professionals reported the male anorexic, much like his female counterpart, is often a non-compliant patient who denies having a problem, is resistant to treatment, fails to follow-up on outpatient appointments, and is deceptive in his report of what he eats.

the medical group was divided in their responses to non-compliance and the manner in which it is displayed. the RN and pediatrician both agreed that the anorexic is seldom an accommodating patient but that this is a recognizable feature of the illness.

the psychiatrist and the dietician, however, report that the male anorexic patient is often desperate for treatment and willing to work on his issues. the dietician further remarked that female anorexics are “pleasers” and will “eat their way out of the hospital” only to return again, but male anorexics appear more eager to deal with underlying issues that contribute to the anorexic behavior.

the members of the patient/family group reported noncompliance was not applicable to their experience with any treatment staff in either an inpatient or outpatient basis.

the latter seems logical – if noncompliance had been an issue, the patients and families probably would not have participated in the study in the first place.

in the next instalment on this topic i will give you a summary of the questionnaire and talk some more about the issue of weight itself.

bullying stops here!

today is international stand up to bullying day.  students and lots of other people all across canada and the world wear pink to mark the day.

jordan behan thinks pink

last year, two students in nova scotia (canada’s east coast) donned and distributed pink shirts after a classmate fell victim to homophobic bullying for wearing pink to school.

this became the driving force for teachers across the country to renew a call to end bullying.

“the kids that come forward are not very good victims any more because they’re standing up for themselves, trying to get things changed, they tend not to be victimized anymore”

the term “bullying” is most often used at school but let’s not forget that it can apply in other situations as well – at work, in the boardroom, at sports activities, in volunteer situations, here on the internet, in hospitals, etc.

have you ever been bullied? have have you ever stood up to a bully?

(image by and of vancouver blogger jordan behan – jordan, it just
so happened that yours was the best pink pic on creative commons!)

6 kinds of love

socratesvalentine’s day tomorrow. let’s talk about love.

but what kind of love?

we’re all familiar with eros – the heady, emotional high of romance, sexual love and infatuation. it makes the world go round; or, more specifically, it twirls the world in a spin.

agape (pron. ah-gah-pay) is another type of love people often talk about. it is unconditional love, the love god is said to have for people, or the brotherly/sisterly love i’ve observed so much among some homeless people: a deep caring for each other. it’s not spinny; it’s grounding.

philia is the love experienced in friendship.

in the book socrates in love: philosophy for a passionate heart, philosopher christopher phillips introduces us to these and more ideas on the rainbow that is our multi-layered, multi-faceted experience of love. here is a summary (with thanks to sarah boyes):

it’s interesting to note that philosophy itself contains the word love – it’s the love (philos) of wisdom (sophia).

phillips is the founder of the non-profit society for philosophical inquiry (which is not ‘anti-academic’ but ’embraces a type of vibrant and relevant philosophy’). an itinerant philosopher, he embraces coffee shop culture and holds ‘socrates cafés’ – a discussion group he sets up wherever he happens to be. similar maybe to our philosopher cafés here in vancouver (but perhaps a bit less pretentious intellectual)?

in his book, phillips discusses eros, storge (familial love), xenia (love of strangers), philia, agape and then ‘socratic love’.

boyes cites as interesting examples phillips’ investigation into

what it is to love a country in a time of political tumult: in a section on castro, phillips tells us, ‘my brother and i, too, have been blinded by ideology. it distorted the passionate idealism for which we risked our lives’

a section on post 9/11 america and hurricane katrina, exploring why we help strangers

the words of an american soldier posted in iraq that throw light on why people risk their lives for their countries

love between friends, sympathetic towards deep-rooted and meaningful relationships …

socratic love: ‘we should continually seek for new ways of being human that lead to greater human beings’.

(sidebar: amusingly, boyes, who doesn’t seem to be entirely convinced of the quality of the book (it looks like the type of ‘everyman’s philosophy’ that phillips espouses isn’t quite her thing) gives no indication that the term ‘socratic love’ used to be a bit of a euphemism for male homosexuality, especially the type of homoeroticism that, in times when it needed to be under cover, occurred under the guise or with the help of studying together.)

so … what do you think? do you think it’s useful to differentiate between different types of love (if you say no, you’re not a student of sanskrit – apparently sanskrit has 96 words for love)?

identity guilt and oppression

i just spent a little time reading through joyce trebilcot’s dyke ideas, a “passionate and insightful contribution to lesbian philosophy.”

seeing that a little while ago we had an interesting discussion on guilt here on this blog, her thoughts on “identity guilt” and “official guilt” were particularly interesting.

what i here call identity guilt is implied by definitions of persons that are imposed and hence oppressive: women as defined by men, lesbians as defined by hetereosexuals, people of colour as defined by whites, fat people as defined by non-fat people, etc.

such definitions not only stereotype and degrade those on whom they are imposed, they also, paradoxically, both blame the oppressed for being who we are, thus suggesting that we have the power to change, and imply that we have no power because our condition is innate and immutable.

for example, a traditional patriarchal definition of white women includes the claim that we lack courage.

this was written in the early 90s. while words like “patriarchal” have fallen out of fashion, and it’s become politically very incorrect to assert that “a patriarchal definition of white women includes the claim that we lack courage”, much of what trebilcot says here is still alive and kicking right beneath the surface (viz mike huckabee’s victory yesterday).

but that’s the sociological part of it. i’d like to talk about the psychological insights (which, to be sure, can never be separated from what’s happening in society.)

these oppressive moves, we can also make them on ourselves, and it’s not something limited to being gay. indeed, as we all know, that’s when oppression becomes most effective: when it’s internalized.

as women, we’ve all been there. for example, at some point – also in the 90s, if i recall correctly – the image of the superwoman started emerging. you know, the super-slim, super-healthy, super happy 45-year-old successful lawyer-cum-hockey mom with three kids, two dogs and one sexually completely satisfied husband, the she-god who never tires to redecorate the house, to volunteer at every bake sale, the one who’s always perfectly turned out, even when she goes to her evening class at university, where she’s working on her PhD.

i don’t know many mothers who don’t buy into that image at some level and don’t feel guilty in at least the deeper recesses of their pretty widdle minds when they can’t – surprise – reach that ideal. it’s not an ideal that real mothers came up with, it’s an outside definition, most likely concocted by marketing professionals who know how the power of guilt can be turned into profits.

identity guilt happens when we think we should conform to an outside image and we don’t make the cut. we can easily turn into our own oppressors, and, to use trebilcot’s words, “blame ourselves for being who we are, both suggesting that we have the power to change, and implying that we have no power to change because we are who we are.”

tomorrow i’ll compare this to “official guilt”. let’s see whether we can learn something from the distinction between the two.

cultural aspects of mental health

today you can find me over at GNIF brain blogger. october 10 was world mental health day. it focused on cultural aspects of mental health. you’ll find tidbits about the mental health among the black and latino GLBT community; mental health in india, including an interesting link to the diary of a mother whose daughter has been diagnosed with schizophrenia; reflections on suicide statistics the world over, from finland to lithuania to the UK; and first nations and mental health.

rant: anglican qualifiers

“may i ask what age group you fall into? ok, thanks. do you work for a marketing company? no? good. and your household income? thank you. last question, what postal code do you live in? oh, V5W? i’m sorry, we already have the quota for people with your profile filled.”

i’m sure you’ve all heard that spiel before. it’s something that market research companies do very openly but it’s the same thing that most salespeople are asked to do more discreetly.

it’s called “qualifying.”

it always feels a little strange when it turns out that you don’t qualify, even if you don’t want to qualify (did you really want to spend 20 minutes answering inane questions about your tooth brushing habits?) it feels strange and uncomfortable because you’re excluded.

now the anglican church, perhaps a bit more important than market researchers, has voted to continue in favour of qualifying. are you the right customer for them? if you’re straight and not too radical, you’re fine. if you’re gay, well, tant pis. well, maybe if you sit quietly in the back they’re going to accept you.

but if you want to get married, nay, not even married – if you’re gay and anglican and you just want to have your union blessed, you’re out of luck. you don’t qualify. in the anglican church in canada, christ’s/god’s love is not that unconditional.

yes, yes, i know. these things take time. maybe next time, they’ll vote in favour. people have their sensibilities. etc. etc.

i’m sorry, that just doesn’t wash. the people who voted against same sex blessing want to have a right not only to be homophobic but also to let their homophobia dictate an extremely important part of other people’s lives.

you know what, if you don’t like queer people, then here’s something you can do: don’t watch brokeback mountain, don’t go downtown when the gay pride parade is on, use the remote when the L word comes on, hey, you don’t even have to go to a church that’s gay friendly! but don’t tell others, who you obviously don’t even know and like, what to do and not do! is that so hard to understand?

i don’t let my dog poop on your sidewalk, i don’t throw rotten eggs on your windshield. when i know you’re really sensitive to non-christian religions, i even hide my pentagram pendant from your precious eyes.

i even defend you guys – i get into hot water when i tell my pagan, buddhist and atheist friends that there is such a thing as progressive, liberal christian churches and the anglican church tends to be one of them!

all i’m asking you, stay out of other people’s business, don’t thwart their happiness and read the bible: “whoever comes to me i will never drive away“. and don’t tell me that accepting gays and lesbians in your pews but not blessing their unions is not driving them away.

geesh, you guys! get your act together!

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

p.s. just found out that today is the 10th anniversary of a U.S. supreme court enshrining freedom of speech on the internet. as tris points out, without that, blogs as we know them may not even be possibe. i’m grateful.


today is national day against homophobia.

homophobia is about us over here versus them over there. look, these other people! they do X and say Y, and we don’t do and say that, so they’re outside of the fence and we’re inside.

only there is no them. there is only we. and the fence is a figlet of our imagination.

i say “our” because this habit of artificially carving up our environment into what’s “us” and “not us” is deeply engrained, and certainly doesn’t just happen in homophobia. it happens in xenophobia, racism, zealotry of all stripes … it’s a long list.

what’s so strange about this fence building is that on the face of it, it has something to do with identity. by identifying another group as “those people”, we can have a group that’s called “our people”. “our people”, who aren’t hispanics, or transgender, or immigrants, or addicts, or poor, or conservatives – whatever flavour it is one wants to exclude from one’s life.

the strange part is that most people who identify themselves that way do not reflect on their identity in any other way. the only identity work that happens is this fence-building to exclude the “others”.

if i want to truly know who i am, i need to look inside. i cannot be too distracted by building fences against them, or finding flaws with them.

the deeper i look inside, the more i realize the paradox that my true identity lies both in my uniqueness – and in my being part of the great sister and brotherhood of humanity. i am both this person with this nose, this passion for equality, this dislike for loud music, and this woman who is part of the great womanhood of all creatures, this person who feels pain like anyone else, this girl born in munich, a city that belongs to the world.

i am thinking of some of the historic germans who were not able to express (and explore) their sexual identity because of homophobia: king ludwig II, kaiser frederick II, thomas mann. they, too, are my brothers, across time, each with their own great uniqueness, each with their similarities to me, and to you, my dear reader. what would the world look like today if they didn’t have to live outside of fences created by homophobia?

(and i guess i could have included homophobia in yesterday’s post about turning things off)

self-righteous in surrey

“if teachers are going to use the film an inconvenient truth in the classroom, they should also have access to another documentary which challenges the academy-award winning movie’s premise, says a local school trustee.”

this, my friends, we can find under the heading “school trustee demands ‘balance’ over gore movie use“.


let me get this off my political chest right away: these are the same people who weren’t that hot for balance when it came to balancing out the school library, to include among the 99.9% heterosexual books a few that also talk about same sex couples.

so this is me getting self-righteous. (and i feel pretty good about it! nothing as invigorating as a good dose of self-righteousness, says my daughter’s partner, ray)

but – whenever i get self righteous, there’s this little part of me that says, ok, you’re accusing someone (of hypocrisy, delusion and sheer stupidity, for starters), then you might as well take that as an opportunity to see where you’re not perfect. whoever throws the first stone and all that.

as painful as it is, yes, i have to admit that i’m not perfect. i’m not always congruent, and i bet that sometimes looks like hypocrisy to others. there are moments when i don’t like looking a particular truth in the eye, and that leads me to self-delusion. sometimes i’m straight-out dumb (like yesterday, when i just wouldn’t admit to my friend ava that her boyfriend’s and her ages, with him being 7 years older than her 52, do indeed add up to 111. “2 and 7 is 9, not 11!” i said to her. oh, get a grip, isabella).

it’s like driving. when you run a yellow light, you probably say, “oh good, i made it!”. the guy behind you, on the other hand, may see you as yet another example of bad driving in vancouver and natter about it all day.

our behaviour usually makes sense to us; to others, they’re often transgressions to get self-righteous over. it’s all a matter of perspective.

sometimes. maybe even often.

but i sure hope that if i ever do something as hypocritical, deluded, and sheer stupid as using the word “balance” to justify my political agenda, there will be someone out there to set me straight!

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

p.s. there is an update to this here at de smog blog.