5 People Championing Body Positivity in the LGBTQ Community

These LGBTQ “thought leaders” are helping people with body image challenges recover their self-esteem.

Feb 26, 2020

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There is a growing recognition that LGBTQ people face similar and sometimes heightened body positivity challenges to those experienced by straight people, and that they deserve to feel accepted, and appreciated. Powerful voices from the LGBTQ community are striving to help queer people become more comfortable and loving towards their bodies. When LGBTQ individuals share body-positive stories, often on social media, they can create safe spaces for others silently struggling with body image issues. These spaces act as sanctuaries, letting participants have the open conversations that enable them to start loving their bodies.

These platforms are vital because LGBTQ-identified people face above-average levels of stress due to the traumatic life experiences they commonly undergo as part of an often-stigmatized minority group. Research shows that queer youths have higher levels of body dissatisfaction and higher rates of eating disorders compared to the general population, for instance.

Experts believe that this lack of self-esteem is probably due to internalized negative attitudes toward their sexual orientation, and the harassment and rejection that people in the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people, often face. “Toxic” body image ideals like the pressure to appear athletic among gay men, as reported by the Mental Health Foundation in their “Body image, sexual orientation and gender identity” report, do not make the situation any easier.

But what does help are the inspiring queer voices steering LGBTQ people forward in their journeys toward self-acceptance. These outspoken role models are steering some of the most important conversations happening now, with many online discussions exploring how to successfully restore self-esteem.  We’re spotlighting the uplifting efforts of five individuals working to restore body-positivity in the LGBTQ community.

Singer-songwriter, Sam Smith

British singer-songwriter, Sam Smith, came out as non-binary and genderqueer aged 26, announcing that he was changing the pronouns he wanted to be addressed by from he/him to they/them. Smith’s art embraces this queerness, with music videos that showcase Smith’s passion for and support of gay culture. 

Smith has been encouraging fans to love their bodies by opening up about body image issues and showing us how they overcame them in inspiring Instagram posts. These center around accepting fluctuating body weight and being brave enough to pose nude.

These empowering messages have prompted millions of likes and comments from appreciative fans who now see them as a queer body positivity icon.

American author, Roxane Gay

In her new book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My)Body, bestselling author of Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay, "talks about the struggles of being a queer, plus-size woman of color. She writes about the sexual trauma that triggered her weight gain, and her conflicted relationship with her overweight body.

 
 
 
 
 
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Gay is changing the body positivity conversation by bravely exploring the most difficult and complex body image issues that others feel too nervous to tackle. 

Eating disorders therapist, Leon Silvers 

Leon Silvers created a Facebook page named “I Love My LGBT Body”. This is a platform where she celebrates queer bodies by photographing and interviewing LGBTQ community members who have experienced body image issues, some of which have led to eating disorders. 

Silvers assures her audience that when speaking out and sharing feelings with more traditional families and friends isn’t an option, turning to social media can help. The heartwarming stories shared by LGBTQ-identified people on the page empower others to accept and love their bodies. This is done through inspiring messages such as “I just realized how fantastic I am no matter what size I am.”

Transgender model and activist, Munroe Bergdorf

Munroe Bergdorf’s attitude towards self-love celebrates transgender identity. She shares powerful messages promoting body positivity.

 
 
 
 
 
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well this is a pinch me moment! whilst I was growing up @glamouruk was my go-to beauty bible, so it feels especially WILD to now be a GLAMOUR cover girl! as a teenager I would never have thought that this would be ever part of my journey, let alone even possible. i hope younger trans peeps can look at this cover moment and feel like anything is possible for them also. set yourself a goal and go for it, don't let ANYONE deter you and do it your way! thank you to the lovely team at @glamouruk for always being so supportive and to my publicist @bethmorrisintl for being the best media mom I could hope for. what a dream! #theselfloveissue #glamouruk photographer @indrekgaletin stylist @taffwilliamson makeup @biancaspencermua hair @cipher_co

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In her most recent campaign, #LoveYourself, she poses in a swimsuit saying, “I spent so much energy trying to hide my body, that I forgot I deserve to enjoy it.” She shares that her weight fluctuates, she’s transgender, she gets cellulite. But she’s adamant that “I deserve to feel the sun and sea on my skin during summer as much as anyone else! I refuse to let other people's judgments of my body become how I see myself.”

Queer artist, Frances Cannon

This body-positive queer illustrator hails from Australia, and incorporates upbeat messaging into her comic art. Her motivational messages include “You are made of stars… literally”, “Take a big old bite of self-care,” and “Find acceptance within yourself”.

 
 
 
 
 
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LGBTQ comic artists like Cannon are tackling body image issues one fantastic story at a time through visual representations of different queer bodies. These challenge the “ideal” body types which can chip away at self-esteem.

DAWN SCHUSTER, CONTRIBUTOR
Dawn is a writer, graphic designer & the owner of a fair trade clothing company that works with vulnerable women. Her dream is to empower women through ethical fashion & to connect women across the world. A true free spirit she has lived in England, Israel, Kenya & India.