LGBT angles included in eating-disorder conference

LGBT angles included in eating-disorder conference

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An estimated 30-million people will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Despite stereotypes, those conditions do not discriminate--an idea that will be promoted at an annual conference next week in Philadelphia.

More than 500 people are expected to attend the Renfrew Center Foundation Conference for Professionals Nov. 11-13 at Philadelphia Airport Marriott. The theme for the conference, now in its 26th year, is “Feminist Relational Perspectives and Beyond: Eating Disorders Across the Lifespan and In Diverse Populations.”

Included in that focus on LGBT populations are LGBT people. Among the discussions are a keynote Nov. 12 on race and gender by Drs. Gayle E. Brooks and Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s physician general and the state’s highest-ranking openly transgender official.

Later that day, LGBT individuals will be among representatives of marginalized groups who will address “Exploring Identity Through Recovery: The Power of Our Voices.” The community will also be the focus of Sunday’s “Multicultural and LGBTQ Populations: The Influence of ‘Isms’ on the Development of Eating Disorders,” which aims to improve the delivery of care.

Renfrew Center vice president Judi Goldstein said the attention to LGBT issues is part of an evolving effort to broaden the provider and public awareness about the diversity of those suffering from eating disorders.

“Way back, people thought that only Caucasian female adolescents have eating disorders,” Goldstein said. “Over time, we moved away from this thinking to recognize this affects women of all ages, and then moved into recognition of racial diversity and LGBT issues as well. It’s been an evolutionary process of broadening the lens of who suffers from eating disorders, how we identify these populations and how we make people feel safe to come into treatment.”

That’s an ongoing process among providers, Goldstein said, an effort that this year’s conference hopes to facilitate.

“One of the reasons we put this topic front and center on our program this year is because we recognize that diversity is an area that really needs to be explored to a greater extent,” Goldstein said. “This theme also, to some extent, reflects the mood of the country, as we’re talking more about diversity and inclusion. We know so many people are suffering and we know we have to provide training, sensitivity and get providers up to speed in terms of the unique needs of the LGBT community.”

The atmosphere at the conference, Goldstein added, makes it the optimal place for communal learning.

“It has become quite a cohesive community,” she said. “We have new people of course every year and then many people return every year. It’s an event that provides a strong learning opportunity but also nurturing; there’s great food, yoga, exercise, evening gatherings, a dance party, but it’s also very scholarly. It’s a strong educational event set in a very nurturing environment.”

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