National Eating Disorders Association
Blog

The Cages We Built

Natalie Castaneda

Sometimes, the hardest cages to break out of are the ones we build for ourselves. Society has created a cage for many adolescents around the world, creating an illusion that these cages aren’t meant to be broken. The bars surrounding their open spaces are created from every single magazine cover, television show, and “ideal” image of what a person should look like.

A few days ago, my brother, Andres, came home one night from work ecstatic about how much of change he is seeing in himself. Working for the LGTBQ center in West Hollywood has changed him in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Working with so many forgotten personalities and unwanted souls reminds him of how much society can control the way a person can feel. When National Geographic broke this cage by debuting a historical magazine cover of 9-year-old trans girl, Avery Jackson, the emotional and physical reaction toward it was revolutionary. 

“That picture right there gives them hope and makes them feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Andres. “That’s something they’ve never had the pleasure of feeling.”

He explained to me his experiences working there and how he was impacted by just being around a group of people traditionally marginalized by the media. Just to see them come into the center with their heads held high, not having a care in the world about how society labeled them, became his inspiration for change. Before this job, my brother masked his eyes with the color of jaded brown with nothing but the reflection of hate in it. Hate for how much he let the people surrounding him define what it meant to be accepted. 

This image means so much more than just transformation and acceptance of their community. This image is a huge stepping stone for spreading awareness about gender identity by spotlighting a hidden population that is never talked about. I wish more people knew about the LGBTQ community and how much eating disorders and body image are issues for that community.  

It is always important to know that whatever battle you are fighting, you are never fighting alone. The LGBTQ community has made history. A vibrant community of transgender young adults is waving and screaming words of pride with the help of this cover. History has been made for the very first time and words can’t begin to explain how badly society needed to see this.