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Until I Could

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I am grateful to have been accepted in OA as a person who is not overweight and is a lesbian.

My eating disorder began at age 14, when I became aware of my sexual orientation. The thought of being gay was so reprehensible to me that I began hiding myself from myself; I created a distraction by obsessing about food and weight. I didn’t eat all day, binged at night, and purged with exercise. Of course, my disease progressed over the years, but my sexual orientation did not change. For a short few months in the next eighteen years, I put down the food long enough to fall in love with my best friend and feel truly happy.

When I found OA several years later, it was time for me to admit who I was. It was time to come out as a compulsive eater and exercise bulimic—a fact hidden by my average body size—and as a lesbian. I had tremendous shame about both.

My fears about being recognized at OA meetings were calmed when it dawned on me that if I saw anyone I knew, it would be because they, too, had a problem with food. And upon arrival in OA, I was accepted simply because I had an eating disorder. The people in my small group welcomed me as one of them.

It was another thing entirely to be open about being a lesbian. I had kept this a secret for so long because I found it loathsome. I could barely say the word. If I couldn’t accept myself, how in the world could others? But it was time to tell my truth, so I shamefully admitted to my little group that I loved women. To my surprise and relief, nobody blanched. Nobody ran screaming from the room. Nobody was overcome with horror. One of my kind fellows put her arm around me and said, “We love you, Kathy.” And so I allowed my OA companions to love me until I could love myself and let go of the shame about my eating and my sexual orientation.

I’ve been in OA for twenty-five years, and since that first coming out, I have always been open about my disease and my sexual identity. With rare exceptions, I have felt loved—or at least accepted—for exactly who I am. No matter how I am different from my fellows, we share the common bonds of obsession and compulsion with food. I am grateful OA’s unity with diversity policies remind us all of that.

— Kathy M., Albuquerque, New Mexico USA

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