Proud2Bme | Pride Month on Proud: Sheila Allenbach Won’t Be Boxed In

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Pride Month on Proud: Sheila Allenbach Won’t Be Boxed In

In honor of Pride Month, Proud2Bme interviewed LGBTQ young people about their experiences with body image and eating disorders.

Sheila Allenbach is a lesbian Christian, university student and hopeful future midwife. She is currently in recovery from anorexia and bulimia. Sheila and her girlfriend, Katie, are excited about life together and supporting each other through recovery journeys and all of life’s challenges. Together they hope to reach women affected by abuse and mental health challenges through music, medicine and compassion. Sheila is a lifelong learner, a lover of nature and a free spirit.

Proud2Bme: How does being LGBTQ affect your body image?

Sheila: As a bi-romantic lesbian, I have had all sorts of challenges with facing my body as attractive to various people, including myself. I often find myself faced with the immense challenge of liking my body. Additionally, I felt cornered into portraying myself as heterosexual for almost my entire life, until just this spring when I came out with my girlfriend. I’m femme, so most people never guessed, and yet underneath it all, I wished they would have. I wished my body said “I’m not who you think I am.” But it doesn’t. 

All my life I was expected to achieve goals, to succeed, to come out on top of my class, and not being heteronormative did not fit into that box. So unknowingly, I tried to take control myself, and eating disorders developed and evolved. The disorders lied. They told me I wasn’t good enough. They told me my body wasn’t what it should be. And as a result of that shame, my need to portray myself as heterosexual also grew. 

Yet while those negatives exist, being in a relationship with my beautiful Katie has begun the journey of changing my mindset. Now there are moments when I actually feel beautiful, because I’m truly being myself. The last time I felt that free with my body was as a little girl climbing high in the trees, free from the confines of my excessively ordered reality. So now? Now being a lesbian is freeing. And I can finally look at my body, at least some of the time, and love it.

Proud2Bme: What do you think can be done to improve body image among young LGBTQ people?

Sheila: Early acceptance of sexual identity is key, especially by the person’s loved ones, such as their parents, teachers, friends and coworkers. If one’s identity is accepted, there is no need to try to fit into a box of societal ideals, tearing down the person’s internal essence as well as the body which houses that essence. 

That means education, awareness and openness in all cultural and spiritual traditions is imperative to creating a space in which LGBTQ people can exist in their beautiful bodies without judgment.  We need to work hard as a culture to ensure that all bodies are celebrated, not just certain body ‘types,’ or those that make ‘different’ bodies look ‘normal,’ but also bodies that don’t fit any kind of norm. Norms as a whole need to be eliminated and the uniqueness of each body must be celebrated. Gay bodies, lesbian bodies, bisexual bodies, transgender bodies, intersex bodies, older bodies, younger bodies, tall bodies, short bodies – ALL bodies! 

It’s a challenging road, but together we can do this.

Related: Aaryn Clerk is Fighting LGBTQ Stigma

Proud2Bme: Who are your LGBTQ role models?

Sheila: Of course, in modern media, I see Ellen DeGeneres and Caitlyn Jenner and I’m proud.  We all should be proud that LGBTQ people are celebrated. Still, it is the people who do not grace magazine covers or host their own TV shows who inspire me the most. Maria, an ordained lesbian minister who attends my church, and her loving, gracious work amongst LGBTQ college students, inspire me to do the same. J and S, a gay couple from my church who have been together over 50 years – that is an example to follow! My girlfriend Katie who has stayed by my side through all the chaos of coming out, she is a daily example of love and grace in the LGBTQ community. It’s the daily lives impacting others that have helped me to form my mindset into one of compassion and grace.

Proud2Bme: Why are you Proud2BYOU?

Sheila: For years, I have struggled against my eating disorder, I have fought to hide myself behind a false reality in order to shield a conservative culture from the uncomfortable reality that I am a lesbian. But now? Now I am Sheila, I am a lesbian, I am in a relationship with the most beautiful creature on the planet, inside and out, and we can declare our love freely. I am proud to be me because I haven’t given up. I have a body that I can use to make the world a better place, and I intend to do just that. I couldn’t be more excited!

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.