Caitlyn Jenner makes being transgender look fairly easy and the truth is that most of us live on the dark side of the bright world she enjoys. Caitlyn is learning about the dark side but she will never have to endure it or the resulting trials that many of us have to go through. She genuinely does appear to want to help the transgender community and I hope she is able to make a difference. For some, that help will be too little or too late. No amount of influence or money will bring back the transgender people dying at the hands of their murderers or those who choose to take their own life. She could help to provide more awareness for the prevalence of eating disordered behaviors within the trans community.
There are many issues on the dark side besides the murders of transgender people and the high suicide rate. There are other issues that arise from transition that can lead to some very dark places. Anorexia Nervosa, bulimia, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (ednos) are issues that are more common that you may think across the full gender spectrum. There are transgender people dying from eating disorders and yet, not a lot of studies have been done on the uniqueness of this condition in the transgender community.
Female to male (f2m) transgender people will often find starvation as an attractive method to shrink their breasts as to make binding easier or remove the need if they lose enough breast mass. Anorexia will also shrink their behinds making it easier to pass as male. This eating behavior can be hard to fix, as the motivations are more complicated than they would be with a non-transgender (cis) sufferer. In some cases, treatment may be almost impossible without top surgery for these transgender men.
Male to female (m2f) transgender people can often find themselves caught up in a starvation scenario, as it is easier to pass in public if you are smaller. The effects of anorexia can reduce muscle size, create a thin waist, and help us fit into the perfect clothes to create our smaller aspirations. When I was anorexic, I fit into some dresses that my body type had no business fitting into. In my case, I was not only anorexic to cope with my transition and the quest to appear smaller, I also had not yet dealt with issues of abuse and the starvation effectively numbed that pain.
In addition to the transgender specific causes and motivations for an eating disorder, the normal eating disordered reasons can also be in play at the same time. A transgender person will usually have had a rough life. Many do not have friends, have very limited chances of dating, and face constant rejection and fear. There can be unresolved issues of past abuse, serious self-esteem issues, or serious depression. Their lives are out of control in many ways and food can be the one thing that they can control. Once they get a taste of starvation, the numbness that comes from it can help them cope with all the bad feelings that surround them.
It is hard to treat an eating disorder when the cure will put them right back into the daily pain that drove them into the eating disorder. Generally, the only real chance for changing the behavior will either be to wait it out as these issues can resolve themselves deeper into transition or to teach them better coping skills to deal with the barrage of pain. Waiting it out is usually not a great option because they are damaging their bodies and risking serious damage that can include death.
In some cases, you can use the dysphoria to fight the anorexia in m2f transgender people. The dysphoria wants boobs and hips while the anorexia is taking those away. The earlier you catch the developing eating disorder, the better chance this tactic will work. In the instances where there are other non-transgender issues at play such as abuse issues, it can be even trickier to treat. No matter the situation, it is always good to get a professional to help them work it out and return to a semblance of a normal life, well as normal as it can be on the dark side of planet trans.