Amy McDonald

NEGATIVE stereotypes of lesbians are at the heart of low self-esteem and poor health outcomes, according to a lesbian wellness coach hoping to bring queer women together to tackle these issues in an online space.

Founder of health website The Happy Healthy Lesbian Amy McDonald told the Star Observer that health statistics for queer women revealed the need for more community engagement with lesbian health and wellbeing.

In late January, McDonald will present online discussions with lesbian speakers on topics from body image to travel as part of a telesummit in an effort to engage some of these conversations.

“Statistically there’s a higher proportion of obesity amongst queer women than there are amongst straight, there’s higher [rates of ] depression, we smoke more, things like that, but really the angle that I’m taking is how can we be nicer, better and more loving to ourselves?” McDonald said.

Although public health campaigns have been targeting LGBTI communities for some time, particularly in the areas of sexual and mental health, McDonald said there was a risk lesbians could feel left out of a conversation that often focuses on gay men.

While many of these issues affect people across LGBTI communities, McDonald argued lesbian stereotypes had the potential to be harmful.

“I think some of the stereotypes that exist let us stay comfortable in a space that’s perhaps not our best. So thinking about my generation, if you’re a butch lesbian and Gen X it’s almost acceptable to be obese,” she said.

“But is that really good for your health outcomes? Does that make you feel good about yourself? If it does, awesome, but if it doesn’t then maybe it’s something to think about.

“Just because we have these cultural norms, doesn’t mean we need to abide by them.”

McDonald saw the approach of lesbians talking about lesbians as vital to creating safe communities for talking about health, and hoped it would make women feel more comfortable talking about what could be sensitive topics.

“There are some specific issues that, no matter how broad-minded your mainstream health or wellness coach, or relationship coach may be, there’s still something missing if they can’t completely empathise with where you’re coming from,” she argued.

“It’s more fun too, because we can laugh at all of the jokes and take the piss out of ourselves a little bit and have a bit more fun with it inside the tent.”

INFO: The Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit runs from January 20-24, with video interviews posted daily. Visit www. thehappyhealthylesbian.com to register for free.

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