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The book Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat, to which I contributed an essay, was published this month. Centered around the work of one of my all-time favorite authors and thinkers, feminist animal rights scholar Carol J. Adams, this collection of 21 essays by diverse women celebrates the legacy of Adams’ book The Sexual Politics of Meat and discusses new perspectives on these topics.

Writing my essay for the anthology was an incredible and challenging experience. It enabled me to reflect on the history of my personal coming out, including times that felt confusing, difficult and only sometimes hopeful. Being completely open about my sexual orientation has been a challenge at times and I’ve struggled with closeting myself in scenarios I discuss in my piece. Writing about coming out as vegan and LGBTQ for the book felt like another coming out. As many of us know, coming out is a lifelong process. Coming out in this essay was a gift and a powerful experience for which I am grateful.

In honor of the launch, various contributors, folks at Lantern Books, and Carol J. Adams hosted readings and events across the United States. Due to several happy coincidences, I was able to attend three of the readings/events to celebrate Defiant Daughters: a reading at The Last Bookstore in LA, attended by my brother Asher–the subject of my essay; a party at Mooshoes in New York, attended by some awesome New Yorkers and Carol J. Adams herself; and a reading at The Wooden Shoe anarchist bookstore in my current hometown Philadelphia, attended by a childhood friend and some rad Philadelphia vegan Twitter friends.

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That’s me with my brother Asher at the Defiant Daughters reading at The Last Bookstore in LA.

The thing is, while I had written about personal sexuality topics before, I had never read my work to crowds in-person prior to these readings, and this experience was scary for me. I have found that it is a lot easier to hide behind a byline or podcast interview than stare into the face of a crowd and speak openly.

Though I’ve said the words “I’m a lesbian vegan” so many times in writings and podcasts and to my nearests and dearests, reading them to strangers and loved ones aloud, in-person at the various Defiant Daughters events felt surprisingly vulnerable and scary. Everything about the readings was exciting and terrifying, like getting swept up by a gust of wind and falling in love and suddenly realizing I forgot to wear pants all at once.

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Contributors to the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals and The Sexual Politics of Meat

Seeing my fellow contributors looking dapper and speaking with confidence, I mistakenly assumed that I was the only one who felt so nervous about reading (I’ve since spoken with fellow contributors and we’ve realized we’re not alone in having felt nervous!) Since there were so many of us who contributed to this anthology, we never got to have a “team huddle” so to speak, save for mass e-mails of encouragement from Lantern editor Kara Davis. This morning while listening to contributor Jasmin Singer’s take on the launch on the Our Hen House podcast this week (Note: all proceeds from the book go to the invaluable work of OHH, yet another reason to order your copy if you haven’t already done so!) including a discussion about how nervous she was before this reading, I realized that even those who seem completely outwardly confident can feel butterflies when it comes to public speaking on tough personal topics.

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Carol J. Adams, author of numerous books including The Sexual Politics of Meat speaks at Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC.

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Mooshoes Defiant Daughters launch party sandwich board advertisement.

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That’s me, reading my essay “Brother Knows Best” at The Last Bookstore in LA–in front of my brother!

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Defiant Daughters Contributor Jasmin Singer at Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC.

Anyone who’s listened to Jasmin speak over the past decade at myriad vegan events or who has heard her on her podcast knows she seems at home in front of an audience. This is why I found it so powerful and brave for Jasmin to admit that she also felt so vulnerable reading her essay, which touches on some of the same coming out themes as mine.

I am definitely a beginner when it comes to performing in public, and feel much more comfortable hiding behind a podcast or the written word. Sharing our personal truths in front of a group of people–strangers or otherwise– is intense. Public speaking expert Josh Pais did a great video interview with his B-school mogul wife Marie Forleo on how to overcome fear of public speaking. Pais described the “rush” of energy that we feel before we get in front of a crowd as part of the excitement and energy inherent to delivering our truths to a crowd. Pais’ advice–to let ourselves feel our fear and emotion fully to allow it to pass naturally–has been helpful for me in the three speaking events I’ve done for this book.

In a way, publishing with so many wonderful women has been the most humbling experience. Many accomplished speakers, activists,  PhD candidates, artists and writers are among those who grace Defiant Daughters‘ pages. In my rush to appear like an “author,” I felt shame that I wasn’t already comfortable in my skin in front of a crowd like so many of the other contributors. I shuddered at a lot of the pictures and videos of myself from the events. I felt body image issues come up when I saw unflattering images of myself, mouth agape while speaking, and cringed when I saw myself on video. I’m afraid I’m not as suave as I’d have hoped, but I’m learning to sit with the discomfort of these feelings. They are my own issues to move through, of course, and I didn’t realize how much I still have to work on in the public speaking, body image and self-love departments. This realization of what I still need to learn is one of my biggest blessings of this work.

Though I blog at Queer Vegan Food and am out to everyone I know, coming out to new people does at times still feel intense for me. What this experience of being involved with Defiant Daughters has taught me is where I am as well as where I want to be. I want to be able to overcome my shyness so that my work can focus on helping human- and non-human animals. I am committed to overcoming my personal insecurities around being visible in order to be a more effective voice for the voiceless.

Have you ever felt nervous about speaking in public, or coming out in any context? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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When Lantern Books asked me submit a piece to the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat (Lantern Books, March 2013) I was thrilled to put to paper some of the many ways that Carol J. Adams’ work has impacted my life and activism career, and to share how my relationship with my brother Asher grew due to our mutual love of Carol’s book The Sexual Politics of Meat and shared commitment to veganism.

The anthology, edited by the fantastic Kara Davis and Wendy Lee with a foreword by Carol J. Adams, features 21 pieces by women artists, feminists, vegans, chefs, professors, and writers from all backgrounds. All proceeds from the anthology go to the wonderful vegan multimedia collective for change, Our Hen House. Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House and I actually share a section in the book entitled “Fish and Frog,” and I recently did a piece for Our Hen House’s online magazine that relates to my essay in Defiant Daughters, which you can read by clicking here.

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Here is the description of the book Defiant Daughters from Lantern Books’ website:

One writer attempts to reconcile her feminist-vegan beliefs with her Muslim upbringing; a second makes the connection between animal abuse and her own self-destructive tendencies. A new mother discusses the sexual politics of breastfeeding, while another pens a letter to her young son about all she wishes for him in the future. Many others recall how the book inspired them to start careers in the music business, animal advocacy, and food. No matter whether they first read it in college or later in life, whether they are in their late teens or early forties, these writers all credit The Sexual Politics of Meat in some way with the awakening of their identities as feminists, activists, and women. Even if you haven’t read the original work, you’re sure to be moved and inspired by these tales of growing up and, perhaps more important, waking up to the truths around us.

My chapter, entitled “Brother Knows Best,” includes the ways in which my coming out as vegan and queer were interconnected, and how Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat helped me recognize these interconnections. It also discusses the ways in which my friendship with my brother Asher and our mutual commitment to helping animals helped me through it all. Here is an excerpt from my piece:

Unlike his hand-me-down t-shirts and jackets that ended up in my closets, my brother’s vegetarianism fit me well, and I made it my own. When he went off to college, Asher granted me access to his bookshelf, which included his treasured science fiction and war books, french novels, and dog-eared copies of classics we were made to read in high school. Many of his books collected dust in his absence, but when I reached the end of high school, one precious book on his shelf shifted everything in my world: The Sexual Politics of Meat.

The red cover immediately stole my attention. A striking image of a woman in a sexualized pose, with portions of her body demarcated as cuts of meat, was both familiar and disturbing. Its cover offered an immediate opportunity to consider the connection between the consumption of women and animals.

Reading the book at age seventeen, I realized that it was hypo-critical for me to be vegetarian and not vegan, since I believed so deeply in animal welfare and human welfare (my primary reasons for abstaining from animal flesh). I knew that eating cows was out of alignment with my ethics after my brother helped me to see how meat comes at the price of animal suffering, but this text illuminated an entirely new way of understanding how animal agriculture of dairy products reveals the ways in which females are particularly exploited.

Understanding the mechanisms of privilege and power that reinforce the eating of animals helped me recognize how I, a woman coming into my non-normative sexual orientation, related to the animal agriculture industrial complex. As I uncovered universal truths about the connections between oppression toward women and animals, it was in no way coincidental that I came out as a vegan and a lesbian the year I turned eighteen.

Thank you for reading! I am so honored to have been a part of this collection; the other writers are incredibly talented and truly carry the torch of Carol’s work, more than 20 years after The Sexual Politics of Meat was first published. I hope you’ll check out the book when it comes out in March. You can pre-order by clicking here. Additionally, you can “like” the book’s Facebook page and stay tuned for excerpts posted by other contributors in anticipation of the launch.

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