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In the wake of the third presidential debate, I am left with social media feeds full of jokes about binders, bayonets, Big Bird, and more. While it is tempting to laugh at the memes, the imaginative Tumblrs, the relevant Twitter accounts and more, it became clear to me last night after watching Brene Brown’s new Ted Talk “The Price of Invulnerability” that there is something deeply troubling about our liberal responses to the debates.

As Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and Food Empowerment Project director Lauren Ornelas points out in her wonderful blog “Appetite For Justice,” there are are several categories of responses to injustice and hate: “You have those who speak hate and vitriol, those who listen and are uncomfortable with it but laugh as they do not know what to say, those who agree and those who speak against it.” As Lauren’s categories suggest, some are in the Romney camp and agree with what he shares, and others speak out against his policies, but so many of the rest of us are left feeling what Brene Brown calls “numb to vulnerability.” The possibilities of the election turnout and the discussion of whether or not we will all be treated as equal Americans feels emotionally significant and makes our communities literally vulnerable.  Will our families be safe and treated equally under the laws?

Brene Brown says the danger of going numb is that it negates the possibility for positive emotions and, most importantly to this election, the emotions that result in our communities coming together to make change. By numbing ourselves to the horrific policies proposed by Romney-Ryan through reducing them to the latest humor gossip, we stifle ourselves and ultimately our activism suffers on all levels. For our individual wellbeing we need to feel and access our emotions, and ultimately this will enable us to build healthier communities.

Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown

I admit that at times I have resorted to numbness in the face of Romeny’s campaign. I have joked with my friends and posted on social media that  “binders full of women” is perhaps a jab at FTM folks, and made light of the emotional video of a brave gay Vietnam veteran taking issue with Romney’s views on same sex rights. But I have come to realize that these things are a result of my defense system working at full tilt. After all, is this election not an emotional issue for our LGBTQ communities, women communities, veteran communities, minority communities, and, let’s face it, the majority of Americans from whom Romney would attempt to strip rights and resources if elected? Does laughing make it slightly more tolerable, somehow, to imagine a man striking down the healthcare reforms Obama and so many others worked for? At least he would make us laugh, like George W. Bush did! We could pretend to feel less hurt by it, and his rule would be fodder for our yuks and at least we would have that. Otherwise, what would we have? We would have sorrow. Are our communities too scared to be vulnerable to that?

Today, I let myself really feel how sad I would be if Romney came to power. I felt the turning of my stomach, the sinking feeling that so many women would no longer have access to affordable cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, and that I may never get to marry my partner in my home state if Romney chips away at my rights like he has expressed he has every intention to do.

If I am really honest, Mitt Romney and the policies he supports all just make me want to cry. But allowing myself to feel things, to get angry, to feel heartbroken, and sick, and cry, and feel sad, allows me to work through these emotions on a healthy level. Tuning into my body’s responses to the potential for great loss resulting from Romney coming to power better informs my activist response. At least for me, relying on humor at a time like this feels like an aborted fight or flight response. Yes, we can laugh at Big Bird jabs, but we cannot let laughter take the place of good old-fashioned upset.

I believe that to react intelligently to Romeny’s proposed leadership means to react feelingly. Yes, it is ok to laugh at the absurdity of hatred, but then let us use this opportunity to access our vulnerability to how it all feels. Let our grief and sadness turn into righteous action, and allow our feelings to give us the  strength needed in our communities to help the elderly in the community get transport to the polls, to help our loved ones figure out how to send in absentee ballots, to help our students and teachers take the necessary time off to vote. Let us come together in this time of difficulty to take a stand for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and equality for all human- and non-human animals!

As our nation progresses towards greater equality for same-sex Americans than it has ever known, this man intends to take us back to the closet, back to the “we’re just friends” era where being gay was shameful and the law failed to recognize our love and families as equal. We have shows like Glee and Modern Family that tell us that the new future, the New Normal, is upon us. And then we turn on the debates and there is no mention of same-sex issues whatsoever. We were erased from the discussion for reasons I can only guess, and that upset me (and I know many others).

Obama is far from perfect, and I take issue with several of his policies, particularly those relating to the military. When he gets re-elected, I expect to exercise my American right to dissent, and press him to continue to make the changes he has promised. I agree with my LGBTQ community members who feel same-sex marriage will never be the only issue needed to heal the economic and social injustices within our diverse communities, and I will fight for those issues once Obama is slated for another four years. But right now, Obama needs our support to continue his presidency into another term. As we support each other, we must access our true feelings and allow them to inform our activism. Laughing alone won’t get Obama re-elected.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Lauren Orenelas’ blog: “We must use our collective voices to speak out against all forms of injustice if we think we can ever chip away at it.”

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A recent post in the rad queer ladies’ blog Autostraddle named Queer Vegan Food a top queer food blog. (Hooray!) Since the post went up, I’ve gotten a bunch of new readers, many new blog views and comments on older posts. I mention these things because I’m really grateful that more LGBTQ people are checking out this blog. Not all of the food blogs mentioned in the Autostraddle post were vegan or vegetarian, and while I respect the diversity in our community on all levels, I do feel strongly that a compassionate diet deserves a place at the queer table, so to speak.

I created Queer Vegan Food because I wanted to contribute to broader discussions about the interconnections between oppression against LGBTQ folks and against non-human animals. I believe that people of all sexual orientations can benefit from a compassionate diet, and that there are particular overlaps between the marginalization of queer human animals and our non-human animals companions, and I wanted to use this blog to talk about and help each other understand them.

I’m glad that more queer ladies may find my blog thanks to Autostraddle. I hope that this will continue to be a blog where people of all orientations and genders feel welcome.

Since I created this blog, I’ve heard from numerous people on all ends of the sexuality/gender spectrums who feel similarly passionate about these connections. I’ve read many inspiring pieces online that inspire me to keep learning and sharing about this topic. Check out what some of our queer community bloggers are doing in the realm of vegan food, culture and activism:

  •  Our Hen House has a section called The Gay Animal which addresses queer-vegan interconnections.
  •  Ari Solomon and others participated in a Veg News discussion that is a great primer on many of these issues.
  • My friend and former Vassar classmate Rachel Lee authors the hilarious and amazing blog Vegan Gluten Free Karaoke. Tegan and Sara karaoke and vegan food? Yes please!

I appreciate that this blog can add to these discussions. I thank you for reading, and hope to keep sharing recipes and ideas that broaden the discourse on how we can nourish our communities and ourselves.

Image.

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I recently had the honor of speaking on the topics covered in Queer Vegan Food during a taping of Animal Voices radio show in Vancouver!

How is this struggle for sexual freedom related to the struggle for animal liberation? Similarly, how is the queer body connected to the nonhuman body that queer vegans choose not to consume, wear, or use? The host and I chatted about what it means to be a queer vegan and how veganism and queerness relate. A great discussion!

Click here to read about the topics covered in the radio show, and
click here to listen:

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I’ve noticed a trend of various women figures (some more well-known than others) using the term “girl crush” to describe women who they claim to feel deep appreciation for, ostensibly on (mostly) non-sexual/romantic levels.

I’m pretty sure that the women who use this expression aim to present as heterosexual. While they may comment on the physical qualities of their said crush, thus playing into the double-standard that a straight woman can find another woman sexy and not be labeled lesbian or even bisexual, while a straight man who does this is usually considered gay (even with the growth of metero-sexual “bromance” culture), this usually isn’t the case. While physical appreciation sometimes is suggested, It’s much more likely to hear women comment on another woman’s humor, activism or spiritual focus, or life mission as the reason for their “girl crush”.

I’m not out to stop heterosexual-labeled women from expressing desire and admiration for other women, romantic or otherwise. What I do find troubling, however, is that the term “girl crush,” often used as an all-encompassing phrase to describe appreciation of other women in a (mostly) non-sexual/romantic context, isn’t available to those who aren’t heterosexual women.

As individuals who appreciate others on a spiritual path/ activism path/whatever path we consider ourselves on, it seems we are in need of better language to describe this deep appreciation. “Girl crush” has emerged in our language as a stand-in that, until now, seems only available to straight women.

It is challenging to talk about the profound draw we have for people of all genders and sexual orientations. But we deserve better than the limited phrase “girl crush” to describe this something-other soul connection. I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions for how to describe the deep, intense appreciation that is (not exclusively) romantic between two people, regardless of gender.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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Many of us are familiar with the ongoing and recent disturbing actions of some mainstream vegan groups that aim to sell veganism while reinforcing problematic sexual politics of meat. I won’t fill up space discussing them in this post. If you’d like to read some excellent blogs on the subject, I suggest: Carol J. Adams’ post here, Vegansaurus’ post here, and Gena Hamshaw’s post here.

In light of certain vegan groups’ tactics that I believe greatly undermine the integrity of the vegan movement, I was very nervous when I saw VegNews‘ new “The Vegan Man Issue” on the newsstand. I was nervous because I like VegNews, and I knew there was a lot at stake for them to put out an issue focusing on man. I have worked with their advertising department (some really nice folks), and was once even offered their coveted residential internship while I was in college (I had to turn it down due to date conflicts with my study abroad program). I adore and admire many who write for them, including regular stars Laura Beck and Gena Hamshaw. I really appreciate and respect VegNews for supporting vegans of all backgrounds, and covering issues that many vegan media outlets do not. They regularly champion vegan minorities, authors, and organizations like Bryant Terry of Vegan Soul Kitchen, Jasmin Singer and her nonprofit media outlet Our Hen House, and Ari Solomon, vegan business owner of A Scent of Scandal and vocal advocate for queer-vegan rights. VegNews helps build vegan community, too. I’ve met some seriously awesome people at their sponsored vegan drinks in SF.

I was scared to read their latest issue, if only because I really didn’t want them to let us down. But I knew I had to buy a copy and review it on Queer Vegan Food. I read it cover to cover. There’s some great stuff in this issue: Gena’s wonderful kale chip recipe looks fantastic, Laura’s timeless wit and ever-useful advice column rocks as always (no more body shaming! hooray!), and there’s some other winning recipes, an article on environmentalism, nutrition advice, book reviews, and more. “The Vegan Man Issue” isn’t all bad, but I feel strongly that the stuff that’s wrong and damaging needs to be identified.

So here goes:

First, there’s the Editor’s Note by Elizabeth Castoria. The whole Esquire satire is weird at best, offensive at worst. Gendering VegNews as feminine (“I bat my editorial eyelashes”) and Esquire as masculine (“the rugged jawlines of your studly cover subjects”) is weird and confusing. I know Esquire advertises itself as a “guide for men who want to live a fuller, richer, more informed and rewarding life” but since when is VegNews a “women’s magazine”?

Then it gets even worse: the editor writes: “I don’t think you know what a man is.” That’s where I started to get interested. Great, I thought, VegNews will contest society’s problematic gender constructs. But editor Castoria doesn’t contest anything in her editorial; instead, she reinforces all of these constructs. Castoria writes: “There are men aplenty in your pages, many of whom even have the six-packs to prove it. You suffer no shortage of testosterone.”WHAT?! Since when is being a man contingent upon having a six-pack or testosterone? What if the tables were turned, and VegNews were writing to Cosmopolitan editors suggesting they were featuring “real women” because they “had the D-cup to prove it”? Do cancer patients who have low levels of testosterone suddenly no longer qualify as men, VegNews? What about transmen? What the heck are they trying to prove with this hormone discussion?  This reads like VegNews is a magazine only for “women” that is doing a “men’s special” just like Cosmopolitan occasionally puts out special sections “for the boyfriend“.

This all feels so bizarre, and overall insulting to VegNews‘ diverse audience and scope. The editor’s note also suggests that vegan men are coming into more positions of power, without acknowledging that men in general have much more power in the world than women, and doesn’t establish that there might be some intersections or connections that anyone even remotely familiar with Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat and the Pornography of Meat would understand.

VegNews does quote Carol J. Adams and someone named Jovian Parry, who is apparently a doctoral student in meat, gender, animality and pop culture at York University in the issue-anchoring article “The Evolution of Man,” but the article misses a few important marks. First, it promotes the idea of men being powerful as vegans without questioning what this power looks like in terms of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, abelism, etc. The rise of the power vegans articles seem to reinforce the notion that the powerful white male majority can stay powerful while being vegan. (A note about the ads: I have never seen this many full-page supplement and protein ads in the magazine! I guess they think “men” want to be advertised to about protein and supplements.)

The article also cites the case of how a Wall Street trader felt he was being called gay because he was vegetarian, but doesn’t point out the nuance of him being called anti-gay slurs as being homophobic.  Why did writer Joshua Katcher not discuss how using a homophobic slur in reference to someone’s veganism is about homophobia, a subject this article never even broaches? I think that this example would have been a great opportunity to point out parallels between multiple oppressions, but VegNews writer Katcher passed. To visually reinforce the privileged white-male attitudes of the article, the overwhelming majority of the “evolved men” profiles at the bottom of each page of the article are of powerful white men who happen to be vegan. Perhaps this wasn’t intentional, but it’s a poor representative sample of the diverse man-identified people who represent the face of the vegan movement.

There’s more, but I feel I’ve shared enough. While I am glad to see that VegNews acknowledges the sexual politics of meat are at play for man-identifying vegans (and everyone else, too),  “The Vegan Man Issue” only reinforces these problematic ideologies.

My veganism is first and foremost about my sense of ethical and moral responsibility to respect the lives of all creatures on this planet. I believe veganism is about inclusion and empowerment. It is about breaking down oppressive power structures that exploit human- and non-human animals of all stripes and species. I feel it is my responsibility as a compassionate vegan to draw attention to what I believe degrades and hurts human animals. When Quarry Girl exposed VegNews was using stock photos of actual meat, I held my breath and waited for them to recognize they were in error and change their ways. And they did! That’s the kind of magazine I think (and hope) VegNews wants to be–the kind that constantly looks for opportunities to improve and more effectively cater to their diverse readership. It is my hope that if enough of us weigh in, VegNews will recognize how they have blundered with “The Vegan Man Issue” and will take steps to ensure that sexism and heterosexism have no place in their pages. This is my hope, and it is my call to action. Thanks for reading.

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When I started Queer Vegan Food several months ago, I had a vision: to showcase weird, unusual, or highly creative vegan recipes that broke the mold of traditional vegan fare, which often imitates foods from the animal product world, and to make the explicit connection between being queer and being vegan. While I sometimes feature recipes that are pretty standard (raw NOreos aren’t quite so strange, after all, and I will admit I love simple recipes as much as the next high raw vegan), I think that my tendency to throw raw chocolate onto kelp noodles and put maca in savory dishes puts this blog in kind of a unique category. A queer category, if you will. Additionally, while I love and adore people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, I appreciate that my blog willingly asserts itself as anti-oppression, anti-violence, anti-cruelty in any form, and logically extends that to both non-human animals and non-normative sexual and gender identifying-humans.

Still, I’ve kind of been wondering, am I potentially alienating potential readers by being so explict about my sexual orientation and how I think that relates to veganism? I  imagined there would be some room for crossover readership among people of all sexual orientations and even levels of interest in veganism. After all, who doesn’t love an awesome cookie recipe that just happens to be raw, made mostly from locally-sourced ingredients, vegan and organic, and promotes a cruelty-free ethic for both human animals and non-human animals? At the core, I was hoping the food and the ideas would speak for themselves, and I wouldn’t alienate people who were neither queer nor raw vegan.

To find out for sure, I checked in with business and online marketing guru Marie Forleo, whom I greatly admire for her sass and tough-minded approach to helping women succeed in business. Forleo graciously featured Queer Vegan Food and my question on her weekly Q&A Tuesday show last week, and I was blown away by her response!

Watch it here:

I loved Marie’s response. She advocated that I not worry about alienating customers–those who “get it” so to speak will be interested, and those who don’t, well, they can go visit some other blog! Additionally, she pointed out that it is important to focus on the needs of the reader (she uses the word “customer,” but I’m really not aiming to create a business out of this blog, so I much prefer the word “reader”). To shine the spotlight on the needs and desires of your reader base is the important thing–not to focus, say, on my personal sexual orientation.

More than 6,000 people watched Marie’s response on Youtube, and her blog got dozens of comments from women of all stripes who appreciated her messages. That’s part of what I love about Marie–while she answered my specific question, I think the lessons she shares can be helpful for many kinds of  entrepreneurs.

I am still figuring out the balance between personal politics and awesome recipes. I would LOVE it if you, the reader, would allow me to shine the spotlight on you for a bit, and ask whether you think the balance is working here on the blog? If you don’t think it’s working, what would you love to see more of? More recipes? More current events explored from a queer-vegan foodie perspective? More photos from my work-life (did you know I work at a raw vegan retreat center in Arizona? ‘Tis true!)

This blog is still in its infancy. Thank you for reading!

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