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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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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.

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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 became vegetarian at age 12, right after my family spent the summer in the south of France. That trip, I remember my family ate lots of dead animals that were often served in forms that did not try to hide what these animals had looked like while alive: fish and lobsters were served with their eyes bulging out of their poor steamed heads, cooked frogs were served in frog shape, etc. In the United States (and elsewhere) our food culture tends to disassociate meat consumed from its living animal origin. Carol J. Adams, one of my personal heroines and author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, points out in SPOM that our culture has specific language that renders dead animals “absent referents,” and thus keeps us from acknowledging the life and creature who suffered before reaching the dinner table. This defense mechanism keeps people from feeling what I felt in France–uncomfortable with eating animals after realizing the connection between what was on my plate and the cruelty it endured to arrive there.

After one particularly creature-filled meal eaten while traveling in the Loire Valley, my brother took me aside and told me why he thought I should become a vegetarian like him. My brother became vegetarian at age 11. When I was 12, he helped me realize that in order to live in accordance with my beliefs, I needed to be vegetarian (Note: later, I realized that for the reasons I became vegetarian, it was hypocritical for me not to be vegan. I wrote a post about this, if you want to read it here.) My brother became vegan around the same time I did, and now our parents largely eat vegan, too. He and I have both been vegan for more than six years, and our parents eat almost 100% vegan when we, the spawn, are visiting them, which I think is just about the most respectful, kind thing a family can do to support their vegan offspring (and animals, and the planet!) My mom owns stacks of vegan cookbooks, including Courtney Pool’s Spirulina Recipes Ebook, which she just cooked from the other day!

This weekend, my brother hosted an engagement party dinner for two of his lovely women friends who just proposed to each other a little over a week ago. Eight of us vegans and vegetarians enjoyed an entirely vegan, delicious home-cooked meal. I met a vegan fashion blogger who was as worldly and interesting as she was kind, and shared great conversation and laughs with some old friends. While our gay friends can’t yet get married in California at the time, they have been together for more than three years and are committed to being engaged in the hopes that one day the government will honor their union and right to equality. In the meantime, they will be honored by the friends and family who love them.

A friend serves the home-cooked plated vegan dinners prepared by my brother.

It felt fitting, this vegan lesbian engagement party. On this blog, I attempt to illuminate some of the connections between human- and non-human animal rights and welfare, and so it made perfect sense that a night of celebrating our hope for equality for our friends naturally involved compassionate cuisine. As I sipped kombucha out of a champagne flute, and later ate the delicious braised kale-beet salad, white bean mash, pan-seared citrus marinated tofu strips and Kind Kreme vegan ice cream that my brother so lovingly prepared for us, I felt deep gratitude for the family and friends and compassion this meal represented.

Whether our vegan family is blood-related or otherwise, the connections we create and sustain with those around us have the potential to elevate our activism, and inspire us to live truthfully and earnestly. I am so proud of my extended vegan family. Whether individuals are totally vegan or not, it helps animals and the environment to seriously reduce animal product consumption.  I am totally vegan (Note: I am 100% vegan to the best of my ability–I recognize that by driving cars I support animal products in the tires, etc. but I choose to not use animal products in anything I wear, consume, use or own to the best of my ability), but I also honor those in my life who are not fully vegan but support the vegan cause through eating mostly vegan and supporting the vegans in their lives.

May we all be blessed to be surrounded by folks who really understand and appreciate our mission and purpose to spread compassion for human- and non-human animals! I would love to hear about your family, vegan, blood-related or not, or whatever group supports you on your path in the comments.

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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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