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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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