Thanks so, so much for your responses to my VegNews nomination! If you missed it, I’m up for two VegNews awards–best blog and best column–and you can cast your vote here. As a reward, you qualify for a year of free ice cream, among other goodies. Please show your support for CR!
I’ve been dying to post today’s Green Recovery story for quite a long time now. It’s important to me in many ways: first, because it’s written by two dear friends, Courtney, who writes the awesome Radical Radiance blog and just published a spirulina cookbook, and Sarah, who writes Queer Vegan Food and has worked closely with Carol J. Adams, who wrote The Sexual Politics of Meat. I’ve never met Sarah, but she and I admire each others’ minds and writing from afar, and I have met Courtney, who is every bit as radiant in person as she is in spirit.
Sarah and Courtney have been deeply supportive of my work, and I in turn have been lucky enough to hear about their own projects. One of them is a book on veganism and holistic health for women who love women. I know that I have many LGBT readers, and I suspect that many of them will say that this book is long overdue. At the risk of generalizing, I’ll say that most vegans I know are unusually sensitive to issues of inequality, and quick to question social norms. As Courtney and Sarah say,
Non-heterosexuality is something still perceived in the mainstream as a deviation, just as veganism is largely viewed as a fringe lifestyle. In the same way people may assume a stranger’s heterosexuality, omnivorousness is often assumed as well. This is not to say that “coming out” as a non-heterosexual and “coming out” as a vegan are the same thing. The last thing we want to imply is the myth that we choose our sexual orientation like we choose to be vegan. However, it is interesting and significant to observe the similarities inherent to breaking free of oppressive societal frameworks on all levels and in all circumstances, regardless of the identity category in question – and it may be that these movements can help to further each other’s cause. It can be helpful to recognize that some of the themes of “coming out” as a non-heterosexual and “coming out” as a vegan can be similar.
I think this is a fascinating point. Many of us who choose to orient our diets differently than most people (not just vegans, but anyone who has strong objections to factory farming, and who takes a special interest in food production, health and wellness, or animal welfare) have inherent sympathy for anyone who chooses to operate outside of mainstream norms (sexual, cultural, political, and so on). We take issue with the idea that what is conventional must automatically be “right.” I’m thrilled that Courtney and Sarah are here to remind us that the way we think about food should be every bit as original and brave as the way we think about other aspects of our personhood. Most of all, I’m glad that they’re sharing some honest thoughts about the roll of proper self-care and diet within the LGBT community, and how it relates to recovery from eating disorders. Please join me in welcoming them!
By Sarah E. Brown and Courtney Pool
As Gena’s amazing Green Recovery series shows, plant-source only nutrition can be a tremendous help in the process of healing emotional and disordered eating. As women who love women who have adopted mostly raw, 100 percent vegan lifestyles for many reasons other than just health, we have recognized eating a mostly live, plant-source only diet has supported us not only in the realm of emotional eating, but our diet is also a choice that supports personal, social, environmental and spiritual values of ours, including those related to our sexual orientation.
Throughout our lives, we have both felt stressed by pressures to be thin, look sexy by mainstream (read: white patriarchical) beauty standards. There is unending pressure to align with advertisements, models, actresses and stereotypical images of femininity that can negatively impact self-esteem of women regardless of sexual orientation. However, as women who love women, many of us feel especially confined by norms enforced by heterosexual culture. You don’t need to sleep with men to feel like you need to be attractive by mainstream standards. If we do not fully accept ourselves, our bodies or our sexuality, many of us punish ourselves through restrictive eating, overeating or disordered eating.
Hiding our sexuality can mean hiding our romantic feelings, sexual identity or relationships from those close to us. It can also mean refraining from acting on our sexual desires out of fear, or perhaps denying to ourselves the acknowledgement that we even have desires for experiences with other members of the same gender. Even if we are not lying about or hiding our sexuality, it is also possible that we may allow it to be an excuse for refraining from reaching for our highest goals or dwelling in unworthiness and inadequacy. Patterns such as these can reveal themselves in our relationship with food. While habits of depriving, bingeing, overeating or manipulating our food choices are all ways we can deal with the emotions related to our sexuality, hiding or diminishing our power due to it can also manifest as sneaking food and eating in private. Repressing our physical hungers—obsessively restricting our calories, never eating the foods we really want to eat because they are “too fattening,” being unwilling to allow ourselves to be seen eating around others—can lead to physical and emotional harm. We may binge when eating in private, overeating all of the foods we do not allow ourselves to eat when we wanted originally wanted them. Having sneaky habits with food and manipulating our eating based on who might see it can equate to sneaking some aspect of our sexuality or feel guilty or afraid about what others think of how we live our lives.
Non-heterosexuality is something still perceived in the mainstream as a deviation, just as veganism is largely viewed as a fringe lifestyle. In the same way people may assume a stranger’s heterosexuality, omnivorousness is often assumed as well. This is not to say that “coming out” as a non-heterosexual and “coming out” as a vegan are the same thing. The last thing we want to imply is the myth that we choose our sexual orientation like we choose to be vegan. However, it is interesting and significant to observe the similarities inherent to breaking free of oppressive societal frameworks on all levels and in all circumstances, regardless of the identity category in question – and it may be that these movements can help to further each other’s cause. It can be helpful to recognize that some of the themes of “coming out” as a non-heterosexual and “coming out” as a vegan can be similar. There may be those who feel threatened or who desire to voice their disapproval when we assert who we are and what we value. We will likely deal with changes in relationships with the people around us, and some may resist or reject our changes. These difficulties can make it tempting to want to use food emotionally or give up on healthy eating and living altogether. Strength in community, found in online support groups, meet-ups, blogs or through meeting people at vegan restaurants can all be useful tools in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.
The violence our society shows towards animals only feeds the violence towards minority groups, including the LGBT community. There is no separation; it is all intertwined. No living beings can be mistreated without it affecting the treatment of all other living beings. We take a strong stance against oppression in all forms when we choose lifestyles that minimize animal oppression.
By being out and proud with our vegan lifestyle, just as we are with our sexuality (or are working towards being!) and every other aspect of who we are, we have the potential to promote both the visibility and awareness of the importance of promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle just as refusal to remain invisible as sexual orientation minorities has the potential to shed light on societal inequalities.
We have found that taking in foods that nourish our bodies and leave us feeling good allows us to care for ourselves on physical, as well as emotional levels. We have both struggled with accepting ourselves and our desires, and have found veganism to be profoundly helpful in accepting ourselves in all ways. Eating a vegan diet rich in whole foods sends the message to yourself and to the world that you believe in promoting compassion for yourself and others. Just like coming out as a lesbian or bisexual or non-normative sexuality can empower others to find the courage to embrace their own sexual identities, we’ve found that choosing to eat a healthy, plant-based diet and sharing this lifestyle with loved ones sends a powerful message to others that they may also embrace compassion.
Sarah E. Brown and Courtney Pool are currently working on a book on veganism and holistic health for women who love women. Material from this post is adapted from the project. If you are interested in contributing a story related to women who love women and holistic health, or networking in regards to this project, please contact courtneypool [at] gmail [dot] com.
Thanks, Courtney and Sarah!
I’d love to know what all of my readers think, but I’m especially eager to hear from any of my LGBT readers, and/or those with ED histories.
On that note, a quick head’s up that tomorrow’s post will also be a guest post. This one’s from a physician friend whom I admire very much. I’ve asked him to weigh in on a topic I get plenty of emails about: B-12. What is it, where do we get it, and why do vegans need to supplement?
Expect answers to all of the above tomorrow, as I study furiously for my Chem final!