Green Recovery: Exploring the Link Between Sexuality, Diet, and Self-Esteem

by Gena on August 9, 2011

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!

Veganism For Healing Emotional Eating Related To Sexual Orientation (For Choosing Raw’s Green Recovery Series)

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!

xo

 

Print Friendly
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 102 comments… read them below or add one }

blossjoss August 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm

*like* I definitely see the connection here, agree, empathize, and relate.

Good luck on your final! Inorgo and I have some not so fond memories together. It’ll feel great to be done. You can do it.

Reply

bitt August 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

LOVE these two fabulous women. Follow them both on twitter for daily inspiration. So excited for their book.

I think sexuality and food is a complex topic and doubled with hiding ones own identity, even trickier. Thanks for taking on this topic and I am eager to read more.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Bitt, It’s definitely a complex topic, and we’re excited to hear from people on all ends of the sexuality spectrum and eating spectrum who are figuring out how to reconcile these complexities. Thank you for reading and staying connected!

Reply

Rande August 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Wow, thank you so much for posting this, I’ll be curious to read the comments on it and am absolutely looking forward to getting my hands on the book!!

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Thank you, Rande. The comments are already showing just how insightful and thoughtful Gena’s readers are.

Reply

Meredith August 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I truly appreciate this post. I’ve had a horrendous relationship with food for the better part of my life, and going through my pre-teen and teenage years didn’t help. I think that figuring out who you are can parallel with figuring out your sexuality and figuring out how to be a a part of society when who you are is not the “norm”.

Reply

S. August 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Gena, I am so glad you posted this. It saddens me to read the popular blogs in the healthy living community and see no mention of such important issues and of non-mainstream identities. It makes a woman like me feel invisible. Even though social issues such as LGBTQ marginalization clearly intersect with healthy living, as your post demonstrates, they are swept under the rug in favor of more ‘safe,’ ‘normal,’ and ‘mainstream’ content. All I see are the same, old, tired body image talking points–which I could read in Shape magazine if I wanted to. What a relief it is to see you post consistently strong and unique content on your blog!

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I cannot begin to tell you what this comment means to me. I think that there’s a lot of variety in the blog community at large, and in the vegan blog community, but I too feel that, within the healthy living category, there is at least some heterogeneity in terms of lifestyle: there is variety, but there is also a decided norm, which is the 22-28 age demographic, largely married or in heterosexual relationships, often already preparing for parenthood. As a 29 year old student who is not married and whose own family model does not match the standard nuclear norm, I am, I hope, showing that there is difference within our community.

Reply

JL goes Vegan August 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Oh yeah. And this 46 year old, hetero, child-free woman doesn’t quite fit the “typical” healthy living blog style, either.

Believe it or not, after I posted that I was an ordained minister and excited to marry gays and lesbians in New York (holla!), I got a few emails suggesting I keep those things off the blog, since it’s a vegan food blog, after all. Um, no, it’s a lifestyle blog too and my lifestyle embraces older people, rounder people, gay people — as well as younger people and hetero people.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Dear S, Thank you for echoing how amazing Gena is to post these topics on her blog. It’s a really important shift for our communities to recognize diversity issues, and to see how links can help benefit many types of people (and animals!) JL, your comment is SO inspiring! I love that you fearlessly promote the happiness of all of your readers, without excluding those who may fall out of the norm.

Reply

bitt August 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm

seriously JL? wow! keep doing what you do, vibrators and all!

Reply

Get Skinny, Go Vegan August 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Thanks for posting this! Love both of those authors.

Reply

Courtney August 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Thank you so much for your support!

Reply

Erika August 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I love Sarah & Courtney! They are such a vibrant part of our community and I love how articulately they are bringing these issues to light.

Reply

Courtney August 9, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Thank you so much, Erika! Really appreciate you :)

Reply

Abby August 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Such an interesting topic and such an articulate post. Although I’m a heterosexual, I often joke that I’m asexual in that I don’t have a desire either way. Year of restricting–food, emotions, desires–have kind of numbed me to any recognition of true wanting.

That said, the link between the eating disorder and sexuality is something that I feel is HUGE and often unexplored. Both food and sex are primal instincts and the pleasure of either/both is often something looked down upon, almost as if pleasurably indulging in those cravings somehow makes you weak (something I don’t agree with, by the way.)

Allowing yourself any sort of pleasure can feel wrong when you’ve become accustomed to denying yourself of those things for so long. Plus, it can feel like a loss of control, something often closely tied with the eating disorder mindset.

Great post and I look forward to reading the rest of the comments, as well as tomorrow’s post, as that’s a topic I have been researching myself!

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Abby,

I’m sorry to hear that you feel asexual, though I’ll retract and not feel sorry if you’re pleased with how things are :) For me, a big part of recovery was letting go of my possessiveness of my own body, my need to be 100% in charge of what it does and how it feels. Sexuality involves surrender, desire, and disorder, which are all antithetical to ED mindsets, and it was not easy (for a while) for me to be comfortable with that. When I became at ease with it, it brought a lot of happiness into my life.

G

Reply

Courtney August 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Well said, Abby and Gena! It’s clear that people are really connecting with the link between food/eating and sexuality – not just sexual orientation, but our sexuality regardless of orientation.

Reply

Hollie August 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Beautifully put, Gena…

Reply

Molly August 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm

This is a compelling point. When I was in high school, I had a wonderful relationship with my body that allowed me to comfortably embrace my sexuality with a male partner. In my senior year of high school, I gained about fifteen pounds (not much to some, but to my 5 foot dancer’s figure, this was a tremendous blow to my self-confidence) and entered college with a mindset of self-hatred. Restriction and excessive exercise inevitably followed, and, like this commenter mentioned, I became almost asexual. Of course, there are many individuals who consciously opt for this lifestyle; however, for me, it was (is) a mechanism to deny myself the pleasure of once again engaging my sexuality. Now I am halfway through my undergraduate studies, and though my weight is restored, I have difficulty allowing myself to love and be loved. I fear that I won’t be able to recover the individuality and distinctiveness that characterized my sexuality before this difficult period in my life.

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Gosh, this sounds familiar. I may have to do a post on it soon!

Reply

Molly August 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Oh, please do! I would love that!

Reply

nicole August 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

Whew so true. I have a wonderful boyfriend now who I love very much — but from my past (and present) troubles, I too often have a had time not so much loving but allowing myself to be loved. And being comfortable with the fact that he loves me, even though I am not my former lithe (and admittedly unhealthy and probably unattractive) self. Interesting how this happens.

In any case, I really like this post, Gena, Sarah, & Courtney. Really interesting relationship that I never really thought of. Intriguing as always! Isn’t it fascinating how things which should not cause be the cause of such rifts (who you choose to love, what you choose to eat) truly are in our society.

Reply

Nicole August 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

Also, just want to add my appreciation for you even approaching this subject. It is so wonderful to see such all-inclusive and all loving views in a place where I feel you may not fit in unless youre running ultramarathons and putting a down payment on your designer oats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not really based in reality for everyone. As someone on the brink of being able to call herself a gynecologist and who already calls herself a successful and proud young woman, I am so happy to see these women embracing what makes them physically and sexually healthy. Whether recovering from an ED or finally being open in your lifestyle, we all share the commonality of hiding something. Should we all be so blessed as to be proud of who we are, how/who we love, and how we nourish ourselves (in every sense).

Long addendum but I get moments of inspiration while studying I guess :)

Hope post bacc is still going well!!

Reply

Gena August 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Nicole,

I was laughing so hard as I read this (the down payment on oats stuff), and I assure you that I have no plans to run a marathon or put down payment on anything for a good many years. I’m just working on my debt.

No, in all seriousness, I do believe that the healthy living corner of the blogosphere is far too uniform. I’m glad that we’re here to talk about variety — variety of lifestyle, of past experience, of attitudes toward food, sexual orientation, professional orientation, and so on.

The post-bacc continuous to kick my butt, but I adore G-Town. You are a constant source of inspiration to me, Ms. almonst-Gyn!

xo

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

Nicole, thank you for your openness! Yes, allowing ourselves to be loved can be so, so much harder than loving someone else. I think these rifts are starting to slowly fade (I’d like to think!) Thank you for your support.

Reply

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga August 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Sarah & Courtney, bravo to you two! Thank you for sharing your story and for no doubt, helping others, with your story, your book, your message.

I live in the heart of the GLBT community here in San Diego and also probably the most diverse in terms of being totally on board with raw veganism to all other types of different dietary paths. And lifestyle paths.

I am a huge supporter of gay rights and for the past 3 years on my blog, every year I photograph the Pride Parade here and put all the images on my blog. It was so much fun this year, just a few weeks ago, actually.

Thank you for sharing so openly with us.

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Averie, I always really enjoy and appreciate your pride parade posts. Thanks for mentioning your participation in them!

Reply

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga August 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm

http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2011/07/san-diego-pride-pictures-2011.html

just delete this if you don’t want the link up but I really tried to capture the LOVE in my city that weekend. It’s my fave weekend of summer every year b/c of all the fun, love, and good times!

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm

The link is welcome!

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Averie, thank you for reading and for sharing this. I love the photographs you posted!

Reply

JL goes Vegan August 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Add me to the Sarah and Courtney fan club. I fell in love with them a few months ago over lunch at the Tree of Life.

S & C — love where you’re going with this and can’t wait to read the book. Years ago, in Chicago, I worked at a gay and lesbian community center. I worked with g/l/b/t teens and later with g/l/b/t victims of hate crime. Many of the young women–and men– I worked with had serious eating disorders. When your family, friends, or teachers turn you out, you can turn in and find comfort in body abuse. When you cannot share that which is most central to who you are, you can turn in. Thank you both for digging in deep on this topic.

Gena, thank you for thinking big and creatively as you curate this important series.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

JL, thank you so much for your support. We are definitely both huge JL goes vegan fans! We’ll be in touch, we’d love to hear more about your experiences with GLBT youth.

Reply

Courtney August 9, 2011 at 11:06 pm

JL, your having witnessed that many LGBT youth had eating disorders is something we’ve learned also and are really interested in exploring. Your insight about a possible contributor for some being the fixation on body as a coping mechanism for familial and societal rejection is something we’ve heard from LGBT friends, too.

Reply

Cori August 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I honestly think it would be easier on my mother if I were a full-fledged lesbian than it would be if I were a full-fledged vegan (or in a relationship with a full-fledged vegan). At least she’d know what to have for dinner for a lesbian.

And she certainly took the idea that I might dig chicks with greater ease than she did my brother’s several-year stint as a vegetarian – although to her credit, she always, always made sure there was enough food for him to eat, and sought to abide by his wishes. But it was hard on her.

Reply

FoodFeud August 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm

This is a really wonderful topic to have been brought up. For a long time I identified as a lesbian but am currently in a hetero relationship. I came out as a lesbian around the same time I became a vegetarian and fell full into veganism due to an ex girlfriend.
Veganism seems like a radical, political, loving choice and is often grouped with a stereotypical (old school) lesbian but I find it so odd that almost all the vegan blogs I follow are hetero people and even a fair amount of them are religious so I never know how my readers would react if I were to ever come out as queer. I don’t hide the fact, but I don’t really mention it – and since I mention my boyfriend, people assume I’m straight.
I also find the body-image topic really intriguing, as I’ve become more body-conscious being in a hetero relationship but at the same time there was pressure to be fit and strong and lean as a lesbian. I don’t think body worries are limited to people in hetero relationships, just as they aren’t limited to females! However, the lesbian community is very welcoming of additionally radical lifestyles (veganism, pro-fat, etc.), almost necessarily.
I would love to see some research done on gay men and veganism.
I can’t wait to see Sarah and Courtney’s book.

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Thanks so much for sharing.

Reply

Courtney August 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Yours are experiences people might really find interesting and able to identify with! Thank you for your support for our book!

Reply

I.G. August 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Thank you so much for this post!

I have to say, I am somewhat conflicted in writing this response. I have not
been an activist myself, but I very much support the LGBTQ movement. There is
some research indicating that female sexuality may be relatively fluid, and over
time I came to identify as bisexual. I have been out with my family and close
friends on this.

The conflict in me comes from the fact that there is one other group that may be
experiencing even more discrimination and stigmatization than the LGBTQ: sex
workers. But I don’t know if highlighting this issue here is a right thing to
do, because after all, this post was about veganism and women who love women.
And unlike LGBTQ and very much like veganism, sex work usually is a choice,
albeit for some people, one that can be very constrained. But then, the need to
address violence and misunderstanding of minority groups in general has been
mentioned too, and this topic definitely fits within this larger framework, as
well as framework of human sexuality.

Reply

Gena August 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Oh no! I checked the spam folder and I didn’t see it. I’m sorry, Inga — if you email something to me, I’ll certainly post myself.

Reply

Emily August 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm

It’s no wonder so many women conflate sexual appetite and appetite for food. We’re taught that food is a proxy for sex (see the recent magnum ice cream commercials for a graphic, degrading example). What’s worse, though, is that we’re also taught that those appetites are destructive, and that good girls keep them under control.

Thanks so much for opening up a space to talk about stuff like this, because it is so desperately needed.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 2:06 am

It IS desperately needed. Thank you for sharing this, Emily.

Reply

Gloria August 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Excellent post girls! This is such an enlightening comparison that I would never have thought to consider.

The concept of losing touch of your sexuality while suffering from disordered thinking is something that hits so close to home for me. I sometimes question whether or not I will truly be able to let myself love and be loved again as I am in the heart of my ED recovery. A devastating breakup at the end of my senior year in college was the trigger for my emotional collapse into excessive exercise and food restriction, so it’s a double blow to my sexual confidence. I have hope I will be able to let go of my fear and control issues and find happiness with a partner someday :) but it is comforting to know that my feelings are not so unique.

Reply

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 11:39 am

It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in it, but it’s definitely there, Gloria! Blessings to you and your recovery and healing! You are not alone.

Reply

nicole August 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm

You are not alone at all. I totally feel you — having an ED is a very isolating experience. I think mostly because we isolate ourselves. But I have now been dating my boyfriend for three years, I am always astounded how he loves me so much. It gets better, just like you will :)

Reply

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table August 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Thank you so much for posting this! I am not vegan, but often find people do judge me as a “healthy” eater… even within the gay community. Unfortunately, healthy living isn’t a concept widely accepted/practiced by the female gay population in the South. I have seen some shift, but change is slow and the community seems to gravitate toward less-healthy choices. Maybe because the typical “hang outs” are beer/burger-centric?

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 2:04 am

Hi Laura! Thank you for sharing this. Many spots for queer community are centered around alcohol/drugs and junk food. I got pretty frustrated at the Pride Dyke March in San Francisco this year, as the event was catered almost exclusively by vendors selling dead animal products. I almost tripped in a vat of dead pig flesh on my way to the port-o-potties! Not cool.

Gay bars can also be problematic meeting spots for sober folks or folks in recovery. I hope that as awareness around these issues grows, our communities will find alternative options to gather and celebrate our diversity.

Reply

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table August 11, 2011 at 8:05 am

Thanks for your reply – I view San Fran as a sort of healthy oasis. Good to know Georgia isn’t the only one with the same problem (though sorry to hear it)!

Reply

Christine (The Raw Project) August 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Great post on a very complex and interesting topic, thanks for sharing such wonderful stories. I look forward to reading more from Courtney and Sarah!

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 1:57 am

Christine, thank you for reading. We’re excited to keep sharing on these issues and hope others will be inspired to share their stories, too.

Reply

Gretchen August 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Thanks to Gena, Courtney and Sarah for such a beautiful post and discussion. I’ve come out as bi/poly, as a vegan and as an atheist, and each time the process was very similar. Each time we choose to live truthfully, we become more and more ourselves, more in tune with who we are meant to be. It always makes me sad, though, when others can’t see the truth, only the differences. Coming out and living truthfully can be extremely isolating – it’s so good to know there are others who have been there.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 1:57 am

Thanks, Gretchen!

Reply

Sam August 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I don’t usually post on blogs, but as a queer vegan, these are both important issues for me. That is how I initially phrased it in my head, and I left it that was because it illustrates how separate the issues still are, even for me (“they are both important,” as opposed to “it is important,” or even “they are important”).

I read blogs on sexuality, and I read blogs on veganism and healthy eating, but never blogs on both. This is a shame, because I know that at least a few of the vegan blogs that I follow are written by nonheterosexual people, yet the topic of sexuality is never broached. It’s a shame, and perhaps something that we should work towards in both communities: a more holistic, intersectional approach.

Thanks for this post! It’s really started me thinking and brought up some points I hadn’t thought of before.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 1:56 am

Sam, Thanks for the support! I agree, we should work towards a more holistic, intersectional approach. I hope that as we continue to shed light on these issues, more people will feel comfortable sharing the intersections they see in their own lives.

Reply

Laura Thompson August 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm

As a bisexual woman with a history of binge eating, this post really hit home. Although I’ve never been closeted about my sexuality, I was certainly a closet eater in college. I’d wolf down candy bars in the bathroom because it was the only place I was guaranteed privacy. I would pick at a salad while out with friends so that they would think I was eating healthily then inhale an entire pizza later. I was scared of being “caught” but also guilty because I was essentially lying. In reality, my friends would never have judged, criticized, or shunned me for my diet, but my assumption that others would judge me as harshly as I judged myself perpetuated the behavior.

One common challenge I encounter in the queer community as well as the healthy eating community is the over-reliance on extremes and either/or dichotomies. Because I am a queer woman who also loves men, I’ve often been branded a traitor for not embracing my queer identity to the exclusion of all things heterosexual. Because I eat a heavily plant-based diet and oppose factory farming and other environmentally destructive practices but also eat carefully selected animal products occasionally, I’m labeled a hypocrite for not embracing a plant-based lifestyle to the exclusion of all things omnivorous. In both cases, I’m being judged for straddling a line that others have drawn and I don’t recognize.

For me, recognizing the arbitrariness of most of the lines we draw (including being “on” a diet and “off” a diet), was essential to my recovery.

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 1:53 am

“One common challenge I encounter in the queer community as well as the healthy eating community is the over-reliance on extremes and either/or dichotomies.”

Well put! Bi-phobia is definitely an issue in the queer community (I’m a fan of Jennifer Baumgardner’s Look Both Ways, a book which Gena alerted me to that tackles some of these issues). Feeling like we have to be either/or on someone else’s terms can be painful. Thanks for sharing this.

Reply

Laura Thompson August 10, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Thanks for the book rec. I’ll definitely check it out.

Reply

Bo August 10, 2011 at 11:54 am

“In reality, my friends would never have judged, criticized, or shunned me for my diet, but my assumption that others would judge me as harshly as I judged myself perpetuated the behavior.”

You’re so totally right with this. Thank you for the insight!

Reply

Laura August 10, 2011 at 12:24 am

Sarah and Courtney, thanks so much for this amazing post! I’m the author of a recent green recovery post- the one on me “finding balance”- and my big lesbian wedding is this coming Sunday! Not kidding! I am kind of kicking myself for not broaching the topic in my own post- I did consider it- but there are just so many parts of my story and angles that I could take on it that I aimed for a narrative rather than everything-in-the-kitchen-sink approach. I came out in college and had a good experience with my sexuality, and that has been instrumental in recovery. While I didn’t realize it at the time, I think that being gay did contribute to my eating disorder in high school. It was another way I felt different, even though I didn’t understand what it was. It was a huge amount of desire and crushes on women that I didn’t understand, didn’t process as being sexual per se, and didn’t/couldn’t act on. Wanting to be thin and liked also had an element of wanting other girls to find me attractive, and being a little afraid of why that was. Being mostly vegan today is a large part of my queer identity. Love this post and the conversation it’s generating- thanks again!

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 10, 2011 at 1:45 am

Laura, Wow, I loved your GR post, thank you for sharing this here. I also feel that veganism is part of my queer identity! Thank you for your candidness and insights.

Reply

Mimi (Gingersnaps) August 10, 2011 at 2:02 am

Wow Gena, thank you so much for posting this! As previously mentioned, I always find it strange/disheartening how the standard “healthy living blogosphere” is fairly heterogeneous and never discusses topics on healthy sexuality — even health blogs that branch out beyond oats and “secret veggie” desserts. Especially when sexuality is such an important part of oneself. Perhaps that is more a reflection of society than blogs though.

There will always be great podcasts like Savage Love that tackle sexuality with honesty and an openness to all its facets, but very few blogs unless that is their niche.

Sarah and Courtney, you two are awesome.

Reply

Gena August 10, 2011 at 5:14 am

Bahaha, secret veggie desserts :)

Reply

Ashley Flitter August 10, 2011 at 10:07 am

Hi Mimi,

I came across this blog not too long ago by a woman named Ev ‘Yan and it really explores sexuality in an open and honest way. Thought you might be interested.

http://sexloveliberation.com/

Reply

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 11:47 am

Thanks for your support, Mimi :)

Reply

lucy August 10, 2011 at 2:17 am

What a fantastic post, thank you all!

Gena, your continued variety on this blog makes it one of the most intelligent places on the web I’ve encountered so thank you *again* for continuing this series.

Sarah and Courtney, thank you for opening another perspective and facet of these issues to me. Suddenly I am starting to see new parallels with a close friend’s struggle to come out and her eating patterns. A beautiful post, I look forward to the book!

Reply

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 11:50 am

We are so grateful for Gena’s openness to our sharing on this subject on CR! We agree – one of the most intelligent places on the web!

Thank you for your love and support, we’re excited for the book too. Blessings to you and your friend.

Reply

AnnaO August 10, 2011 at 5:47 am

Thank you for posting this! I´m in tears, it touches me on so many levels. Dealing and coming to terms with my sexuality, i´m convinced, is one of the next steps in my ED recovery. I´m slowly realising it´s all interwined. Thank you Gena, Sarah and Courtney!

Reply

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 11:55 am

So glad to offer some ideas and insights that might help, Anna :)

Reply

Lisa @ Healthier you August 10, 2011 at 7:30 am

Congratulations on the VegNews nominations!!

Reply

Anita August 10, 2011 at 8:45 am

Everything you have posted in this recurring column is not only important, but groundbreaking. This is an excellent example.

In a recent interview, I compared anti-veganism to homophobia. At first, I was hesitant to make the comparison, with the fear that people would think it was too extreme. It is so refreshing to read this and know that I am not the only one that feels that way.

Thanks to all of you for this post!

Reply

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Thanks, Anita! Is your interview posted somewhere? Sounds interesting!

Reply

Tonja Peterson August 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

Thank goodness my vegan friend just forwarded this post to me! WOW! Your vegan/LGBT connection is so phenomenally true. I am a non-vegan woman (but get invited to eat amazing vegan meals with my vegan friend & her husband who are raising two vegan boys); I live off the grid in the California Sierra (yet stay connected with Dish Satelite & my iPhone); and I am an out lesbian loving my Bi-Coastal relationship with an amazing woman who is slowly ‘coming out’ in her corporate profession and family. I have a feeling that the stereotypes that have bound so many people over the years are dissolving slowly and are making way for a new model of thinking, eating, living, working, & loving. A new generation of people are making it easier for others to come out, lead the way, and bridge the gap between old school & new school changes. Learning something new is always a wise way to move forward and a choice I love making. Here’s to becoming a more conscious participant in all aspects of life. Thank you for your brilliant post! I know I’ll be going to more vegan dinners and loving it! ;)

Reply

Courtney August 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I feel they’re dissolving, too. Slowly but surely! Thank you for your support and enjoy your vegan dinners! :)

Reply

Ashley Flitter August 10, 2011 at 9:58 am

Absolutely love this post and can’t wait to read their final project! I have noticed too that the link between what we eat and who we are runs very deep. As they noted in their piece I have also seen that treatment and reactions from those around me about my sexuality and my veganism were surprisingly (to me) similar.

Really interested to read more from these women.

Reply

Courtney August 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Interesting that you’ve noticed the parallels in your own experience, too! Thanks for reading.

Reply

Laura August 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

Thank you for such a wonderful post, Courtney and Sarah! So very well done! And thanks to Gena for featuring it!
Usually, I get my ‘health info’ from vegan blogs and my ‘progressive politics’ fix from yet other sources… (not that veganism isn’t progressive… yet for my taste too much of it is often focused on lifestyle and consumer culture).
Thank you for breaking these boundaries and providing a more holistic understanding of our struggles to find ourselves in the hetero-patriarchal world we live in.

Reply

Courtney August 14, 2011 at 12:21 am

Thank you for your support, Laura! :) We’re excited to see these topics start to integrate.

Reply

Centehua August 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thank you, I have thoroughly enjoyed this post. Its been an amazing journey towards self respect, self forgiveness and self love. As a classical trained dancer my body and self esteem took a beating, pressured to maintain a body style kept me stressed and I became overly critical and developed eating disorders. Being a bi-sexual teen wasn’t easy either, I was not open about my sexuality which made me feel inadequate. My eating habits changed after learning I was pregnant and slowly I began developing compassion for myself and all life around me. Now I am mother of two amazing healthy kids who love kale chips, nori wraps, cacao smoothies and accept people regardless of gender, race or dogma. I am grateful for the ability to be open about who I am and assist others in their journey towards healing and optimum vitality. I appreciate what you are doing here. Thank you. Bless.
Centehua

Reply

Courtney August 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm

What a touching story, Centehua! Yay for healthy and unconditionally accepting kids! Thank you for sharing.

Reply

LauraJayne August 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I found this to be so interesting (and definitely want to buy the book) – I am constantly frustrated by society’s affinity for labels – beginning with the divisive “white” and “not-white” diametric, but continuing through the stigmatizaion and marginalization of anyone (and anything) that doesn’t fit into the white, middle class definition of “normal” and “American.” In the case of non-heterosexuality and vegetarianism (and veganism even more), labels are assigned that not only marginalize those individuals, but even define them as “un-American.” I have to hope that blogs (and books) like this serve to educate and inform the general public – which will hopefully lead to acceptance, understanding, and equal treatment both under the law and in society.

Reply

Courtney August 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Very interesting points, Laura! There is indeed currently so much nonacceptance that comes from marginalizing groups of people based on labels. Thank you for your love and support!

Reply

Janani August 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I write about my food organizing work and thought as a queer and genderqueer South Asian vegan (and former/recovering anorexic) on my blog. I appreciate the intersectionality brought up in this post between queer and vegan communities. Still, (and I’ll write about this and post soon on my blog) I want to problematize the paradigm of “coming out” and “being out and proud” as conditions to be desired. True, being out can be politically and personally empowering/useful, but there are often very good reasons, related to just plain safety or economic security, to pass as straight and/or cisgendered. I also want to complicate the idea that being attached to veganism as a peaceful/compassionate philosophy. It is a start, it is a consciousness check, but I think a lot of pro-vegan movements could use a good dose of humility as to their actual impact. And an even bigger dose of anti-racist, anti-classist, and queer consciousness.
One of my recent posts starts to discuss a few of these polemics: http://jananib.tumblr.com/post/8681713301/pansexual-oreos

Reply

Sarah August 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Janani,

Thank you so much for this comment. Suggesting ‘coming out’ as an ideal for everyone is unrealistic, you’re right. Coming out is a never-ending process that begins with ourselves, and I think that’s the most important thing–to learn how to accept ourselves and our complexities, no matter what our outer situation allows us to reveal.

Vegan movements can also fall prey to racism, classism and heteronormativity. One of the reasons being vegan appeals to me, is that it inherently questions dualisms that reinforce problematic object-subject relationships. Carol Adams’ work The Pornography of Meat (published after her groundbreaking The Sexual Politics of Meat) explores some of these issues in contemporary media.

It would be amazing to be able to include your perspectives in our book. I really appreciated the post you included. Your writing would help fill in some gaps in the literature regarding how veganism may be approached from an anti-colonialist framework. E-mail me at sarahbrown70 [at] gmail [dot] com if you’d be interested in contributing.

Thank you again for your insights!
Sarah

Reply

Laura August 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Very well said, Janani. I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. Thanks for sharing your post – I’ll definitely keep reading your blog!

Reply

Ali (urbanfruitbat) August 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm

“We take a strong stance against oppression in all forms when we choose lifestyles that minimize animal oppression.” – I love this point so much. When we say that animal oppression is not ok, we cannot help but extend such an attitude to all beings. I argree so much with the sentiment of secret eating and denying ourselves in public can very much be the same thing that is happening when one denies their true sexual desires, or any desires for that matter. I believe that many who have a history of ED’s have a certain guilt about getting their needs met. We feel guilty for eating, for getting a need met. I often felt like I was just taking up to much space, just needing to much. I wanted to be small, to need less, to use less, to vanish. Through learning that I am valuable, and learning that my needs and wants are not wrong, I have moved away from my ED. I think the most important step for recovery has to be self acceptance, especially accepting those parts of ourselves we are trying to make go away

Reply

Courtney August 14, 2011 at 12:23 am

Great points, Ali! Thank you for sharing your experiences and for your support. We’re glad you resonated with some of our ideas. Agreed on the self-acceptance point!

Reply

Heather August 10, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Love you both! Thanks for being brave enough to be who you truly are and set an example for the rest of us! <3

Reply

Sarah August 11, 2011 at 3:23 am

Gosh, where to start… Sorry I’m late to this Green Recovery Party.

Such an interesting and thought-provoking post. There are some points where I am in agreement and some where I am in disagreement. Firstly, the link between EDs and repressing sexuality- definitely agree with this. Through denying our physical hunger, we also deny our other hungers- our passions, our urges – on all levels. Denying any aspect of our physical beings cannot be limited to denying hunger alone, even if we may want it to. It’s amazing how our unconcious thoughts break free and show themselves through physical manifestations. Which is why I think it’s so important to recognise these and deal with them.

The main point I disagree with (sorry) is this part:

“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.”

I may have misread this but taking what was said to its logical conclusion, it implies that in order to live a life of non-violence and anti-oppression one has to be vegan/vegetarian. Gosh, our history is full of people who were anti-oppression and for minority groups without being vegetarian (the obvious examples include Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, many feminist theologians such as Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel).

I think whether one (hate using “one” but can’t think of what else to put right now) agrees with your perspective in the above quote depends on their ontological view, their world view. I’m guessing that the interconnectedness you speak of has its roots in pantheism? Or similar? I believe our actions definitely have repurcussions and that we are connected to animals and plants in so far as we are all living things but I think that this is where it ends for me. I’m not sure if animals, the earth, etc have souls. Therefore, I wouldn’t like to boil it all down to one massive statement that violence towards one thing inevitably has repurcussions on/is violence towards all living things or another being. I don’t think it’s that simple.

Not sure if I’ve made any sense at all!!!!

Just to be clear, and use the old compliment sandwich technique. I really enjoyed this post, and I love how you emphasise that denying hunger and EDs can be a manifestation of sexual repression. And I think it’s so important to allow ourselves to be our true selves, which means honouring our hungers, our sexuality, how we were made, and who we are. xxx

Thanks ladies!

Reply

Gena August 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Nice comment, Sarah!

I guess I’d say I agree halfway. I do think that our violence toward animals makes us numb and desensitized to violence in other arenas, and to this extent I think it’s a great point, worth talking about. Do I think, though, that the only way to espouse a non-violent viewpoint is to be vegan, or that being a pacifist must include veganism? That’s trickier. There are and always have been people who are anti-violence and oppression and are also meat eaters. I would say that, within my own world view, this is a contradiction of sorts, a tension. But it doesn’t negate the value of the message they shared, it doesn’t discredit their stance against violence, and it may not have felt like a tension to them.

Gena

Reply

Sarah E. August 12, 2011 at 1:26 am

Thank you for this response, Sarah.

In terms of the link between violence against women and violence against animals, I would love to point you to this article by the ASPCA that provides a background and figures on the very real data they collect regarding this issue: http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/domestic-violence-and-animal-cruelty.aspx

When it comes to our heroes, leaders, teachers, friends, family members and colleagues, I agree with Gena–it is tricky. My view is that we can appreciate positive qualities and contributions from leaders and loved ones who may not necessarily align with all of our beliefs.

I think we each need to check in with ourselves and ultimately trust our own feelings and experiences. For the past six years, I have continued to do this, and for me, the answer has always been, joyfully and deliciously, veganism.

Reply

Sarah August 14, 2011 at 3:42 am

Hi ladies, thank you for your responses!

I love them and now I have something more to think about… I’m half-inclined to agree that violence towards animals can desensitize us to violence in other areas. But something doesn’t sit right for me. And it is this that I will need to explore some more.

xxx

Reply

Sarah August 11, 2011 at 3:24 am

Crumbs, sorry that was such a long one!!!! I get carried away sometimes. x

Reply

Sarah August 11, 2011 at 3:37 am

Sorry, just had another thought… I think that unfortunately, in many religious communities sexuality (both hetero and other) is repressed. In the Christian community I know that sexuality often is not celebrated and some groups within Christianity believe that sexuality is something that should be repressed even if it’s heterosexual. And masturbation in the Christian community, don’t get me started on that one! Ok, I realy am going to be quiet now. x

Reply

Sarah E. Brown August 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Mmm, what a yummy compliment sandwich. Thank you! ;)

It’s so great that you put your ideas out there, thank you for sharing your perspectives on these issues. It can be hard to speak up when we feel like we’re a minority in a sea of agreement, and by adding your voice you are really enriching the conversation. I commend your bravery and thoughtful reflections on these topics~!

I have some thoughts, perhaps they may clarify where we were coming from on some of the very important points you raise:

It’s silly to try to impose beliefs about veganism on anyone else. As vegans, we maintain friendships with friends, family members, and loved ones who may not share our views. As queers, we also accept and love our friends and family members who may not fully accept our choices. Wishing for people to live happy, compassionate lives is what I am after. In my experience, my friends and family who have converted to veganism or have moved towards a vegan lifestyle have found it be profoundly healing and joyful on many levels.

Leaders or figures we admire may do things that we respect, while they do other things we don’t care for. You’re right in suggesting that we not discount the merits of those with whom we disagree. I love that on Gena’s blog, she sometimes includes posts about her shared dining experience with omnivorous pals of hers. Wisely and compassionately, Gena chooses to share the truth of the outing, including her amazing vegan choices, without an ounce of criticism towards her friends who make different dietary choices. In the spirit of compassion, I can only share my experience, and shed light on how veganism has helped me practice compassion both in my own life and in my activism.

I cannot with a clear conscience consume animal products due to the processes and suffering that these animals experience. I cannot tolerate oppression against animals in any form if I know that it is in my power to make simple, delicious choices that would save animals from suffering. I also feel in my heart that violence against non-human animals is tied to violence against humans. There are statistics shared by domestic violence shelters that may blow you away–did you know that in cases of domesetic violence against women, there were often previous reports of violence against animals in the household?

Perhaps you may wish to check out this ASPCA article, which discusses this and shares some startling figures on the connection between DV and violence against animals: http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/domestic-violence-and-animal-cruelty.aspx

Ultimately, I think it is each of our personal responsibilities to ask ourselves questions about what we feel compelled to do in our own lives in order to live compassionately and joyfully. We must each choose, on a daily basis, how we wish to live, love and nourish ourselves and the planet.

I wish you the best! Thank you again!

Sarah

Reply

Sarah August 14, 2011 at 3:38 am

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your reply and clarifying some points. I wholeheartedly agree that pursuing veganism can be healing and joyful. I have found this myself and love this way of trying to live a more compassionate lifestyle and one that is healthier too (for body and mind).

Also, I love your compassion and following your conscience. I think sometimes we don’t listen to our conscience enough. I know that when I ignore it, I’m not as happy nor am I being true to myself.

I agree, we have to do what we can each day to be the best citizens of this earth that we can, through love and compassion.

Thanks, Sarah. I appreciate you taking the time to respond and share your perspective. Truly.

Warm wishes, xxx

Reply

Anonymous August 15, 2011 at 3:24 pm

My pleasure. Same to you. Sarah

Reply

Jen August 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm

There are so many insightful comments I feel silly for adding my own! But there is such a definite link between food and sexuality — those “carnal” pleasures that seem so repressed. From my own experience, I finally opened myself up sexually once I began to better appreciate and select the foods I put into my body. Though my relationship with food seems like an ongoing work in progress (but no longer a battle or struggle), I am so much more grateful not only for the foods I eat but the sexual and non-sexual relationships I have with others.

Reply

Anonamouse August 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Damnit, my raw fantasy has been ruined. Courtney is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo gorgeous. Meh. ;0

Reply

Lisa is Raw on $10 a Day August 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Courtney, Sarah, Gena … wow, bravo to you all!!! This is an amazing project and I’m so glad you’re taking on these complicated topics that so very much need to be heard. Thank you for your openness and generosity, you are all just absolutely wonderful and I’m really looking forward to the final product :).

Oh, and congrats on the VN nominations!

Reply

Courtney Pool August 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Thank you so much for your support, Lisa!

Reply

Colleen August 18, 2011 at 10:27 am

Dear Courtney and Sarah,

Thank you for sharing your insight and your lifestyle. This has been so enlightening.

Reply

Sarah E September 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Thank you for sharing you also think these are important topics. :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: