Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm a Real Woman (and I Eat Real Food): Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013

"People who are reactionary try to keep the world from changing, rather than do the hard, but ultimately more realistic work of changing themselves." --Kate Bornstein, Hello Cruel World.


Hi, hoppers! Thanks for stopping by. The Hop Against Homophobia was one of my favorite events I participated in last year, and I'm thrilled to be part of this year's Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Check out the webpage for more info. Also, here's a link to the Hop's main page, from which you can reach the blogs of the nearly 200 participating authors, publishers, reviewers, and cover designers of LGBTQ fiction.

If you leave a comment with your e-mail on this post, you're automatically entered in a drawing to win a copy of any of my backlist titles (more info about each on the sidebar), plus a $10 Amazon GC. So please, speak your mind.

During last year's hop, I looked at the subtle ways society lets LGBTQ people know that things would be a little better if we were straight. This year I'd like to talk a bit about that again, but also about how we view gender, especially in conjunction with sexual orientation.

I cook and bake a lot of vegan things for my friends and family. One thing I hear a lot is “You can’t even tell it’s vegan.” It’s meant as a compliment: I expected vegan food to be bland or full of lawn clippings or uncooked barley or something—but this actually tastes good.

“This tastes just like real food,” is another one. Which is amusing, because with some exceptions (I’m looking at you, Oreos) most vegan food is more “real” than say, hot dogs, or Easy Mac. But I know what people mean. The entire vegan/vegetarian marketing platform involves packaging veg food as something recognizable, familiar. Seitan becomes "Chik'n Strips," tofu becomes "tofu ribs," and so on.

The norm is our society's home base, its comfort zone, it's starting point, and anything that deviates from it gets assessed in terms of how close it comes to passing for normal.

A lot of times, I can taste the difference between vegan food and “regular” food. And I like the difference. It's why my two-month vegan challenge back in 2009 turned into four years of veganhood. I don’t mind if you can tell my stuff’s vegan. It is vegan. And it’s delicious.*

I was thinking about this in connection with the few times I’ve heard—directed at myself or at others and meant as a compliment—some variation on I can’t even tell you’re gay/lesbian/bi/trans, etc. I've even done it too, for friends who didn't want to be outed when we were younger: I can't even tell.

It seems like it's still considered a positive thing if LGBTQ people can pass as "normal." For those who fear losing a job or the love and support of friends and family if they come out, maybe "I can’t even tell" is a relief to hear. After all, we’re supposed to be able to identify people who don't fit the sexual norm based on their appearance and mannerisms, right? Remember the show Gay, Straight, or Taken? Yeah. Wow.

My mother, who I feel like I only mention on this blog when I’m talking about things parents say to kids that send mixed messages, which is unfair, since my mother is exceptional and 99% of everything she has ever said about me being queer, BDSM oriented, an erotica writer, and shamelessly obsessed with the Lord of the Rings trilogy has been exactly what I needed to hear,** told me when I came out, “Well, I think you look very feminine.”

I think when people say things like this, it’s not necessarily their own prejudices or stereotyping tendencies coming through. It might be a reaction to prejudices at work in society. In other words, it’s not I thought all lesbians had short hair and wore lumberjack shirts or I thought all gay guys loved fashion, or I thought all bisexuals were sex-crazed, but rather, I recognize this is a stereotype held by a lot of people in our society, and I just want you to know I don't think you fit that stereotype—in case you were worried about that.

It's a reassurance offered with the best of intentions, but the fact that it is offered as reassurance is a little troubling--as though every LGBTQ person's default state should be a fear of being called out on their sexual orientation because of deviation from traditional gendered behavior or appearance. Don't worry--you look like a real woman or a real man, even though you're something real women or real men aren't supposed to be.

There are really two issues here: the misinformed linking of sexual orientation and gender, and the assumption that LGBTQ people want to pass as members of the current sexual norm (as opposed to redefining it, doing away with it, or existing proudly outside of it). And that the way to do that is to dig a trench firmly on our assigned side of the gender binary.

I think we need to be cautious about when and why we praise adherence to traditional models of what's feminine and masculine. Not everyone is or wants to be one or the other. Our definitions of masculinity and femininity are outdated and limiting, and when we use the gender binary to create LGBTQ stereotypes, we open the door to potentially damaging messages: Don’t worry, you look so feminine/masculine no one will be able to tell you’re not normal. Or maybe if you looked/dressed/acted a little more like your ascribed gender, people would make fun of you less.

Once, a guy I’d just declined to go out with asked if I was a lesbian.

“Bi,” I told him.

“I could tell,” he said--not nicely.

That's still what some people reach for when they need an insult: you seem gay or I can tell you're gay. You're not a real man; you're not a real woman.

I'm happy to see traditional ideas about gender gradually turned on their heads, and to see an increased understanding that while we sometimes incorporate those traditional models into our identities by either embracing or rejecting them, the way we "do" gender isn't necessarily linked to our sexual orientation. But sometimes it is, and that's okay. It's not a compliment to be told I can pass for straight any more than it's an insult to be told it’s obvious I’m not.

We like to put people in boxes. I need to be able to tell at first glance that you’re a woman or a man or a woman dressed as a man or vice versa or gay or straight or bi or trans…

How about this? If you can’t tell, fine. Though hopefully it’s not because I feel I have to put on an act so you won’t be able to tell. And no need to high-five me about it.

If you can tell, fine. And don’t think it’s a) an insult to me or b) something you have to apologize for noticing.

My vegan cakes taste different from a cake made with three eggs and half a stick of butter. They’re delicious.

And they’re still cake.



*Except for that cucumber avocado soup. I don’t know what to say to the people who ate that except…I’m sorry.

**When you have a mother who says she saw some riding crops on sale and wonders if you want her to pick you up one, you lose your right to complain about anything else she says. Ever.



Thanks again for stopping by, and don't forget to leave a comment with your e-mail address for your chance to win. Now go hop some more!

48 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking part in the hop! And for such a great post.

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

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  2. As one of the organizers of the HAHAT, thank you so much for participating. I enjoyed your post and the whole "putting people in boxes" thing makes me crazy.

    Hugs
    K-lee
    http://www.chaosinthemoonlight.blogspot.ca/2013/05/hop-against-homophobia-transphobia-post.html

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for organizing this! Yeah, the boxes are frustrating.

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  3. Thank you for taking part in the hop!

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

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  4. Great post (and your mom sounds incredibly cool)!

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

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    Replies
    1. She is pretty darn awesome. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Enjoyed your post! And my crackers/bread are made from ground flax seed, tomatoes, onions, celery and whatever other veggies and spices I feel like at the time, and dehydrated. That way I know what's in them. :D

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  6. Thanks for the post! I tried eating vegan once and made it only 1week.

    pantsoffreviews@live.ca

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by! I thought for sure I wouldn't make it without ice cream, but it's been okay...

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  7. I was often accused of being a lesbian, because I wore suits and Nikes every day, and was not desperately seeking a husband. I didn't seem to care whether I had s boyfriend or not, and made no attempt to make myself attractive to men, so I must have had a girlfriend. Of course, I was surrounded by ultra conformists at the time. If I had bern a lesbian, they would have punished me for it. So calling me one? Intended as an insult. But I didn't respond to it as one. The fact is, during this era, I dressed almost exactly like Ellen Degeneres does now. But her clothes are much better. Insult? Ha!
    Urbanista
    brendurbanist/at/gmail/dot/com

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    1. Awesome, Urb! I would love Ellen's wardrobe. :)

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  8. Thank you for your great post. Thanks for participating in the blog hop!
    -Marie

    awindandbooks at gmail dot com

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  9. Please count me in.

    Thanks
    Karl
    slats5663(at)shaw(dot)ca

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  10. I thought that you made some really great points in your blog. It is very true that we do like to put people in boxes and that is why we have so many problems.

    Anyway, I would love to enter the contest. Thank you for participating in the hop.

    Beth
    JPadawan11@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Beth! It would be great to get rid of the boxes.

      Delete
  11. Thank you for being a part of the hop.
    :) and enjoyed reading the post

    Judi
    arella3173_loveless@yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by, Judi! Hope you are enjoying the hop.

      Delete
  12. Boxes yes ... so many boxes with labels on them.
    uh yeah it's not easy to ignore it - I dance ballet, play football and rugby I do knit and sew a lot I love cooking I hate cleaning - that combination doesn't go well with boxes but it's me and if people can't get their head around it they can get lost ... I stopped trying to make people understand.

    I regularly get that shocked reaction on icy winter days "You own skirts" - why shouldn't I? they are just not practical for cycling. Does it make me more or less "me " if I wear different clothing? I spend far too much time obsessing over "comfortable" to ever get around to thinking what others might see.
    The "you realise you are in the men's department, yes?" - well of course I do and if you would produce jeans that fit me and sell them in the Ladies department I would go there is irritating.
    leo.v.s at aol dot com

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    1. Well said, Ioni! A friend once tried to take me shopping to show me it could be fun to try on clothes. I wandered away from her and ended up in a men's department. I did have fun there.

      Keep doing it your way :)

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  13. Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by, Lori! I had the most delightful time reading Dangerous Submission during my airport layover.

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  14. Please tell me you can have chocolate. A day without chocolate is well just a lousy day. Enjoyed your post.

    ocanana@gmail.com

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    1. I can, and I agree! It just has to be dark chocolate.

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  15. What you said was so true. The stereotypes must end. Thank you so much for sharing you wonderful post and participating in this amazing hop!

    sophiebonaste@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you so much for coming by, Sophie!

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  16. Hi, J.A.! Haha, you gotta love a guy who assumes you're a lesbian just because you don't want to date HIM! (No, really, you don't gotta love him at all.) Thanks for the great post.

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    Replies
    1. I know, right? No other possible reason I might have turned him down. Thanks for stopping by, Nona!

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  17. Great post, J.A.! You are a special flower. :)...

    cucumber and avacado soup? *snorts*

    morris.crissy@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. I had it in a restaurant somewhere and it was SO good! The I tried to make it at home and something went horribly, horribly wrong. Thanks for participating, Crissy!

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  18. Fortunately, I never put a big emphasis on masculine or feminine attitudes, including clothing. My youngest hated dresses and feminine things so it was never a requirement. If they wanted transformers instead of Barbie dolls, fine. It wasn't until last year that I realized what a good decision I'd made, when my youngest daughter came out as transgender male. Imagine hating being a woman and having to act like one all the time! Ugh!

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    1. That's awesome, Lena. Hard to know in the moment what far-reaching impact our words and actions might have on others. Your children are lucky to have you.

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  19. Wonderful post!! Thank you for taking part in the hop.

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

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  20. Great post! Thank you for taking part in the hop!
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

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  21. Thank you for the post.

    peggy1984 at live dot com

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  22. I always find the attempts to make veggie/vegan food look like meat a bit weird. Seems like the market is "baffled meat eaters feeding veggie friends" and "veggie feeding fussy meat eaters". Food should be judged on how good it tastes, and LGBT folks should be judged on theirs whether they conform to stereotypes or are the exact opposite (or anywhere in between!).

    Thanks for taking part in the hop!

    nkkingston AT gmail DOT com

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    Replies
    1. So true! And LOL, I would love to see a line of products called Baffled Meat Eaters Feeding Veggie Friends"--perfect! Thanks for stopping by.

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  23. Thanks for participating in this great hop!

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

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  24. Thanks a bunch for sharing and participating!

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

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