Don’t Feel Guilty If…You’re Not Straight

by Hollaback on September 23, 2010 · 26 comments

This is the first in a three-part series of guest posts from AJ of QueerVeganRunner. When I first started Hollaback, this was exactly the sort of gutsy, important work I hoped we’d feature and I am beyond proud to share this with everyone today — and I can’t wait to read all the smart and necessary discussion that is going to result from this post! Love, Rachel

I put it right up front. Queer. Vegan. Runner.

If you don’t want to hear about it, don’t read my blog.

But then I’m left to wonder…who’s not reading my blog because I’m queer?

It’s easy to find a community of vegans in the health blogging world. Tons of vegan pride everywhere I click.

And you can’t go through a health blogroll without finding at least one blog devoted to obsessive Garmin stats.

But the majority of the rainbows I’m seeing in the health blogging world come from the veggies we’re eating and the exercise clothes we’re wearing, not from the identities we have. The queer blogs I do come across focus on queer identity and politics – which is incredibly important blogging to do, but it’s definitely outside of the healthy blogging purview.

So where does that leave me and the few other queer health bloggers out there?

Those of us who are partnered get to benefit from training partners who go at our pace (I’ve heard about many women who have to wave good-bye to their male partners at the start of training runs or, worse, races because he’s significantly faster). We get to double our exercise wardrobes — not his and hers, but our sports bras, our running skirts, etc. And one thing I love about being a lesbian is being part of a supportive community of strong women. Similarly, in the blogging world I’ve found a supportive community of strong women and men who encourage my new recipes, my new training triumphs, and who troubleshoot failed recipes and injuries.

But I’m not straight. And I’m not going to pretend to be.

Is the reason I’m not on more blogrolls because I’m new to blogging, or because “queer” is right there in my blog name?

Am I not getting more traffic because interspersed between my vegan recipes and training raves and rants, I discuss my frustration with Prop 8 and the apathy of my generation on many liberal social issues? Or because (again) I’m new to blogging?

Is my voice a voice that’s welcome in the health blogging world? Do readers think that my queer identity is somehow unrelated to my health?

Reading about factory farming opened my eyes to the oppression of animals, and as a member of (more than one) minority group, I realized that I would feel hypocritical advocating for my own minority identity but ignoring the oppression of those without a voice. And I became vegan.

I’ve been to gyms (in a gayborhood) in which the person selling my partner and me our family membership – so there was no confusion that we were batting for the women’s softball team — mentioned seeing men at Pride with “fag fidgets” (presumably twitches from using meth). And suddenly, I felt a lot less comfortable at that gym and stupid for making the assumption that because someone works with and around many LGBT people, he would be sensitive to such micro-aggressions.

I’ve been to a gynecologist who was reluctant to give me the vaccine against HPV because “lesbians can’t give HPV to each other unless you’re some sort of contortionist in bed.” I can list a bunch of ways a partner and I could pass nearly any STD to each other…without having any superhuman flexibility. I wondered whether my gynecologist was just really boring in bed, or was not well-educated about lesbian sexual health and therefore not providing me information that might be important to my health?

…the list could go on. Yes, my queer identity and my health are interrelated.

Many health bloggers, especially women bloggers, write about body image and body acceptance (that Utopian ideal!). I also struggle with body image issues. My struggles are much like any other woman’s (ahem, love handles, I’m talkin’ to you!) and are also very much related to my sexual identity. Fact is, I’m pretty femme. Wherever I go, I get more attention from the guys than from the girls. Never mind the ring on my finger. No amount of angry-New-Yorker-on-a-subway staring prevents total strangers from approaching me and trying to flirt. And forget telling guys I’m a lesbian — that somehow puts some fantasy of a threesome in his head (dream on, guys). We tend to go to the gay bars and clubs in our neighborhood, where I’m approached mostly by the gay guys telling me they love my outfit or asking me whether I “have ever been told I look like (fill in the blank)?” I rarely get checked out by the ladies, who probably assume I’m yet another straight girl here with her gay boyfriend. I’ve tried to be more butch, but it’s not me and I don’t feel as comfortable. I struggle with trying to “look like a lesbian.” My version of body acceptance is, “I’ve got love handles and this is what a lesbian looks like.” And that’s OK. (Besides, R is probably grateful for the lack of ladies checking me out. And not to mention, she gets a hot-high-heel-wearing fiancee to boot. Ooooh, boots…

I would like to think my voice belongs in the health blogging world. I would like to think somewhere between all the parenthetical asides that I use, I have something valuable to contribute. And I would like to think that what is of value is innately tied to not only my vegan and runner identities, but also to my queer identity.

And while it isn’t (always) easy being rainbow, it’s nice to be that different voice. I like knowing that when you (choose to) navigate toward my blog, you will see protest photos, rather than photos of my oatmeal. You will see discussions of the vegan food we dream of at our wedding when it’s legal, instead of me stressing about fitting into a wedding dress. You will see race photos of me crossing the finish line holding my partner’s hand, instead of…well, all race photos are awesome in their own right! I contribute something to health blogging that is valuable because it’s different.

So if you’re in the blogging closet and think no one wants to hear your experiences of how dancing through the streets of NYC with the Dyke March is an awesome cardio workout (and upper body if you’re one of the drummers carrying her own drum)…you’re wrong! I want hear about it.

Although I joke that, with an Italian Catholic father and a Jewish mother (who told me I “upped her street cred” when I came out), I’m the Queen of Guilt, I want to say: “Don’t feel guilty if you’re not straight.”

AJ is the sassy voice behind QueerVeganRunner. She runs to compensate for the copious amounts of vegan food she cooks and then consumes — and she does it all with the support and occasional reality check from her running and domestic partner.

Stay tuned for her next post when she’ll discuss the importance of queer blogging as a form of visibility and activism!

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