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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Bess September 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm

This post makes me even more happy to have you as a friend/running motivator.

I love that your blogging doesn’t focus on one topic, doesn’t take a cookie cutter approach and isn’t written from the standpoint that one “category” trumps another.

And more importantly, you are able to use your identity and compassion in so many arenas of your life to make thoughtful observations, as with your post on Lady Gaga’s meat dress

And of course it’s refreshing to see another vegan foodie who has no shame posting about decadent eats!

And yes it sounds like your gyno must have been a SNORE in bed…I can recommend you a good one if you want!
Bess´s last post ..Blueprint Cleanse Update- 2 Days Down- One To Go

Laura Georgina September 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this awesome post! I think it’s SO important to put it out there that there are tons of different people interested in living a healthy lifestyle. I’m sure if we all dug a bit deeper and wrote more honestly and openly about all the other stuff in our lives that matters (like you do!), that “mold” of healthy living blogger that we think exists would totally disintegrate. You can run AND care about food AND be passionate about social issues–it’s all inter-related and it can all make for a great read (and a great blog).
Laura Georgina´s last post ..Half-Marathoning It- Be Very Prepared

Libby September 23, 2010 at 3:38 pm

This is fantastic.

This is something I struggle with; I identify as a queer woman, but I have access to straight privilege as I’ve been dating a man for a l-o-n-g time. I still have very deep ties to the queer community in my city, but most of the time I’m read as an ally instead of as queer. It’s frustrating (both in my daily life and the blogging world) as I feel that I want to be honest about my identity that I have to come out again (and again and again).

Thank you so much for bringing up the issue of visibility/invisibility; you’ve given me a LOT to think about, particularly about how my identity, health, and blog are intertwined.
Libby´s last post ..Your Boundaries and Your Parents

MelissaNibbles September 23, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Wow. Truly amazing post. First, I have to say I’ve never heard of your blog before or I would’ve already been reading for sure.
I often wonder about gays in the healthy living blog world. I don’t know if there just aren’t that many or if they don’t want to come out (which is COMPLETELY their choice). I’d like to read more if they’re out there because I enjoy reading blogs by people from all walks of life. Unfortunately, I’ve found that a lot of healthy living blog readers don’t like reading about things besides oatmeal and running which is unfortunate because they’re missing out on, well, life.
Keep on keepin’ on girl!

Summer September 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm

What a fabulous post! AJ, I’ve lurked around your blog for a while (since your owning post), but haven’t commented. I feel like I’m coming out of the commenting closet! I love your blog; it’s fun and focused on not just health but other social issues.

LLOLs on the gyno comment :)

Chrissy (The New Me) September 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I love this! Your blog (and tweets!) are among my favorites, because you are a unique voice in a sea of healthy living bloggers that blur together after a while. Thanks for writing this, and thanks for bringing your valuable perspective to the blog world!

Aj September 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thank you thank you thank you! Thank you to all who have commented! I think this is a super important discussion to have and I am so excited that it’s starting @Bess – you rock! thank you for your support and ideas this weekend when this series was still marinating in my mind (in a hot n’ spicy BBQ sauce, what else)!
@Laura Georgina – thanks for your encouragement to break the health blogging mold.
@Libby – I could not touch on biphobia in my series because it is a topic in and of itself, but I know it’s incredibly difficult to deal with double discrimination. Thanks for chiming in and sharing your voice!
@MelissaNibbles – my blog is the new kid on the block, no worries that you haven’t heard of it! I’m glad you were wondering where all the queer health bloggers are. There are a few of us, but our voices are not that loud…YET!
And tons of thanks to Rachel who took my almost-snarky comment on a post and turned it into not only a guest post but a series! Thank you!!!
Aj´s last post ..Identity Crisis

Heather September 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm

love to read your words on this subject. Love that the “don’t feel guilty” posts are not just bashing a different way, but highlighting all ways.
Love your sass and your class. Love your style and your voice.
Love your honesty and your desire to share!

and adding you to my google reader :)

Lisa September 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm

There needs to be diversity in the blogging world. There are too many cookie-cutter bloggers out there. I love this post!
Lisa´s last post ..A Work in Progress

elaine! September 23, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I found your blog recently, and really enjoyed it! You don’t make me feel guilty for being a straight, omnivorous runner, so why should you feel guilty about being a queer, vegan runner? :)
elaine!´s last post ..Oatmeal in a Rice Cooker

Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA September 23, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Thanks for introducing us to your blog!

I have heard that you should keep your posts to one topic (health, in our case) but I find blogs more interesting that DO focus on some of the writer’s other interests. I included a few posts about Prop 8, myself. I’m straight but gay rights and veganism are two of my biggest convictions and passions in the world. I look forward to reading your blog now!

Aj September 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Thanks everyone! Chrissy, I definitely remember your first comment on my blog about finding another feminist runner…it’s been good to go back and forth with you about veganism, feminism, activism and of course running! Heather, aw, I love you! Lisa, Elaine!, and Erika, thank you so much for your kind words! I am excited to be building this community in the health blogging world – not only identifying other LGBT health bloggers, but our very important allies as well!
Aj´s last post ..Identity Crisis

Lori September 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Ach, people fear what they don’t understand and what they don’t WANT to understand.

I’m positive that some people would avoid your blog because of the Q word. I used to be more optimistic about it, but after recently discovering how voraciously anti-gay a new acquaintence is I know that there are still plenty of people out there who will ignore good writing, good advice, and thought-provoking posts solely due to a person’s sexual preference or political beliefs.

As a woman who was also indoctrined with the obligatory guilt that goes with being raised Catholic, I feel you. Guilt is a bitch.

As a pro-life, straight, God-believin’, non-running meatlover, I can honestly say that I am happy that your blog has come to my attention and I look forward to devouring it like chocolate cake. Not because we’re different or the same, but because you are a voice that I want to hear. Life is so boring when we all agree.

Ashley September 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Honestly, I’ve never been to your blog but I will definitely be check it out following this post. The name “queer vegan runner” would actually entice me to click on a link because it is so different from anything else out there.
Ashley´s last post ..Our new addition

Mandy September 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I really like this post. Everyone should be comfortable in the health blogging world. Not just the straight omnivores. Hopefully your post will be inspiring to other health bloggers in the making that right now feel like they don’t belong.

Aj September 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Summer! Congratulations on coming out of the commenting closet! Yay!

Lori, I really appreciate that blogging allows those who might not think they would have anything in common relate to common experiences and learn from those experiences that are different!

Ashley, please stop by and let me know your thoughts! We have some awesome discussions that are going on – not because of me, but because my readers are so thoughtful.

Mandy, thanks so much. I know there is a lot of diversity out there and I hope others realize their voice and their definition of health is valued and needed in the health blogging world!

Monika @ ForeverImprovingGirl September 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

What a fantastic article! A variety of voices is EXACTLY what the Healthy Living community needs if it is to stay viable and interesting and not collapse on itself like a giant oatmeal mass.

I’m really glad you posted. I’m definitely going to check out your blog. I can related on the vegan and runner fronts, and while I’m not queer a lot of people I love deeply are.

And I totally didn’t think about the benefits of having a same-gender life partner who also runs. Hmm… (Although in my family I am the much faster runner and leave my poor husband in the dust. I did a race with him last weekend where I purposely slowed down so I could run and cross the finish line with him. Don’t tell him that, but it KILLED me. I craved racing so badly. That said: I also LOVED crossing the finish with him. He’s a new runner…hopefully the speed will pick up if he sticks with it)
Monika @ ForeverImprovingGirl´s last post ..“Running Wilde” rocks!

Health Votes September 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I went through your blog, you got good content, why don’t you get a domain for your blog? also, i found the snap feature quite disturbing, perhaps you can disable it.

sad to know that your gyno was perhaps mis-informed or less-educated about lesbians and HPV, am sure your blogging can surely help many others who goes through the same.

also, read on your blog that you don’t have a TV? really?
Health Votes´s last post ..Health Care Reform or Sick Care Reform

Aj September 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Hey Monika, I totally LLOL’d at “not collapse on itself like a giant oatmeal mass” – so true! And then I immediately felt guilty for making gender-normative assumptions about who would be faster in a mixed-gendered relationship. It’s AWESOME you’re faster than your husband. Rock on!

Hey Health Votes – I don’t have a domain name for my blog because I’m quite new to blogging. When I started, I knew very little about blogging and wasn’t sure how much I would like it. I didn’t want to spend money on something I wasn’t sure I needed or was going to use. I think the site previews that pop-up can be disabled by the viewer, although I will look into that (again, super new to blogging!). And yep, you read correctly, we don’t have TV. Well, to be accurate we have a TV and a DVD player but we don’t pay for cable. It’s incredibly expensive and we felt it wasn’t worth it. Most anything we want to watch we can find online or on DVD and this prevents us from mindlessly channel surfing.
Aj´s last post ..Identity Crisis

Kate September 28, 2010 at 12:11 am

AJ- This post blew me away… and really got my wheels turning.

I am so grateful that I found your blog when I did. You write about the stuff that matters– not just your garmin stats. I admire it and appreciate it more than you probably realize.

i agree with you. Being queer is extremely important to WHO we are in every respect; and that includes our health. The word queer was what initially drew me into your blog ~ even though vegan & runner clearly match my interests. Although I write often about Angela and mention her as my partner in my ‘ABOUT ME’ section i don’t often write about queer issues. does this make me a bad advocate for my own rights ??

Hmm.. i write about animal welfare but not about the rights of our LGBT community. maybe i am afraid of losing readers? that doesn’t sound like me.. but why don’t i delve into those issues? maybe because i think my straight readers (which is probably 99% of my readers) won’t care? i don’t know…

thank you for all you do, AJ. you’re amazing… and I have some thinking to do…


Aj September 28, 2010 at 1:43 am

Kate, I think you do a remarkable job on your blog. You and Ang seem to have a relationship much like R and mine and I enjoy reading about our faster, blonder (although recently burnette) counterparts down in SD. I have visions of us all racing together one day! I do not think you hide your sexuality at all and I have perceived you to be quite open in fact. I think your blog is an example of what an awesome health blog by a blogger who happens to be queer can be. I just wish there were MORE blogs out there like yours.
Aj´s last post ..Happy Birthday…You still are by far the cutest

Kate September 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Thanks, Aj! What a kind response. Wow. It means a lot.

…and we will all race together – ONE DAY!
Kate´s last post ..Butternut Squash Soup &amp South Africa

Makarska October 2, 2010 at 12:47 am

This is such a deep blog! What can I say, youve hit the nail right on the head! You even added some videos to make it seem so much more real. Youve got a great way of communicating with the reader, a great way of making me feel like what you have to say is just as important to me as it is to you. Keep it up!

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