Autistic Communication

This blog has two functions. I was asked to write it for an ableism project but also for me personally I’ve written it as basic guide for one of the gaming communities I am a part of.46831188_10161150841550322_3487370185717841920_n

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong neurological developmental spectrum condition. Autistic children become autistic adults. You cannot catch autism. It is not a disease, therefore there is also no “fix” or “cure.”

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Every autistic person experiences autism differently, with a combination of traits which makes up their condition. Listed below are some of the common traits of autism:

Communication difficulties

It can be difficult for an autistic person to convey what they want to say and understand what other people are saying to them.

Sensory issues including light, sound, touch and taste

Certain sensory input can be uncomfortable or even painful. For example the feel of cardboard on the hand could make an autistic person flinch or even meltdown.

Implicit need for routine / inflexibility with change

Routine creates a familiar pattern where an autistic person can feel safe. Changing that routine can cause anxiety and meltdown.

Socially inept

May struggle to understand jokes and sarcasm. Can make inappropriate comments. Not always sure of what is expected of them.
Need for repetitive actions / stimming

Stimming helps autistic people deal with a world that is not designed for them. Creating a pleasurable sensory input can help to counteract the effects of unpleasant sensory input or help focus in a conversation. Stimming can include clicking fingers, tapping, saying the same thing over and over etc.

The masking of autistic behaviour to try and fit in

Masking is when an autistic person deliberately tries to hide their autistic traits. It is very draining and can cause burnout, meltdown, shutdown, anxiety and depression. People assigned female at birth are more likely to mask because society traditionally doesn’t believe AFAB people can be autistic.

Intense interest in specific areas

Autistic people often have intense special interests. This could be in a particular type of music, a period in history, cars….anything really. The important thing is that autistic children and adults are allowed to indulge in their special interests and are not punished for being, “obsessed.”

Meltdowns, shutdowns & burnout

These happen when there is too much sensory input, routine is broken, special interests are denied and generally lots of bad things have happened.

Meltdowns might include crying, screaming and self harm. Shutdowns can involve non-verbal periods and isolation. Burnout can feel like a hangover with intense fatigue.

Word and language creation

Autistic people often make up their own language to help them navigate the world better. Some of this will be to do with language delay growing up, but it could also be due to being hyperlexic. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus in research.

Co-morbid conditions

Many autistic people have a combination of conditions. These include but aren’t limited to:

Depression
Anxiety
ADHD
BPD
Dyspraxia
Misophonia
SPD
Hypermobility
Body temperature control issues
IBS

Executive dysfunction

Executive function is what allows us to control working memory and functionality. It basically helps us get stuff done. Some autistic people struggle with dysfunction in this area. For example rushing a shower because you are late and putting moisteriser on as shampoo or being so hyper focused on getting a task done when you get home, that you forget to close your car window. It can also involve forgetting to eat, drink or meet a friend etc.

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Autistic Communication Style

We are often very blunt and honest in the way we communicate. We don’t feel the need to create implied meanings or step around a subject as lightly as our allistic peers.

We can interpret things literally which is where jokes and sarcasm are sometimes lost.

Some autistic people are entirely non-verbal so may use communication cards or sign language for example. Some of us go non-verbal as the result of burnout or are only verbal some of the time. There are well documented cases of entirely non-verbal autistic people having a huge online presence. Being non-verbal is not an indicator of worth or intelligence.

Autistic people can lack different tones and body language whilst speaking. Some can be very animated and enthusisatic. This is certainly not a clear cut 100% of the time issue.

Eye contact can be difficult. We often mask by looking at different areas of the face to feign eye contact. Sometimes we’ll look away entirely. Being forced to look you in the eye will often mean we don’t process a single thing you say to us.

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What does autistic communication look like to allistic people?

It can look like someone is being rude, aggressive, inattentive, child like, arrogant, annoying because they don’t communicate in ways that allistic people are taught are standard.

How do I communicate with autistic people efficiently?

Being clear and concise without using implied meaning is a good start.

Try and be relaxed about communication and be willing to explain yourself. Misunderstandings will happen.

Take us at face value.

Don’t insist on eye contact and allow us to stim if that helps us focus on the conversation.

Take into consideration the environment you’re speaking in. Is it really loud and bright? That will affect our ability to process your words.

Learn to understand non-verbal communication and communicate in ways that are beneficial to autistic people and not necessarily what is comfortable for you.

Don’t make assumptions about intelligence and competence.

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Labels

Everyone’s first experience of a label is the one they are given at birth. The one about 99% of us carry with us for our entire lives: our sex and gender. Everything you do and anything you will ever be is determined by that label in a patriarchal society. Those of us who reject the label given to us at birth are shunned by society and subject to systemic discrimination, yet society at large doesn’t seem keen on labels as a whole.

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Fast forward to 1999. I’m 14 years old and I’ve just started a new school. (I had to leave/was expelled from my two previous schools due to being bullied.) I’m into heavy metal and punk, so obviously I gravitated towards that group of people. The other kids called them, “Greebos” or “Greebs” but the most popular of them decided that labels weren’t cool so we never used the term. It was the same with the widespread bisexuality. If we didn’t talk about it or label ourselves we weren’t really different. We were just the same as everyone else, but we wore black and slept with people of multiple genders. (Yes I was having sex at 14.)

This situation didn’t last long for me and I ended up hanging out with the kids in the year below. They embraced labels and were subsequently called losers by the people I used to hang out with in my year group. We were Greebos. We were lesbians, gays and bisexuals and we were proud, even if just within our friendship group. We went through the same struggles together and our bond and our labels kept us together and kept us strong. I fell in love for the first time in 2001 with one of these people. We called ourselves lesbians and that stuck with me for the next nine years, even if the Greebo label faded into metal-head as time went by.

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So what are my labels now at 32 and what do they mean to me?

Autistic

I’ve been using this label since Feb 2017, when I truly accepted that this was who I was. A year later I had an official diagnosis.

I don’t say I am someone with autism. Autism is me. I am autistic.

Realising I was autistic was super validating for me. It explained a lot of my past behaviour and allowed me to find friends who were similar to me.

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Transmasculine Nonbinary

I am transgender. I lean towards masculinity. My transition involves testosterone and masculinising surgeries.

I am however not a man. I’m also not a woman. My gender identity and subsequent presentation fluctuates and sits well out of the norms for binary genders.

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Metal-head

I love all music actually but my focus is definitely focused on metal, punk and hardcore. I often dress in what can be considered as metal-head attire.

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Queer

Truly I am pansexual, but I like queer as an identity.

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Why are labels important?

My labels have brought some of the best people into my life. We have bonded over similar struggles and we have stood strong in the face of transphobia, homophobia and ableism. They give me a blanket of safety I can run and hide under when the allistic, transphobic world gets too much and they understand exactly why I need to do that.

It means when I’m out at the pub with my friends I’m not gonna get misgendered or called aggressive because of my autistic style of communicating. It means I was encouraged to be my authentic self at Trans Pride by being topless . It was the safety of having these people around me which allowed me to work up the courage to medically transition.

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We can also help other marginalised groups. They define who they are and the systemic discrimination they face. We listen to them and lend our privilege to help where it is needed. Without labels, I don’t think we would be able to do this so effectively and this leads on to my next point;

Why doesn’t society like labels as a whole?

In my experience oppressors don’t like labels because for them it means they are not the norm and when we use them, we use them to empower ourselves against their oppression.

For example cis women who reject the use of cis, even though it is literally what they are. They don’t like it because they have always just seen themselves as normal women and that trans women and femme aligned people are deviant in some way. This is often combined with TERf rhetoric. (The F is small deliberately cuz ain’t nothing feminist about their tripe.)

Another example is allistic people. This just basically means you aren’t autistic. Allistic people hate it because they see autistic people as abnormal and they are just normal people. Wrong.

So let’s embrace our labels and the labels of others, banding together to empower one another and bring down systems of oppression.

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My thoughts on Vegan Pride.

In June 1969 the movement for LGBTQIA+ equality and liberation began. A series of riots took place centring around the Stonewall Inn in New York. These riots were instigated by transgender women of colour and the next year, the first Pride Parade was held.  (You can read more about the history of Pride HERE.)

In recent years Pride has been the victim of commercialisation, police acceptance and the perpetrator of documented trans and bisexual erasure. We are fighting a battle within our own movement to reclaim our heritage and our purpose. We forget that trans women of colour started our journey to liberation because of police aggression and centre our celebrations around cis gay men.

All is not lost however. Various Pride’s around the world now incorporate political blocs. I was part of one that was removed from Pride by the police in the summer of 2017. Those who are fed up of Pride being taken from us, have splintered and created their own after parade parties, much of them political in nature and centring around queer and trans people especially those of BAME origin.

In the world outside of Pride and our little queer families we tend to make for ourselves, the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights continues. Transphobia and homophobia are rife in schools, workplaces and the media. There’s a moral panic about trans children in the UK media which is damaging communities already on the edge of society. We’ve already had one trans woman murdered in 2018. How many more are we going to lose?

Then there’s the intersex babies that no one talks about. The babies who’s sex and gender are decided for them at birth and surgery undertaken to change their ambiguous genitals so they match the sex the parents have decided for them. There are many documented of cases of ongoing psychological damage in intersex adults.

So with all of that to contend with, I was surprised to see an event in London calling itself, “Vegan Pride.” It takes after various events around the world, including one in Toronto which after it’s first year had to rename itself due to uproar from the LGBTQIA+ community.

So why “Vegan Pride?” Why not any other number of names it could have been that doesn’t have any LGBTQIA+ association? London Vegan Parade? March for Veganism? Vegans United Parade? Nope. They HAD to appropriate queer culture and use it for themselves.

Some people have mistaken it as a parade for LGBTQIA+ vegans, but it’s anything but. If you go onto the Facebook event you’ll see a big group of privileged cis white vegans claiming they are oppressed for an ethical choice they have chosen to make, “all lives matter” rhetoric and certain people who have known Nazi affiliations. I even saw a cis friend of mine silence queer people’s objections to them stealing our culture. I was shocked and suddenly felt really unsafe. I’ve yet to confront him about it. Maybe he’ll see this and realise what he’s done. 😦 The event organisers are banning any LGBTQIA+ people who comment objecting, thus silencing our objection.

The whole event is really off putting for vegans and non-vegans alike. It waters down everyone’s message. The message for queer liberation, the ongoing struggles of queer POC and it screams of human centricity. What about the animals?

The worst part? It clashes with one of the biggest and most prolific Pride events in theUK: Brighton Pride.

Please remember that vegans are not oppressed. Oppression needs a power structure to uphold it. Your uncle making bacon jokes or you not being able to get a decent sandwich for lunch is not oppression. It’s just difficulties from a life choice that you have made, a choice which so many other people do not have, putting you in a position of privilege not misfortune. Queer and trans people did not choose and cannot unchoose who they are, like you can with your veganism.

In closing I would like to ask you to boycott this event and tell people why you are doing it, especially if you are an ally. We need you more now than ever.

Trans Liberation Now

In June 1969 the movement for LGBTQIA+ equality and liberation began. A series of riots took place centering around the Stonewall Inn in New York. These riots were instigated by transgender women of colour and the next year, the first Pride Parade was held.

Let me just say that again for the people who may have missed it:

 

The LGBTQIA+ rights movement was started by TRANS WOMEN OF COLOUR.

 

Why then for almost two generations did we refer to Pride colloquially as, “Gay Pride” and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement as the “Gay Rights Movement?”

The western world revolves around cisgender white males. It has done so for thousands of years. White cis men invented the patriarchy and white supremacy to keep the rest of us in our place and subservient to them. Don’t think we as queer or trans people are exempt from that, because we aren’t.

Every movie or documentary ever made about the Stonewall riots has been filled with cis white gay men. The most recent, “Stonewall” movie had a white gay guy throw the first brick that started the riots. Martha P Johnson will be rolling in her grave.

Even the famous UK charity Stonewall spent years fighting for the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals without  giving a single thought about the trans women who started the whole damned thing.

The Stonewall charity are now fighting for trans rights too, but like many gay centered pages such as Pink News, they are allowing rampant transphobia to go unchecked in their comments sections.

It makes you wonder why 48 years ago trans people even bothered. Our rights have come along at a snail’s pace whilst the “gay charities” gain popular opinion, legal recognition and specifically in the UK almost entirely full equality with heterosexuals.

Are we content to be shut off like this? Well we have been I suppose. Waiting for our gay comrades to turn around and help us, the way we have helped them.

 

Now is our time. Lets fight for our rights and for inclusivity for the most vulnerable in our community. Lets call out the LGB bigots who make jokes about gender neutrality and dismantle the online spaces rife with transmisogyny. Lets support and help raise up our trans siblings of colour.

 

 

Fuck racism. Fuck cissexism. Fuck transmisogyny. Fuck transphobia. Fuck the LGB community out for themselves without a second thought for the TQIA.

Let’s make 2018 our year!

A Gender Revolution?

When National Geographic magazine announced they were going to do a whole issue on gender, I was understandably excited but sceptical. Here I examine the good and bad parts of The Gender Issue.

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They start out pretty badly to be honest. They have interviews with Gloria Steinem and Sheryl Sandberg. Gloria goes on to state that, “the idea of race and gender are divisive.” That’s a really privileged comment to make in my opinion and has no place in modern feminism.

The magazine goes on to ask questions of them both about binary gender:

What advice would you give girls and boys today?

Nice one NG! Erased in the first interviews. At this point I want to throw the fucking thing out the window and hope it hits a TERF in the face. ARGH!

Page five comes with a diverse image of people of different genders and races from across the world and a list of terms relating to them. For example it gives definitions of gender expression and gender fluidity. There could have been more of this. It’s 4 pages long and probably the best thing in the entire magazine. It was nice to see my identity covered too. That’s not something I’ve seen in a mainstream magazine before.

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So now I’m hopeful. They get that gender isn’t binary, right? Nope. The next few pages are filled with binary gender statistics. I could have been erased entirely by science anywhere, but in the pages of a magazine claiming to be exploring gender, it hurts a tad bit more. I dunno if I’m just over reacting now. What did I expect? A magazine about gender to actually explore other genders than cis male and cis female properly?

A few pages later and I come across an article about intersex butterflies. Interesting. They explained what intersex was earlier and that the term, “hermaphrodite” is considered offensive. So what do they go on to do? Describe the butterflies as hermaphrodites. Are you fucking serious? What actually is life?

More binary gender stats about cis men and cis women. *yawn*

I’m actually bored shitless now and angry. Why am I even reading this tripe? The next set asks kids from around the world about gender. They include one transgirl for a bit of variety, but even she sees gender as male and female only. (She’s only 9 so we’ll let her off.)

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Rethinking Gender is a gripping few pages. It examines the science behind our gender identities, different cultures with accepted third genders and the legality of officially changing your gender from the one you were assigned at birth. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this section.

The whole rest of the magazine is dedicated to:

  •  How different cultures celebrate children becoming adults i.e men and women. That would have been fine if they had included other genders too. Obviously not though.
  • Paternal leave in Sweden. Um what?
  • Gender roles…..binary gender roles. Not the cool ones.;)

It was hard to read this issue and it was hard to write this blog because it brought out some very angry thoughts. Buy it if you fancy fucking screaming at it and smacking your head against the wall repeatedly. Also and just for clarity, fuck the cistem and fuck the binary.

Night all.

 

 

I can’t believe I’m writing this in 2017.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been moving away from recipes and more towards all the fucked up shit that is going on in the world. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to throw one in every now and again, but what it means is that with social media being the way it is for exposure, things have to get shared a lot or you have to pay for that exposure. Sadly my format of recipe writing just doesn’t cut it in 2017. Look at Bosh for example. They show you a whole recipe video in about 1 minute and it’s beautiful. I can’t compete with that.

https://www.facebook.com/boshtv/?fref=nf

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Anyway what I really wanted this blog post to be about was social injustice. The more I educate myself, the more I feel like we’re drowning in some sort of discriminatory hell that half of us won’t even admit exists and the other half actively promote.

I think what has really got on my nerves this last week in the idea that reverse racism exists. I’m a white, working class queer and I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in my whole life.

Let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt and explain this from the bottom up so that there is no excuse

White people for the most part, own and run the Western hemisphere of this planet and have done much of the last 500 years. Not to mention European colonialism (the expansion of empire) and the slave trade.Straight, white men in particular have created a system that protects them and their wealth. Racism is endemic in every Western nation.maxresdefault

What do I mean by racism? I mean having all of your life choices and opportunities hindered by the fact you are not white. It may not be as blatant as it once was with the abolition of slavery and segregation, but it’s still there. It’s the black guys getting shot by the police. It’s the transgender people of colour who aren’t even important enough to have their names printed in the paper when they are brutally murdered. It’s the native populations who have to protest their right not to have oil pipelines pollute their water supplies.The list is never ending.

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This is why it surprises me when white people say they have been a victim of racism. The above is racism. Getting called names because you are white or not getting a job because the manager wants people of their own race to work there, is racial discrimination, but it is not reverse racism. That’s not possible. Am I making sense? Racism can ONLY be something people of colour experience because it is a system of oppression built by white people to keep them in their place: in servitude of white people.

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I tried to explain this to a couple of my white friends lately and they lost their shit. We’ve been friends for years and yet their inability to accept that reverse racism isn’t a thing ended our friendships. I could not believe the white privilege I was seeing in them. It was making me fucking sick. I cried all night to think that I’d associated myself with people like that for so long and not once had they mentioned that they believed it to be a thing.reverse-racism

Is it racist to believe reverse racism is a thing? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that it down plays the true racism that people of colour face every single day and that just ins’t acceptable in my book.

(I hope I’ve done this subject justice and I apologise if I’ve missed anything out or written an incorrect term. Please inform me and I’ll correct the blog.)

 

The Last Taboo

If there is anything that people don’t like talking about, of course I want to discuss it. I don’t think any subject should be hidden or casually swept under the carpet.

We need to understand why certain! subjects are still taboo and how we can work towards making the apparently awkward part of everyday conversation.

Whilst I was away at Vegan Camp, I surveyed the adults asking what they thought were some of the last taboo subjects. Here is what they came up with:

  1. Sexual fetishes. Anything that isn’t considered “normal sex” by the majority of people, regardless of sexuality.
  2. Periods and period blood.
  3. Human overpopulation and how to deal with it.
  4. Nakedness in general.
  5. Poly relationships.

I spent two weeks talking about 4 out of the 5 things above without any negative consequences. When I talked about 1 of those things, people would get up and leave. It would generally make them feel uncomfortable. Guess which one it was.

Number 3. Human overpopulation and how to deal with it. It’s not just whilst on holiday with vegans. It’s all the time in everyday life.

I’m going to try and be as honest as possible without being offensive. So here goes;

The human population of Earth has gone from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.4 billion in 2016. That’s mainly due to advances in medicine, better living standards and more advanced ways of producing food.

I can hear the deniers now. They are sat there saying that 7.4 billion people can all fit in California. I don’t deny that at all. Listen up, I’ve researched this. If we got the entire human population of the world and dumped them into California, we wouldn’t be able to move. We couldn’t work, eat, play or sleep. We’d just have to stand there. So ultimately we’d die. Not really a great solution.

Ok so here’s the current situation in reality. 7.4 billion people spread around the world. Some of us live in luxury, but most of us live in abject poverty, war zones or on the brink of starvation. Most of us don’t have access to an adequate diet, medical care and every single day is a struggle just to survive.

Out of the 230,000 people that increase the human population every day (after deaths), how many of those do you think live in luxury and how many of those do you think struggle and live in misery?

I don’t like the idea of anyone being born to suffer, that’s why I’m vegan. I follow that principle for humans too.

Why are so many people suffering? War, pollution, climate change, governments feeding grain to animals instead of the local population and then exporting the meat, dairy and eggs to the West.

More people doesn’t help solve any of those problems. It only makes them worse. It doesn’t matter whether you live in luxury or not. Every added person on the planet will contribute to one of these issues in one way or another.

As a Westerner, I’d like to look at climate change and how we’re fuelling that by adding more people. After all, that effects the rest of the world and leads to war and food inequality.

Every new human needs shelter, food/water and energy at a bare minimum. Shelter requires land and resources. So we take land and resources from nature and incorporate it into a town or a city.

Then you need food. 95% of people will eat animal products, which is the most inefficient way of producing food. It uses more land and creates more pollution than any other food source. The 5% will probably eat plant based for a few years before moving onto animal products and 1% will remain vegan for life. Even a plant based diet uses massive amount of land that should be filled with forests and meadows. All food production leads to habitat destruction and therefore species extinction. Look at the decline of butterflies and hedgehogs in the UK over the last decade. It’s horrific!

We also need resources to power our lives. Water for us and our food, of which there is only a limited supply that is usable and we are polluting more everyday. Electricity which is produced by exploiting and polluting the environment in most cases. The more of us there are, the more we have to exploit the environment for power. What happens when we run out of fresh water or we run out of environment to exploit? We go to war for more. This is exactly how the war in Syria started. Don’t think it won’t happen here. It will.

I’ve never met another person who actually wants war, famine and suffering. So what are the solutions? Let’s put them in order of importance.

  1. Do not have children.
  2. Adopt a plant based diet.
  3. Live with the environment in mind.

People never seem to have a problem with points 2 and 3. (Sometimes 2 if they aren’t vegan already.) If you mention to people that a lot of world’s problems could be eased if we decided not to have children, that lose their shit.

Over the last year, I’ve lost a good deal of people who I cared about because of my views on reproduction and how they relate to actually saving our species a lot of suffering. It’s something I’ve had to get used to, like with being vegan, once you know you cannot unknow the damage you do to the planet by having children. People don’t like it. Sometimes they even get violent.

If you are in a position to chose not to have children, you should. You should also support:

  • Education for girls and women to help them make informed decisions about reproduction.
  • Free contraception, abortion and sterilisation for anyone who wants it.
  • Fostering and adoption of children who are already here.

I don’t hate kids who are already here. I don’t really hate anyone. I just wish people would be more informed about those choices. If you chose to have children knowing the world they are going to inherit, that says more about you than it does me. I don’t want anyone to suffer, remember?

(Obviously I understand that it’s not possible for everyone not to have children due to lack of contraception, education and cultural restraints, hence points we should be supporting above.)

As a last point and something to think about going forward, which I’m sure will make me popular:

Why do we advocate spaying and neutering of non-humans to control their population, but when it comes to us we let our population run rampage over the planet regardless of the consequences? Isn’t that speciesism if you’re already vegan?

Have a nice weekend!

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Faking it.

Ah yes! The great fake debate. Whether we should or shouldn’t consume vegan products that imitate non-vegan products of animal exploitation. As always there are two sides to every debate and I’ll try and cover each side and then give my opinion at the end.

I think first of all we need to look at why a market for vegan foods that mimic animal products exist.

  1. Taste: Most people like to stick with flavours and textures that they know.
  2. Comfort: Certain foods may bring comfort to people for different reasons. For example, when I’m upset a strong but milky tea comforts me.
  3. Childhood: A lot of our likes and dislikes are formed in childhood. If you grew up in a household that didn’t eat many vegetables, you’ll inevitably find it harder to eat a high vegetable diet when you’re older.

 

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There are some quite intrinsic reasons and they make a profitable plant based mock meat, dairy and egg market in the UK and around the world. Even the supermarkets have jumped on the band wagon, with most having their own branded vegan cheese, milk and meat products. If people weren’t buying these products, they would stop making them and or we certainly wouldn’t have the variety we have now.

The question now is, does having imitation products make going vegan easier?

On one hand you could say that veganism is about ethics. If you understand the ethics, it doesn’t matter what culinary options there are for you, because the alternative is unthinkable. To a certain extent, those who have been vegan for over ten years will have lived in that world. (Myself included.)

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On the other hand when you initially talk to people about veganism, they often ask whether there are vegan alternatives. These days the answer is normally yes. That gives them the comfort they require and then you can move on to talk to them about the ethics. As a new vegan, it might help them from giving into cravings through familiar tastes, comforts and childhood memories.

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Can we even call these vegan products burgers, cheese, yoghurt, mayonnaise and sausages etc? How does vegan chicken or beef style pieces sound to you? Do we need to reclaim some words or should we celebrate plant based foods for what they are and move away from from comparing them to animal based foods?

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I think words like sausage and burger absolutely have a place in our movement. After all, they refer to shapes more than content. Hence you can have bean burgers without anyone batting an eyelid. Sometimes though non-vegans pipe up and it causes conflict online and possibly at the dinner table. Something we all want to avoid, obviously.

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It might be a good idea to celebrate plant based foods differently for the above reason. At the moment we call things, “chicken style” or “mock duck” for example. Great for new vegans looking for a familiar taste of course. Even people who have been vegan a long time find this helpful when searching for things that remind them of certain flavours and textures. What other names can we use to distinguish these products? Shall me move away from using words like mock and fake? (Genuine questions. Feel free to answer them because I don’t know the answer.)

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As a whole consumers are disconnected from the animals they are eating. Even when they have bloody burgers, meat on the bone, fried eggs or grated cheese. They rarely give a thought to that which they spare themselves the sight. Therefore as long as a product is vegan, does it matter if it replicates something which isn’t? I think a very small percentage of vegans really want an imitation bleeding burger, but if they do, does it matter?

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Some might say that eating that burger perpetuates animal use because others will see you eating it and assume you’re eating a burger made from a cow, giving them comfort in their continued animal use. Where do we draw the line? A lot of vegan cheeses look like their animal based counterparts, as does the mayo, yoghurt and the cakes etc. Is it a personal choice or is there more at stake than that?

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All in all, I think this blog probably throws open more questions than it answers. I’m not sure it needs to be as complicated as I have made it.

If you like a certain food that is vegan, eat it. Does it make your life easier? Does it give you comfort, satisfy your taste buds, remind you of your childhood? Then eat it. As long as you aren’t exploiting animals, carry on in my opinion. No lines to be drawn. No picking and choosing. Just doing what feels right for you and what IS right for the animals.

Let’s have a proper discussion about this.

Frankie

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(NB – I’m one of those vegans that after 11 years still eats vegan “meats” etc because they give me comfort and remind me of what I used to eat.)

 

 

 

I’m sorry, but you’re wrong this time.

In this blog post I am going to be swearing, a lot. If you are easily offended, please don’t read past here. This is not for you.

Last week was busy in the world of abolitionist veganism for quite a few reasons. Sadly none of them were positive.

I’m going to start this story right from the beginning. Right back in September 2014 when things started to really change.
I and many of my UK vegan friends were part of The Abolitionist Vegan Society or TAVS for short and had been for quite some time. The movement had been founded in the US on Gary Francione’s principles of abolition of animal exploitation, in response to the lack of consistency in The UK Vegan Societies ethics. I had never felt more at home. I had long conversations with members about everything from animals to my gender identity. I felt we really understood each other and I felt like Sarah K Woodcock was my friend, even though I had never met her. Unfortunately last summer there was a lot of racial tension in the US and rightly so after what happened. It seemed like the US members of TAVS then went on a mission to declare every single action of anyone who disagreed with them as racism, sexism or homophobia. They had taken being an intersectional group to a level that no normal person could possibly ever live up to. A few UK TAVS members voiced their concerns and others declared that they were going to disassociate with them because they couldn’t live up to the new expectations. In no way were these people racists, homophobes or sexists. In fact they were and still are bloody good vegan educators. They are my friends and just because they are white, does not mean they are racist or anything else for that matter. TAVS went on a bullying hate campaign calling them misogynists and plastering their pictures all over the internet and quotes from their Facebook walls where they had used the word cunt. (More on this later.) It was so bad that one even had to change her name so she couldn’t be identified. All the UK abolitionist vegans that I know immediately withdrew their support from TAVS in disgust. I messaged Sarah asking what was going on and the reason’s for her actions and I was ignored and unfriended.

Us UK abvegans felt very alienated. We had no one to represent us. So what we did is went back to what we should have been doing all along, grassroots vegan education and not messing around on Facebook with TAVS.

A few months later Pete Crosbie who runs the Willowite Animal Sanctuary, posted the below image. He is an Australian TAVS advocate. He also provided the pictures for the TAVS calender. He was not reprimanded at all. It wasn’t even mentioned to him when I spoke to him about it. (No offence intended Pete.)

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Why if cunt is such a horrendous word was he not pulled up on this? Convenience. It was convenient for TAVS to ignore this because it didn’t further their agenda and they got to keep their calender.

In the last few days it has been made public that Tower Hills Stables, a supposedly vegan sanctuary in the UK have been selling eggs from their rescue hens in a vain attempt at trying to educate people on the horrors of the egg industry. Gary Francione picked up on this and publicly asked on their FB page why they were doing this. I have also chimed in on this debate as I don’t feel it is effective activism, it is exploitation and is not what vegans should be doing. A few hours later it was brought to Francione’s attention that Martin who runs the sanctuary, had used the Buddha image from above. Francione has started a hate campaign and is actively bullying Martin, calling him a misogynist and splashing images all over the internet. Francione never picked up on Pete Crosbie. Maybe because he is an abolitionist and Martin isn’t.

So now you have the background to what I am about to say, it might make a bit more sense as to why I am saying it.

I do not and have never had a problem with the word cunt. I first heard it when I was 10 years old, but didn’t really know what it meant until much later. The word itself is the only English language word that describes the whole of the genitalia. It has various origins mostly involving female deity worship and words that describe the genitalia in a pleasant way. I can think of a lot more offensive things to call it than cunt:

George Bush

Unmentionable parts

Tuppence

Wizard’s sleeve

Hairy axe wound

Beef curtains

Gash

Cock pit

Spam purse

Bubble gum sandwich

Pussy

Spunk skip

Pink velvet sausage wallet

Bucket

Slit

Clunge

I mean for fuck’s sake! Those are some really offensive terms right there and it’s always cunt that is singled out. It is a word of beauty! As the world migrated away from female goddess worship and towards male god worship, it also moved towards more sexual repression and male privilege. The word became taboo in the middle ages at the height of single male deity worship. The female and her devilish temptations should not be mentioned.

Therefore is it misogynistic to single the word out and demonise it? Is it not damn right bloody sexist as a white, heterosexual male to decide that a word reclaimed by some feminists (including myself) is in itself wrong?

In the UK and Ireland the word cunt is used as a term of endearment in most circles of people under 50. We call each other cunts as we do call each other mate. The word describes genitalia but it also describes your friend. Therefore to have the American’s (TAVS and Francione) impose their sexism and cultural colonialism on us because they don’t understand is absolutely unacceptable. How dare they!?

I’m sorry abvegan movement, but you’re wrong this time.

 

Some things I have wanted to say for a while……

1)      What made you decide to go vegan?

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My first steps into exclusively plant based living was in 2003 when I was 17. I saw it as something I could do to be more extreme than my peers. At the time I was just getting into really extreme metal, oh and I still ate bee’s puke aka honey. I wasn’t vegan.

We didn’t have loads of vegan products at the time either. We had tofu and vegetables. I got bored really quickly because I couldn’t cook and just went back to being a fussy omnivore aka a vegetarian .  (I’d been a vegetarian since I was 14, having seen something similar to the Meet Your Meat video in a food technology class. I wish someone had told me I could do more then, I might have listened.)

It was a few years later when I was 20 that I started to read disturbing things about the way that we use animals in society online. Before I’d just been concerned with whether an animal’s life was taken from them. Soon and after not much reading, I realised that we could not justify the use of any animal for human pleasure. That’s what eating animal products is after all, palate pleasure. I watched some videos and I read some recipes.  I went vegan and have been that way ever since.

2)      How do you live without cheese?

How do you live with it? It’s a great big lump of fat, blood and pus. It’s also not addictive, so stop using that excuse.

There are vegan cheeses available with some that are better than others. You  However and to be honest, I very rarely buy them. When you become vegan the way you cook changes, especially if you are not eating a ton of replica meat products, which are processed to hell and everyone should keep to a minimum.

You also eat different foods. Here’s my pre-vegan diet:

Breakfast: Toast and cereal with cow’s milk and cow’s butter.

Snack: Snickers bar

Lunch: Processed meat with processed potato with spaghetti hoops.

Snack: A clementine

Snack: Ham sandwhich with cheese

Dinner:  Bird’s Eye chicken lattice with new potatoes and spaghetti hoops

Supper: Sardines on toast

 What I eat now:

Breakfast: Porridge with a nut and seed mix and soya milk

Snack: Banana smoothie

Snack: Apple, orange

Lunch: Three bean soup

Snack: Banana

Dinner: Kale with Eygyptian spiced leek, potato and beetroot topped with two soysages

Snack: Peanut butter on a rice cake

….and it’s different every day. I can’t stand eating the same stuff now. I remember my pre-vegan diet because it was the same, always. Everything was centred around something from an animal and now there is no centre piece. If anything the centrepiece is the flavour.

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3)      What does GQ actually mean?

GQ stands for Gender Queer. Wikipedia describes it quite well:

Genderqueer (GQ; alternatively non-binary) is a catch-all category for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.[1] Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:

  • having an overlap of, or blurred lines between, gender identity and sexual and romantic orientation.[2][3]
  • two or more genders (bigendertrigenderpangender);
  • without a gender (nongendered, genderless, agender; neutrois);
  • moving between genders or with a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid);[4]
  • third gender or other-gendered; includes those who do not place a name to their gender;[5]

Some genderqueer people[6][7] also desire physical modification or hormones to suit their preferred expression. Many genderqueer people see gender and sex as separable aspects of a person and sometimes identify as a male woman, a female man, or a male/female/intersexgenderqueer person.[8] Gender identity is defined as one’s internal sense of being a woman, man, both, or neither, while sexual identity refers to an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to others.[7] As such, genderqueer people may have a variety of sexual orientations, as with transgender and cisgender people.[9]

In addition to being an umbrella term, genderqueer has been used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity, i.e. those who “queer” gender, expressing it non-normatively.[10] Androgynous is frequently used as a descriptive term for people in this category, though genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression and not all identify as androgynous. However, the term has been applied by those describing what they see as a gender ambiguity.[11]

Personally I really dislike being called he or she. I’m just Emz.

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4)      How do you fit it all in? (Training etc.)

I think if you want something bad enough, you’ll make time. It’s hectic, but it gets the job done.

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5)      What does Child Free really mean?

To me it means that I am choosing, purposely not to have biological children. People choose this for various reasons, but for me the main one is over population.

When my mum was born, there were less than 2.5 billion people on the entire planet. By the time I was born in 1985 (37 years later) there were 4.8 billion people on the entire planet.  In forty years we more than doubled the Earth’s population.  As we come into 2014, we are looking at a human population of 7.1 billion. Many scientists believe that the tipping point for resources, land, water, food etc is 9/10 billion. After that we will begin a downwards spiral of mass starvation, fresh water wars and possible extinction. Up until that point it is believed that if we reduce our population expansion, we may actually have a future. This issue is more important for our long term future on this planet than climate change.

My opinion as to why people aren’t talking about it and don’t want to change is simple:

a) People are inherently selfish and do whatever satisfys them regardless of the consequences for others.

b) Governments and religion actively encourage people to breed so that they have a larger work force, army, following and are therefore more powerful.

c) There isn’t any money to be made from a child free person.

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6)      Do you hate children?

No. I just think, on top of what I have said above, that we should look after the ones we have properly before we even remotely consider bringing more into the world.

baby-money

 

7)      What is your favourite animal organisation?

I don’t support animal organisations. They do not promote veganism as the end goal to ending all animal exploitation and many of them are in business partnerships with animal agribusiness. For example Peta and KFC.

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8)      Where do you get your protein?

Everything has protein in it, even lettuce and potatoes. I eat food so question answered.

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9)      How much time should we devote to reaching out to other progressive groups about veganism and what are effective ways to do that?

I think we firstly need to concentrate on getting a mass turnaround from single issue and welfarist campaigns by animal rights activists. All major change happens at the grass roots of movements. However on the otherhand,  if we had more groups such as Viva, Peta and Animal Aid promoting a purely abol;itionist agenda, I think more people might start to see the light without the constant backlash upon entering discussions with them now.

This is a difficult question to answer because I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer.

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10)   Do you believe in conspiracy theories?

I believe sometimes that there is more to a story than the official version tells the public. I take each individual incident as it comes. I wouldn’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, no.

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11)   Why aren’t you pro-life?

By pro-life, this question means human life.

I believe that every human being should have free choice to do what they want with their lives and their bodies as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Having loads of children hurts others. Using animals as resources hurts others. (As detailed above) However removing a ball of cells from a woman’s womb does not hurt anyone. Even later abortions where the ball of cells looks like a miniature human, it has been proven time and time again, by medical science, that there is no consciousness and there is no pain, pretty much like a plant. If the ball of cells cannot survive outside of the womb, then an individual woman has every right to remove it from her body. If the ball of cells can survive outside of the womb, without massive 21st century medical intervention, then you probably left it a bit late and I don’t agree with that.

In my opinion you shouldn’t be pregnant in the first place for reasons stated above, however if I found myself pregnant I would get an abortion without a second thought or hesitation. Mykey agrees with me wholly.

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12)   How do you feel about direct action?

Direct action is a single issue campaign and therefore does not coincide with abolitionist vegan methodology. (You can read more about this in my animal rights section.)

Let’s take the action of the Hunt Sabs in the recent, “Sab the Cull” campaign. I am yet to hear how that has actively created a vegan world or even a substantial move towards it. Why? Because it hasn’t! By focusing on a single issue, it has made others feel better about different types of animal use i.e that the type of animal use they are participating in is not as bad because you aren’t protesting against it. (Again this is detailed greatly in my AR section, read it.)

If an animal was in trouble for whatever reason and we were able to help her, then we would. However I wouldn’t spend my valuable time and money running around a field before light, because that is not an efficient way to create more vegans. Me talking to, cooking for, handing out leaflets to and promoting veganism to people does.

I know the mainstream animal rights movement sees the Hunt Sabs and ALF as some sort of gods, but we have to be realistic. This type of activism has been around for 40+ years in the UK and is it working? Have we seen an end to the use of animals in medical experiments or a complete ban on hunting? Have we seen a sizeable change towards veganism? No! Stop wasting your time, effort and money on things that aren’t creating a vegan world and start creating it. You owe the animals that as an absolute bare minimum!