Since February 22nd 2017 I have been acutely aware that I am autistic. It has opened up my world significantly and lifted the severe burden I’ve felt for my behaviour all my life.
I have a good friend of mine to thank for this awareness. Her name is Selena. She is also non-binary and autistic.
I struggle around people in general, but I don’t struggle around Selena so we tend to do social things together. Last night she invited me to a bit of a DIY, house party gig.
We got fairly wasted. Towards the end of the night, she got up and did this spoken word piece. The room was silent and enthralled by her every word, especially me because every word rang so true in my heart and in my head.
I’ve asked for her permission to share this here and she delightfully agreed.
Too Much Information
Aut meaning self
An ism of oneself
A glass jar I live within
As I watch you all
Detached from your presence
I see you
I see your silver hooped earings
As you tick tock your head to the rhythm, they dance along
They snatch the light, bright
Like floodlights in my line of sight
I see you.
I see the gravelly knit of your sweater
Like volcanic pebbles
Tumbled and tossed for a million years
And for a moment I am there
Wading, my toes cold in the spring water
You, I see too
Your hands clasping the tight lens of your camera
Twisting your fingers around the dials
I see the grain of the wood
The dampness of the soil in the jars and the harp and the German stoneware
I dive into the pattern of the mandala-like tapestry behind me
I’m hypnotised and I count
I like that word
Like a mantra
In my head (mandala)
My head is tight
I’m taking in too much information (mandala)
The light from your earrings
They’re beautiful because
They match the solver of your hair
Is that ok to say?
I never really know you see
Do you like this pattern?
It reminds me of a mandala
I love that word
She’s not answering me
Her earrings are so shiny
It’s loud in here
I can hear the people breathing
Their sleeves rustling as they lift their arms
Slurp of their lips on their cans of SA
My heart is racing
I look at the mandala
I want to be here in the room
But I’m not
I’m in a glass jar
I can see you
But I’m not really here
On my face is a smile and my tongue is rowdy
Yet inside I’m shrunken
Drunken with over stimulation
I’m curled up in a ball, small and tight as my fist
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
I’m a big fan of jack fruit and this recipe is perfect for it. A burrito needs to be flavoursome and filling. Jack fruit takes on any flavour you give it but like tofu, doesn’t taste of anything on it’s own. Let’s pack in the herbs and spices!
1 tsp dried chilli
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp cumin
Make up your spice mix and place to one side.
1 onion, chopped
2 peppers, chopped
1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained
100 grams of cooked brown rice (cook this yourself first if needs be.)
Juice of half a lime
Half a tsp of dried chilli
1 tin of jack fruit in salted water. (Do not get the one in syrup.)
Pack of wholemeal tortillas
Dry fry the onion and peppers until they start to soften.
Add the sweetcorn and brown rice to the pan and mix in.
Turn heat to low and stir every couple of minutes.
Now it’s time for the jack fruit. I warn you if you haven’t used it before, it’s some weird stuff. Drain the can in a sieve. It should look like this:
Pull it apart into shreds and add to the pan. (This can take some time if you haven’t done it before.)
Add your spice bowl and mix in.
Keep the heat on low, stirring occasionally.
Now let’s make some awesome mashed avocado! Peel the avocado and mash with the chilli, lime and salt to taste.
Heat yourself a tortilla in the microwave or in the oven.
Mash some avocado onto your warm tortilla then place the filling along the middle. You may wish to add some sauce now too. I used Levi Root’s BBQ sauce.
Wrap into a burrito by folding both ends in. Then slice down the middle to make it more manageable to eat.
Eat that baby warm. I managed two before I was stuffed up to my eyeballs.
Variation: Don’t add the jack fruit until wrapping burrito. Make sure you give it some flavour though. 😉
Where do I get jack fruit?
You’ll often find jack fruit in Asian supermarkets and the world food isle of the bigger chain supermarkets, depending on where you live.
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:
Sexual fetishes. Anything that isn’t considered “normal sex” by the majority of people, regardless of sexuality.
Periods and period blood.
Human overpopulation and how to deal with it.
Nakedness in general.
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.
Do not have children.
Adopt a plant based diet.
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?
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.
Taste: Most people like to stick with flavours and textures that they know.
Comfort: Certain foods may bring comfort to people for different reasons. For example, when I’m upset a strong but milky tea comforts me.
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.
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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?
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?
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.
(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.)