May Challenges, Staying Vegan, and More on Gender.

May is somehow already upon us. I will begin this post with reflections on vegan month, discuss my challenges for May, and finish with a small rant on gender identity. Enjoy! I loved vegan month so much that I’m going to stay vegan indefinitely! I took last night, the night of April 30th, off for my sister’s birthday festivities (as I promised I would going into this month). It was fun to spend a meal not obsessing over what I was eating to make sure it fit my dietary needs. I was a little worried about how my body would react to meat (fish) and dairy, but all was good in the end, and the meal was fun and delicious.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Other than that evening, I have continued to grocery shop, cook, and go out to eat maintaining 100% vegan to the best of my knowledge. Here are some of the vegan spots I tried in the second half of the month:

Paulie Gee's - A DELICIOUS pizza place in Greenpoint that has vegan and non-vegan options. My wonderful friends were also curious about the vegan pizzas so we got to try a few of them, and none of them disappointed. They even pushed me to try one that I would have never ordered because it had pickled onions on it, and pickled things freak me out sometimes. It ended up being my favorite of the three. Also…vegan dessert! We tried ice cream and cheesecake. YUM. Bonus: This place is super close to Transmitter Park, so we got to watch the sun set over the city before enjoying all of the deliciousness.

IMG_0259

Red Bamboo - A vegan restaurant around the corner from where I work a few doors down from Go Zen (mentioned in my last post).  I’m curious about going back to this restaurant, because I got a relatively boring dish. I went for lunch and didn’t want anything too heavy, but they have a vegan pulled “pork” sandwich that I’m very curious to try. The dish I tried was teriyaki vegetables with brown rice. I like Go Zen better, but again, I want to give this place another shot before I fully judge it.

IMG_0225.JPG

Blossom Du Jour - Vegan fast food! It exists on 23rd street! I stopped here on my way to an event to prepare myself in case I wouldn’t be able to eat. I ate my meal so quickly that I completely forgot to take a picture. I got a buffalo un-chicken wrap, and it was amazing. Buffalo sauce, man. So good. Instead of a picture of this place, or the food, here is a representation of my experience:

giphy

Little Atlas Cafe - A small hole in the wall eatery with vegan and non-vegan options. The vegan options are good, but my favorite part of this place is their vegan baked goods which include a wonderful variety of massive vegan cookies. This is another place I will certainly be returning to.

IMG_1546

I have decided to stay vegan because I love the way that I feel, and I love having a particular focus when exploring restaurants in NYC. I would like to say that I get more satisfaction from not supporting the meat/dairy industries than I do. The truth is, I didn’t get around to looking into them as much as I wanted to. These industries are not a part of my motivation to continue with a vegan lifestyle, but I understand and respect those for whom they are the catalyst.

Vegan month, as much as I have enjoyed it, has not been easy. First of all, I am hungry a lot more often. I feel like it took me the first three weeks to get accustomed to eating a plant-based diet, and now I want to continue to do it in a more healthy way. How can eating vegan be unhealthy? Well, whole wheat pasta, french fries, some brands of potato chips, etc. are all examples of less-than-healthy things I have eaten more of this month than ever before. I also have not enjoyed being a picky eater. Maintaining strict dietary requirements makes going out to eat or going to social events involving food extremely difficult. I do not like asking people to accommodate me, or talking to people about why I am not eating *fill in the blank*. I have learned to come to such events prepared with my own food, so that when I have difficulty finding something to eat I won’t go hungry or sit idly (awkwardly) by while everyone else eats. I am not sure how strictly, or for how long I will be vegan, but I am damn proud to have completed the month-long vegan challenge successfully.

giphy-1.gif

On to May! For my May challenges I will add journaling (or writing in some form) every day and take away one item (either throw away, give away or donate) for each day of the month. My writing will vary in length and style, but I am excited to get back into journaling. One year I tried to journal every day, and while I missed a few days I really enjoyed looking back on the entries as a reminder of events and feelings I would have otherwise forgotten. I also happened to be writing the journal as I was coming into my sexual identity, and writing helped me clarify a lot of the things I was struggling with. As readers of this blog well know, I consider writing to be my most effective method of communication, even if it’s only for myself. There is a lot that I’d like to work out with my evolving identities, and hopefully writing every day will help me deal with the many things on my mind. Getting rid of one item a day will be relatively easy. I have been meaning to clean out certain drawers, shelves, under my bed, my closet, etc. for some time, and this challenge will get me going. I plan to photograph each item I cleanse myself of, and put it together in some sort of mosaic at the end of the month.

There have been so many things swirling through my mind recently. So many that I am overwhelmed sitting here trying to think of how to write about them all, or organize them so that they come out coherently. Basically all of it has to do with gender identity. I have decided that I am going to continue to write about gender briefly here on this blog each month, but I am also going to start writing stand alone gender pieces about my experiences. This blog has been a wonderful way to document my general resolution to become more mindful through a series of month-long challenges; but it has also become a way to document and make sense of my identity explorations, which have blossomed as a result of improved mindfulness. Therefore, some of my future posts will focus solely on gender/identity without discussing the month-long challenges. Below is a brief synopsis of some of my current thoughts/feelings on my gender identity:

1. I am dreading summer. It is easier to represent my gender identity when I can cover up most parts of my body. I don’t know how to dress appropriately for warm weather without betraying my gender, and without feeling extremely uncomfortable. Plus…bathing suits? I currently sit in the Fort Lauderdale airport, running over how uncomfortable I felt at the pool this past weekend. I have recently (in the past year or so?) been wearing my one-piece bathing suit with light drop-crotch pants (that I wore even in the water), or shorts. This weekend I let my stomach and upper thighs see the sun for the first time in a long time. Despite my over the shoulder sports-bra-ish top, I was uncomfortable. Pool/beach attire, and Miami (resort) culture generally, is extremely gendered, and I noticed how out of place I felt at almost every turn.

2.  I have been dealing with a lot of misunderstandings about my gender recently. Although not everyone in my life knows about my genderqueer identity, I have dealt with quite a variety of reactions from those who do. Most are understanding and supportive, and I am so grateful for them. Others don’t understand it entirely, and are unapologetic/uninterested. For those people I have yet to get into full discussions, because I am not quite ready to fight those battles verbally, much less face the reality that there are people who can’t/wont understand who I am. Other people in my life have cautioned me against being so public about my identity. To those people I say: I am not ashamed. I take your “advice,” no matter how well-meaning, as a lack of acceptance for me, and for others like me. I should not have to hide who I am, even as I am in the process of figuring it out, and I should not feel like I have to present differently in private versus public spaces. Being open about my identity is one (difficult) step in a long process of discovery. I shouldn’t be required to have it tied up neatly in an easy-to-digest package so that it is convenient for the people around me. No apology necessary. To use a quote from one of my favorite books, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson: “How to explain, in a culture frantic for resolution, that sometimes the shit stays messy?…How to explain that for some, or for some at some times, this irresolution is OK—desirable, even (e.g., “gender hackers”)—whereas for others, or for others at some times, it stays a source of conflict or grief?” My identity is a little messy right now, and that's ok with me.

3.   I have been thinking a lot about my feelings and my explorations with regards to my gender as a sort of adolescence. I will be exploring this concept more in a full piece to come soon.

4. Related to yet separate from my dread of summer, I have recently been feeling disconnected from my body. I remain uninterested in changing any part of my biology. I have noticed, however, that I have difficulties with certain aspects of it, mostly because I have trouble finding clothing that fits both my body and my identity. While some small pockets of such clothing exist (i.e. Kirrin Finch), I have been broadly struggling to find what I am looking for. I was recently interviewed by a Masters’ student studying the intersection of fashion and gender identity, so I have been thinking a lot about my own experiences. I trend towards clothing that I perceive as neutral. For me, however, neutral is often more masculine leaning. I believe this is because my body, and my presentation, is most often perceived as female. My feminine eyes, cheeks, chest, hips, thighs, etc. that I have no desire to change, and could not change without surgery or hormones, make it relatively easy for people to gender me. This presents issues when I want to be perceived as who I am/both/neither/why does it matter. I try to achieve this appearance through clothing. I wish I could buy shorts from the men’s section, but they simply do not fit my body. The femininity of my face, and the way I carry weight around my hips and thighs are forcing me to confront the disconnect between my mental image of my body/my identity, and the reality of it.

I am going to stop this rant here, but I hope to continue to explore these concepts in the near future. I have also read another book that has broadened my understanding of myself, and the range of gender identities in the world called “Symptoms of Being Human” by Jeff Garvin. I highly recommend this young adult read about a gender-fluid teenager navigating high school.

22692740.jpg

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 10.06.55 PM

Is anyone picking up what I’m putting down? Does anyone have brand recommendations? Does anyone have resources they can point me to? Does anyone have questions for me about my identity? I hope that I didn’t come off as defensive or rude. I know that a lot of people genuinely do not understand non-binary gender identities. I would be happy to discuss these issues with anyone who would like to chat. I struggle with verbalizing my feelings, my experiences, and my opinions, but I would love a reason to practice. Please feel free to reach out.

As always, thank you, I love you.

E.