Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not My First Attempt At Paleo Bread

I am really iffy about the concept of paleo bread.  Focusing your diet on eating things that are made to look like other things (whether it's margarine, veggie chicken, or paleo bread) can run you into trouble.  I decided to try making paleo bread again for two reasons:

1. Wheat (not gluten, wheat in general) makes me feel like shit.  And itch.  And cry.  On the inside.
2. I got the cookbook "Paleo Bread" for my birthday.

I have a love-hate relationship with paleo cookbooks because they're woefully inconsistent and sometimes it's like the author doesn't really know what they're talking about.  "500 Paleo Recipes," for instance, has a lot of fantastic recipes!  It also has a section on mixed drinks and says cashews "clearly" aren't paleo.  A cookbook calling itself "paleo" might or might not include cashews, green beans, fresh peas, quinoa, honey, maple syrup, sweet potatoes, coconut sugar, maple sugar, stevia, coffee, butter or ghee, other dairy, and any other number of ingredients and go to great lengths to explain why it is or is not paleo, whether that makes sense or not.  You can find paleo cookbooks that stress out about calories and saturated fat, and others that maintain you shouldn't give a shit.

That's not to say any way of doing this is bad.  People have different reasons for trying a paleo or ancestral-type diet.  If you're trying to lose weight, living off of recipes from "Paleo Bread" or a dessert cookbook might not help you attain that goal.  If you're allergic to dairy, you wouldn't want to use Greek yoghurt.  And so forth.

Anyway, aside from this, there are some problems with paleo bread from just a culinary standpoint.  It's typically very eggy, because almond and coconut flour just don't hold together very easily. There isn't, as far as I know, a way to make paleo bread that actually tastes like a wheat bread.  That said, you really need to judge these recipes for what they are not not what you wish they were.

For instance, this is the result of a recipe called "Country-Style White Bread," with no creative liberties taken on my part:

It looks kind of like cornbread and actually has a similar texture (less gritty).  It rose more than I expected it to, to be honest.  Does it taste like "white bread?"  Not really.  It's pretty good, though.  Not exactly sandwich-sized when cut that way (each slice is maybe a sixth of the size of a slice of Wonderbread, just in case the perspective is confusing you).  You could feasibly make it sandwich-size by cutting it more creatively... either at a diagonal or by slicing it lengthwise instead of widthwise.  I did manage a tiny sandwich out of it:

That's a single slice of summer sausage cut in half (more size perspective for you) and some mayonnaise.  Here's where it gets interesting:  If you just eat the slice of bread on its own, it's not terribly appealing.  It's not like wheat bread where I could just eat it plain.  But add some fillings to it and it's not that different from wheat bread... the texture is more similar than you'd expect, albeit a bit denser, and that's really the important part.  The flavor of the fillings obscures the taste of the bread, anyway.

So on a similar note, "Paleo Bread" has a picture on its cover that I'm 99% sure is just wheat bread (not shocking: vegetarian recipe sites have been busted in the past for posting pictures of real meat instead of veggie substitutes just because real meat is more appealing).  As I go through the recipes in this book it'll be interesting to see if any of them come even close to the loaf on the cover.  My guess is that "no, it won't."

Sappy Self-Reflection Stories About The Fat Guy At The Hospital

There's an article going around on my Twitter that was published on the Washington Post and tells the story of a 600 pound man who went to the ER for pain and was subsequently shamed by hospital personnel, who repeatedly tried unloading him onto another hospital.  You can find it here, although I warn you it's heart-wrenching and eventually ends with a description of EMS responding to the patient's death.

It's one of those articles that I wish I could call a "good read" based on the fact that it draws so much attention to the abysmal way fat people are treated by the medical establishment.  Unfortunately it's ridiculously problematic and fatphobic.

1. Why is an article talking about compassion for fat people who look for medical care giving statistics about how dangerous obesity is and showing a stereotypical picture of a headless fat person?

It's typical practice nowadays for any article about fat people to be accompanied by a headless picture of a fat person, driving home the point that being fat is so shameful that nobody would reasonably show their face in a picture talking about it.  Years ago The Onion wrote an article about this phenomenon called "Camera Crew Discreetly Trails Overweight Woman For Obesity Segment" that encapsulates this process pretty well.  In the article, the picture is captioned with obesity health statistics... "According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and certain types of cancer."

"But Jack," you may be asking, "are you saying we shouldn't allow people to know facts?"

Here's the thing: Even if we were to accept without any question that being fat undeniably always causes health problems (it doesn't always, and overblowing the role of fat lulls unhealthy thin people into a false sense of security), this article isn't about the dangers of fat, it's about the disrespect fat people run into when they seek medical care.  People already know about the purported links between fat and health issues.  They are a huge contributor to the stereotypes fat people face.

Of course, there's a good chance the author didn't choose the graphic and the caption... but the article itself has its problems, too.

2.  The author is making a damn big deal out of things people stereotypically associate with fatness without much explanation about them.

Take this quote here:
"The patient is in his 40s. He spends his days on the sofa at home, surviving on disability checks related to his back pain." 
This image of the fat person as somebody who sits on their couch all day surviving on government aid (I'm surprised the author didn't bring up riding a scooter at WalMart) is a damaging stereotype.  Well, there are fat people who sit at home on the couch collecting government aid... but there's nothing about knowing that fact about somebody that truly suggests how they got in that position.  This guy is described as having debilitating back pain.  It's possible to get debilitating back pain because you are fat.  It's also possible to get fat because you have debilitating back pain.  You don't know what happened here.

Truthfully?  It shouldn't matter.  It was an irrelevant point that the author presumably threw in just to justify his initial disgust.

He then moves on to invasive descriptions of the man's body, describing him as a "mountain of flesh" and referring to his "panorama of skin."  We already know what a fat guy looks like without these descriptions.  They're added for titillation, and perhaps even justification ("Of COURSE I was having a hard time working with him!").

3.  The entire issue of accessibility is totally brushed off.

There's a section where the patient mentions the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This is how it's described:
"The Americans with Disabilities Act says that they should have the proper equipment to handle me, the same as they do for anyone else,” he says indignantly. “I’m entitled to that. I’ll probably have to sue to get the care I really need.”

I don’t quite know how to respond, so I say nothing.
I'm not sure why the author doesn't know how to respond, so whether he views this patient's statement as reasonable or unfair is unclear.  He takes great pains to describe the physical difficulty they have treating this patient, from X-rays not reaching far enough into his body to morphine dosing being unreliable, to paramedics not having the appropriate-sized gurney to transport him properly.

This isn't uncommon.  Abled thin people are the "default" average that is being used to develop medical advancements.

Accessibility of fat people is abysmally underemphasized in all aspects of life.  Yet despite the vivid descriptions of failing to properly give this man an X-ray, there isn't much else.  It focuses on the snide comments of hospital staff, instead.  It doesn't really say you shouldn't make snide remarks to fat people (I'll talk about that in section 4), but it's kind of implied.

This is absolutely an important issue, but focusing only on it gives license to focus all of one's efforts on feelings while ignoring these very real physical challenges.  Is it really enough of an improvement to say medical staff should be more compassionate when they tell fat people they won't fit in their equipment?  If one day I find I can't get a medically necessary X-ray because I just don't fit, will it really help me much if the technicians are nice about it?

4.  It turns the whole thing into a thin person's self-exploration journey... by assuming every fat stereotype under the sun is true.

The original title of this piece was something like "I confess: My patient's obesity made it hard for me to treat him."  There was also a little blurb afterward: "It wasn’t just the physical limitations. He made us feel bad about ourselves."

This has as far as I know been edited, but it's a pretty good indicator of the attitude of the person who wrote this.  It wasn't about the difficulty of a fat person getting medical care.  It was all about the author and some bullshit transformative experience he has had because of it.  He had the potential to shed light on some really important issues, and instead decided to write this:
"I know why my colleagues and I are so glad to have this patient out of the ER and stowed away upstairs: he’s an oversize mirror, reminding us of our own excesses. It’s easier to look away and joke at his expense than it is to peer into his eyes and see our own appetites staring back."
I want to think that why this statement is awful is self-evident, but the fact that so many people are sharing this article as an inspirational piece tells me that's not so.

This is basically a fat version of people insisting that homophobes are really afraid of being gay.  It's saying "The whole reason people are tormenting this man who has come to them in a time of need for help isn't because of pervasive stereotypes telling us he's lazy, oversensitive, or undeserving of care... it's because we're all 'mentally fat' and he reminds us of our own excess."  He's basically arguing that all the stereotypes of fat people are undeniably true, and that thin peoples' appalling behavior is veiled self-criticism in the face of a more-intense version of themselves.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason people are assholes to fat people is because they're assholes and not because they're forced to look inside themselves at their own flaws?  Because you know, there are plenty of thin people out there who are assholes to fat people who give me absolutely no indication that they see themselves in fat people.  Just the opposite:  They assume that since thinness came to them easy (whether by biology or whatever else) that anybody who has not attained their body shape is clearly lazy and enjoys "excess."

I wonder if this author has ever had a Facebook friend who was a runner or a bodybuilder or something like that who constantly posts pictures bidding the viewer to give an "excuse" for not running five miles a day or being heavily muscled such as they.  This is not people looking into a mirror and I have no idea how anybody could seriously come to that conclusion.

5.  There is no indication to me that the author actually talked to this man about the assumptions he was making about him.

When I was a personal caregiver writing things like "seems like" was code for "I think that this was the case, but my client is either nonverbal or I'm just flat out too embarrassed to ask."

Take this awful paragraph:
"The patient lies trapped in his own body, like a prisoner in an enormous, fleshy castle. And though he must feel wounded by the ER personnel’s remarks, he seems to find succor in knowing that there’s no comment so cutting that it can’t be soothed by the balm of 8,000 calories per day."
"Must feel" and "seems to" come off to me as "I didn't actually talk about either of these things with this guy, but I could see it in his eyes somehow."  If this had been a reasonable conclusion, like if he'd stopped at "he must feel wounded by the ER personnel's remarks," then I could give it a pass.  But the assumption of how many calories this man consumes daily (a more accurate calorie count at this guy's age and weight would be more like 6,000 just by a pure calories-in-calories-out standard, and plenty of factors could lead to him being able to maintain that weight with much less than that), why he eats (do we really know he is eating to soothe his emotions?), and so forth.  Considering the fact that he flat out states in the paragraph about the man's physical ailments that this was an actual conversation with him, I find it highly unlikely that these latter statements are his own imagination and not from any sort of interview.

In other words, this author is writing about these epiphanies he's having about this man's "plight," but he doesn't actually have a full concept of what that "plight" is outside of his own stereotypes of fatness.  He might very well be right on the dot... but we don't know that.

That said, the author is constructing a narrative--not around his patient, but around himself--based on his own assumptions and feelings and turning it into his own transformative experience.  This is a shame, too, because the experiences he is relaying could really have been made into a positive article if he'd dropped his own victim complex and focused on the needs of his patient, instead.  And that's what's so terrifying about this:  Knowing that this guy--who is now a family practitioner--has written something so detached from his patient's needs.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Troubleshooting Social Science Surveys, Part 2: So You Wanna Make A Gender-Inclusive Survey, Huh?

This is the second half of my bloggings about gender-inclusiveness on surveys, mostly directed toward grad student researchers but including really anybody who ever needs to have people insert a gender in a form (dating site and social network profiles, for instance).  In part one I talked about really considering why you feel the need to separate male and female trans folk out of your results for male and female people anyway.  There are some things I didn't really detail, though, including both what to do if your situation does require disclosure and how to express non-binary genders.  That's what this is about.

First, let's revisit the survey questions that inspired me to write this:

This was a grad student's research survey, and it's clearly written by somebody who is at the very least recognizing that trans folk and non-binary folk exist and will likely be filling out the survey.  The problem is that it's pretty inundated with issues.  "Transwoman" and "transman" are rendered as one word rather than two ("trans woman" or "trans man").  A trans man's identified gender will be "man," not "trans man," and a trans woman's identified gender will be "woman."  "Intersex*" is not typically assigned as a sex at birth.  And so forth.

I don't want to pick on this one survey as if it's the cause of all ills in the world.  The problem is that these surveys are regularly cissexist or otherwise problematic.  What follows are some common mistakes people make and how to correct them.

1. Using "transgender" as a stand-alone category.

The above survey didn't do this.  As problematic as it was, I actually applaud it for that because it's one of the most common ways people try to be inclusive of transgender people.  They come up with a survey question that goes something like this:
  • What is your gender?
    • Male
    • Female
    • Transgender
This is actually really, deeply insulting to me and it's one of the shittiest ways you can try being inclusive.  Here's why:
  1. It strips trans men of maleness and trans women of femaleness.
  2. It lumps all trans people into the same gender category despite us being just as different as cis men are from cis women.
The first point is the most obviously insulting part.  "Transgender" isn't my gender.  "Male" is.  And yet when I see this on a survey, I know that the author expects for me to lump myself in with the other trans people and be happy to be included.  I would legitimately rather you not attempt to be inclusive than try making do with this M/F/T way of doing things.

The second point is especially problematic.  Trans women and trans men are in many ways as different as cis women and cis men.  Historical trans male invisibility has made it that when somebody identifies as "transgender," a lot of cis people will assume "trans woman," and I really worry about how many of these studies assume that trans respondents are female.  It's also important to recognize that trans men and trans women receive very different treatment and have very different histories.  In many cases it'll just make more sense to categorize trans men with other men and trans women with other women.

Oh, while I'm on this, I'd like to mention that this is particularly frustrating on dating websites.  I don't even bother using sites that use this format, because practically nobody browses the "transgender" section of a dating site looking for a trans guy.  The worst offender I saw, though, had these categories:
  • Man
  • Woman
  • Couple (M/F)
  • Couple (M/M)
  • Couple (F/F)
Not only are all trans folk--including crossdressers--lumped into one category, there are no trans options in the "couple" categories.  Because presumably we'll all die alone?

2. Using the concept of "gender identity" (or "gender you identify as/with") improperly.

One of my favorite "stare at computer screen, stunned" moments was when somebody posted a survey in a Facebook group that specifically called for "female-identified participants."  After it had been posted for over a week, a trans woman--not rare in this group--asked if the survey was open to trans women or if she was just looking for cis women.  As it turned out, this person was only looking for cis respondents.

This should never have happened, because the use of the term "identified" is specifically meant to be an inclusive term.  For trans people who are aware of the lingo, "female-identified" or "male-identified" are big, neon signs telling us that we're supposed to be included.  So if you're not willing to include trans folk, don't use "identity" to describe it.

The same issue is less prevalent in my original survey example.  The problem this survey author had was that they created an entire field dedicated to the gender a person identifies as and still separated "trans woman" from "woman" (and "trans man" from "man").    "Trans woman" is  not a gender identity.  Trans women identify as women.

There are two overlying options, here.  Option one is to ask two questions, one about gender identity and the other about assigned sex, like this one does.  When you do this you will have no reason to specify "transgender" at all.  For instance:
  • What sex were you assigned at birth?
    • Female
    • Male
    • Other (Specify)
  • What gender do you identify as?
    • Female
    • Male
    • Other (Specify)
This is a good option if you're only dealing with men and women, and it solves quite a few of the problems that I'll go over below, as well.  It does not specifically mention any non-binary gender identities.  I'll talk about that, later.

Option two is to only ask one question and include both gender identity and assigned sex in one answer.  Which actually brings me to this next problem people have...

3. Requiring trans people to mark themselves without requiring the same of cis people.

One of the most common mistakes people make when creating surveys--and especially when creating social network/dating profile questions--is to separate people into four categories:
  • Male
  • Female
  • Trans Male/FTM
  • Trans Female/MTF
This is less frustrating than lumping all trans folk together, but there are still problems.  In addition to ignoring non-binary people, it marks trans folk while allowing cis folk to be unmarked.  This separates "trans men" from "men" and "trans women" from "women" just as having a standalone "transgender" category does.  It just separates that category slightly better.

A more equitable option would be something like this:
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Female
  • Trans Male/FTM
  • Trans Female/MTF
(Note: The reason I include "FTM" and "MTF" here as well as "trans male" and "trans female" is because it makes it slightly less likely that a newer or inexperienced trans person will pick the wrong one.  Writing the whole thing out--"female to male" or "male to female"--might help even more.  You'd be surprised how many trans women think they are supposed to call themselves "transgender males" and vice versa.)

 "But people won't understand cis!" you may be saying.  Listen, people are only going to be confused as long as people refuse to actually use the word regularly.  Be the movement.  There is, after all, a marvelous invention called the "footnote."  Or you can put it in parentheses (parentheses exist now!).

But if you're certain this is going to taint your results, you could always do this slightly-less-appealing but more-readily-understood version:
  • Male (Non-Transgender)
  • Female (Non-Transgender)
  • Male (Transgender, FTM)
  • Female (Transgender, MTF)
4a. Treating "male/female," "transgender," and  "intersex" as mutually exclusive.

I don't want to speak too much on intersex folk here because as I am not intersex I don't have the authority of lived experience to go by.  However, it's important to recognize that being trans or intersex does not disqualify one from being a man or a woman... nor does being trans disqualify one from being intersex, nor vice versa.

Example?  A friend of mine is an intersex trans man.  He has an intersex condition, but was assigned and raised female.  When he was older he transitioned female-to-male.  His gender identity is male.  He was assigned female.  He is also intersex.  So just as "transgender" should never be used as a standalone gender category, neither should "intersex."

A lot of this has to do with peoples' confusion about what "assigned sex" means.  Hence...

4b. Treating "transgender" and especially "intersex" as assigned sexes.

The above example treats "intersex" like it's an assigned sex... but it really isn't.

There are very, very few cases in which somebody will be assigned anything other than "female" or "male" at birth.  A tiny minority of parents are attempting to raise their child gender-free, but this is independent of any intersex conditions those children may or may not have.  Intersex people are typically assigned male or female depending on convenience, preference of the parents/doctor, or closest outward appearance... even if no medical intervention is sought.  People often think of "biological sex" as being a rigid, easily-classifiable and quantifiable set of characteristics, but really it's as much a social construct as gender is (See: "Sex Is Not Between Your Legs").

It's rare, but occasionally I see this same thing applied to "transgender."  Have you ever really seen somebody "assigned as transgender" at birth?  Cultures where parents might raise a child in a gender we wouldn't associate with their appearance exist, but they typically don't use the word "transgender" to describe this.  A child who is raised outside of male and female is being raised as non-binary or gender-neutral... not "transgender."

That said, if you wanted all this information you could set it up in the same way you would set up later questions that don't relate to gender.  For instance:
  • What was your assigned sex at birth?
    • Male/AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth)
    • Female/AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth)
    • Other (Explain)
  • Do you identify as transgender?
    • Yes  (Explain)
    • No
  • Do you identify as intersex?
    • Yes (Explain)
    • No
The "explain" field is there because people have different reasons for identifying with all these terms.  Not every AFAB person who identifies as transgender is a trans man.  An intersex person might want to mention a specific intersex condition.  And so forth.

5. Using gender as a write-in with no standard options to try including non-binary folk.

If you're getting confused and freaked out, it might be tempting to just put gender as a write-in and do the categorizing later at your own leisure.  This might be fine if you have a small number of respondents and time to do this all manually (...or assistants), but there are some problems you might come across if you do.

First, realize that people are prone to use fields like this somewhat sarcastically.  Write-ins at a forum I used to frequent--not one for trans folk--included a lot of cis people identifying themselves as "dude," "guy," "penis-owner," "chick," and other things that they assume people will understand but which are baggage-heavy or cissexist ("penis-owner" doesn't say anything about your gender, after all).  If you are trying to get people to identify themselves as trans if they are, this isn't going to do it:  I know that I, personally, almost never put "trans man" in a write-in asking for gender.  I put "male."  The point here is that this method is likely going to be more trouble than it's worth.

However, write-ins are probably the most useful way of getting accurate identifications from non-binary-gendered folks... if you use them in combination with other options.

What I mean is the fabled "other" category.  It's great... if you choose not to use it just as an afterthought.  What I mean is that there should be an indication through your other options that you're putting it there in all seriousness and not just to avoid hearing people complain afterwards.  To use an example:
  • Male
  • Female
  • Genderqueer
  • Gender Neutral/Neutrois
  • Unsure
  • Other __________
This particular one would be for people who either don't require disclosure of trans status or have a supplementary question asking about it, but again a lot of trans folk who are accustomed to people insisting we disclose at every turn might stick "trans woman" or "trans man" in the "other" category (which, of course, you would then categorize with "female" and "male" respectively, right?).

A more comprehensive example:
  • What was your assigned sex at birth?
    • Female
    • Male
    • Other ___________
  • What is your current gender identity?
    • Woman
    • Man
    • Bigender
    • Genderqueer
    • Gender Neutral/Neutrois
    • Unsure
    • Other ____________
  • Do you identify as intersex?
    • Yes (Explain)
    • No
A quick note:  The non-binary gender options I have put here (genderqueer, gender neutral/neutrois, and bigender) are there because in my experience they are the most common gender identities aside from "male" and "female."  If you are aware that there are other common options among the people you are surveying, you should use those instead (for instance, there are gender categories that are tied to a particular country, culture, subculture, or religion... like hijra, travesti, sworn virgin, two-spirit, and so forth).

6. Assuming everybody is sure of their gender.

I already included this in point #5, but it's worth its own point.  Just as sexual orientation is often described as "questioning" or "unknown," there are plenty of people out there who are not certain about their gender identity yet.

7. Using sarcastiquotes--or "scare quotes"--to describe peoples' identities, names, and parts.

This one is not really about surveys themselves, but about the things you write after the surveys.  It is, however, directly related to a survey I took once, and it's also relevant on the day I write this as there's shit going down about a person's putting the word "genderqueer" in quotes.

The very first survey I ever filled out that was specifically about gender identity and expression was one in which somebody was trying to figure out the most sensitive ways to refer to trans people.  One question in particular was about what is and isn't appropriate to put in quotation marks when referring to a trans person (it was a long time ago and I am paraphrasing):
  • Which of the following sentences do you feel is most correct?
    • "Mary," a trans woman, was pleased with her new vagina.
    • Mary, a trans "woman," was pleased with her new vagina.
    • Mary, a trans woman, was pleased with "her" new vagina. 
    • Mary, a trans woman, was pleased with her new "vagina."
The correct answer here is "none of them, and what the hell is wrong with you that you even felt the need to ask this question?"

There are, of course, times when putting an identity in quotation marks will be acceptable.  In fact, I put the word "genderqueer" in quotes earlier on in this section.  Basically all of these instances are those in which you are talking about the word and not the identity, in other words you are specifying or defining.  A good rule of thumb is if you can put "the word" in front of it (or some variation on that, like "called" or "known as"), then quotes are acceptable.  For example:
  • A person who was assigned male at birth but who has a female gender identity is known as a "trans woman."
  • After he came out as a trans man, he took the name "George" after his late father.
This is a distinction that will require practice before it becomes intuitive.  If you're confused, it's best to try writing in such a way that quotes won't be needed.  It's better to use no quotation marks somewhere it would be appropriate to use them than to put quotation marks on something that doesn't need it.  But before I finish this section, I'd like to explain a bit why using quotation marks to describe trans identities and body parts is so insensitive.  It has to do with a phenomenon called "scare quotes," although I prefer "sarcastiquotes."  This means that when you use quotation marks around a person's identity, name, body, pronoun, or so forth it comes off as saying "This person calls themself/their body that, but we all know the truth, right?  Wink wink nudge nudge..."

So for instance, when you're talking about a trans person's gender confirmation surgery and decide to put quotation marks around "penis" or "vagina," you're denying the validity and realness of that person's body as they experience it.  When you put quotes around a name, a gender identity, or a pronoun, you're denying the realness of their identity.  Keep in mind that this is something that cis people rarely need to worry about.  A cis celebrity can change their name on a whim and still not have the media constantly put their new names in quotation marks.  A cis man who loses his penis stepping on a landmine and has it reconstructed in the exact same way a trans man would have gender confirmation surgery isn't usually going to have people putting "penis" in quotation marks.  So just don't do it.

This is extra-specially important when you're talking about non-binary identities.  Unless you are in the process of defining that identity (for instance: "According to Wikipedia, "genderqueer" is..."), avoid them.  Even other trans people and allies are relatively likely to use sarcastiquotes around non-binary identities as a way of calling their validity into question.  This is inappropriate and something to avoid engaging in.

The conclusion, ending notes, additions and corrections...

Creating reasonably inclusive surveys can feel daunting, and unfortunately due to ever-evolving attitudes and regional differences it'll probably never actually be easy.  It is, however, worthwhile to make a concerted effort in doing so when you are doing research that affects gender-diverse communities (which, by the way, is all communities).  Maybe you'll be able to use one of my suggestions as-is... there's always a possibility it won't work for you, in which case you can of course merely use this list as inspiration or guidelines.

A final note:  When I started writing this, I tried asking people to give input, especially regarding the issue of non-binary gender... and I got very little response.  I'll be editing this document in such case that I've made a mistake or somebody brings up something I didn't think of.  If you want to print this document and distribute it--and you are welcome to do so--please keep all timestamps and the web address intact so that people who read it have the opportunity to view corrections and updates.  Thank you!

** Original document finished February 22, 2014 **    
** Edited March 16, 2014 to add section on quotation marks ** 

* - I should mention here that I have heard tell that "intersex" is beginning to fall out of favor.  It is still the predominating usage as far as I am aware, which is why I use it in this piece.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Slow-Cooker Maple Balsamic Beef Ribs

Confession:  I'm in a rut lately.  I have a lot of things committed to titles in my blog drafts, meaning there's a lot of stuff I want to write about.  I have time to write about it... but I don't have the energy to.  Lately I re-committed to self-care so hopefully that'll change soon.

I don't have anything angry or motivationally radical for you today.  I have ribs, instead.  Delicious ribs.

The reason I made these ribs is because regular beef ribs are reasonably inexpensive.  That makes sense because there isn't a lot of meat on them in comparison to most pork ribs you'd get.  I have a feeling this recipe would work for pork ribs, too.  Did I mention I have no idea how to write recipes?  You probably figured that out when I posted my blue corn waffles (the ones that have ever since then driven traffic to my site from people looking for pictures of horrible diseases).  Anyway...

Slow-Cooker Maple Balsamic Beef Ribs

Take the ribs, whether pork or beef or lamb or whatever, thaw them if they're frozen, and use a kitchen shears to separate them from each other.  How you separate them is a matter of personal taste.  I separated them into weird rib sticks that incidentally wound up with bone handles that made me look kind of caveman-ish eating them.  Cutting them into two or just enough to fit them in your slow cooker is also an option.  Put them in the slow cooker pan.

Start making the sauce.  The recipe I was inspired by was heavy on the balsamic and used beef broth... I didn't have any beef broth, and I wanted something more like barbecue sauce.  I started with 1/4 cup each of balsamic vinegar and water.  Chop a small onion and a few cloves of garlic (I used three) and add that.  Put maple syrup in it to taste (around 1/4 cup of that sounds about right if you have no clue).  Then add tomato paste until you get to the consistency of runny barbecue sauce.

Pour over the ribs in the slow cooker.  Salt them.  Turn the slow cooker on high and let it run until the meat starts falling off the bones.  Eat.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Imbolc, Lamb Chops, 30-Second Cheesecake

Imbolc came and went.  I didn't really do much of anything for it except make a Brigid's Cross out of cornstalks I was growing in the backyard.  Proof:
Brigid's Cross
 I didn't have much time at all to make a formal meal due to job interviews and other things, so I made what I call a "30-second cheesecake."  It's just a few ingredients mixed together: Cream cheese, butter, and granulated sugar.  It's more like cheese you'd find in a doughnut than actual cheesecake.  But whatever.  I spread a layer of it on the bottom of a bowl and then covered it with some tastefully patterned berries:

30-Second Cheesecake

This next bit wasn't from Imbolc.  It was from today.  But I know a lot of people eat lamb for Imbolc, so I guess it makes sense that I would put my lamb photo here along with how I made it:

Lamb Loin Chops with an Herbed Orange Sauce

Marinated the chops in the juice of two oranges with fresh mint, rosemary, garlic, and sage for a couple hours.  I took the loins out to put them in a frying pan with some lard to sear them.  While I was doing this I put the herbs and orange juice in a small saucepan to reduce it (I added the juice of three Mandarin oranges just because it didn’t look like enough).  When the chops were seared I put them on a grill pan at about 325 Fahrenheit for ten minutes and continued to watch the orange sauce.  Strained the sauce when it was a little thicker.  Plated.  Added sauce.  Put some salt on it.  Was pretty good.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Initial MBLGTACC Run-Down

So I'm back from MBGLTACC 2014 in Kansas City (Did I mention that before?  Well, I went to MBLGTACC 2014 in Kansas City.).  I have a lot of stuff I want to write about.  Will I actually get to all of it?  Probably not.  Didn't last year, either.  But I would like to start out with a quick run-down of what I hope will come in the next few days or weeks.

My MBLGTACC delegation, being from a trade school, was on the older side.  Our youngest attendee was 22 and our oldest 62.   Most of my experiences from this year--just like last year--were about bonding with my classmates.  The reason for that is that most (but not all) of them are either allies or have had a very limited understanding of queer and LGBT issues.  I won't be talking about most of these experiences because they're mostly personal.

I didn't get to most of the keynotes due to an illness I picked up in Iowa (I like to think that's what happened) and the fact that the ride was exceptionally long.  In fact the only keynote I went to was Janet Mock:
Photographic proof that I both saw Janet Mock and looked
terribly awesome doing it.
So anyway, a little run-down of the workshops I went to and what I expect to selectively write about them.

1. Polyamory Workshops
I went to two of these.  One was actually a forum (kind of like an identity caucus) rather than a workshop.  I went there hoping to talk with more experienced people but most of the discussions in my sub-group sprang from 101 questions from curious individuals (I already wrote about this last year when I criticized having non-closed identity caucuses).  It wasn't terrible but I didn't get much out of it.  The second was a more advanced workshop that was more like what I expected from the first one.  Met some cool people there.  The facilitator had a brilliant plan to weed out people casually-interested-in-polyamory without totally excluding them, which was to send them all to a different presenter in the back of the room.

2. LGBT Rape Culture
I liked this workshop but I don't know what I can really write about it at this point that I haven't already written

3.Queer Identity Forum
Alright, I don't necessarily want to get all up-in-the-face of the other people who attended this forum, but what ran through my head immediately was the phrase "immature radicals."  When I say that I don't mean the same things people typically mean when they use  "immature" and "radical" in the same sentence.  I don't mean that they were "too" radical, and it wasn't their tone or personal beliefs.  It was that there was an appalling lack of understanding of history and a very self-contradicting set of expectations for what "queer" means.  "Queer is an umbrella term for everyone!" but also "Queer specifically means the radical undercurrent!"  People used the word "inherently" a lot in ways that are flatly inaccurate, like "queer is inherently anti-authoritarian!"  There was a lot of potential there but... well... I'll probably write a lot about that one later.

4. Advanced Trans
I got next to nothing out of this.  To be fair, I've been at this longer than a lot of people there, so for most of them it would have been advanced.  The presenter talked about hierarchies among trans people and seemed confused when somebody brought up transmisogyny in the form of trans men being given more consideration than trans women.

5. Queer Self-Care
The person who had prepared this workshop didn't show up, so it was taken over by the guy who runs Boxers and Binders (he did a damn good job, too).   We talked about the difference between self-care and destructive coping mechanisms.  I am kind of iffy about this (because I'm a big fan of harm reduction as a philosophy and destructive coping mechanisms are still coping mechanisms).  Personally my self-care Bible is Kate Bornstein's "Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide."  I might write about some of the reasons people are so averse to self-care because that was a pretty good discussion.

On an aside, I left this last workshop very quickly due to somebody's use of the word "carnist" during a rant about some vegan thing he wrote on Tumblr.  I try to avoid criticizing veganism as a lifestyle on this blog (because I don't give a flying fuck if you're a vegan) but I'll probably write about what my big issue is with how veganism is promoted in radical spaces, because it's more hurtful and oppressive than I think people recognize.

Anyway, it's getting late and I should probably sleep more to help mitigate the sick.