Ninety-Nine Things We Like - Part Four - Local Business Edition

We're back and we want to use our last thirty-three favorite things to shout out to some of our favorite local businesses in Chicago. They run the gambit from art to chiropractic to pet supplies. If we need to do something in Chicago (not food this time!) these are the people we typically support.

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A New Direction for Sustainably Queer

Hello Dedicated SQ Readers! Thank you for your patience in the past months as Rachel has been joyfully toiling through her program in Urban Agriculture and Kristl has been setting up her own fabulous acupuncture storefront in Edgewater. Due to this "construction" period, the writing here on SQ has been a little light. You have learned a lot about us, for sure, but there has not been a lot of meat to our posts.

Kristl and Rachel in Florance

Hopefully, as we are swinging into the holiday season and beyond we will be able to change that up for you a little bit. We are looking into a much needed facelift for the blog (because to be honest, we haven't really spent any time on this at all), as well as a few focus topics that are near and dear to our hearts. We will be giving you more cooking posts (because who doesn't love a good cooking post!?) and more posts about green living opportunities and events happening around the city of Chicago. We hope to also have interviews with movers and shakers in the queer, sustainable, and sustainably queer community that you should know (oooooh interviews!). It's going to be cool and hopefully it will be something you will want to share with your friends.

We will, however, be saying adios to our popular feature Nine on the Ninth, love it though you may (insert sad sounds here). We have done ten of those features, and we don't really want to have too much of a good thing. However, as a means of saying goodbye, we will be putting out an homage to Nine on the Ninth (and Oprah) and deliver to you with plenty of time for the holidays a list of Ninety-Nine Things We Like, which are sustainable or queer or, hey, sustainably queer which may also help fill out your shopping list a little bit, or just make your life a little bit easier. So, keep an eye out for that soon. It'll be in digestible chunks, don't worry!

Other than that, Rachel will be writing (unrelated but also awesome) some posts for the Advocates for Urban Agriculture's blog.  AUA is the main organization that works for the rights of farmers, growers, and locally sourced products in Chicago.  It's exciting for her to start to work with these fine folks and do the hard work of making sure that the public at large will make sure they are heard.  We will probably link to Rachel's AUA posts on our Facebook page, for your perusal.  (You may not think that you care about Chicago's weeding ordinance, but if you have a single family home, you very well may, or if you care about the welfare of small farms in the city, their ability to keep up with simple perimeter weeding may impact their ability to stay open or avoid heavy fines.)

That about does it for the planned changes around here. If there's anything specific you'd like us to write about, please let us know. We're definitely open to suggestions!

National Coming Out Day: Our Coming Out Stories


In honor of National Coming Out Day, we have decided to share condensed versions of our coming out processes with you.  Please enjoy!

Rachel: I started to come out to myself and my friends in the last year of college/first year of graduate school.  I definitely fell in love with a girl about the minute I hit puberty, but I didn't really understand that my feelings for her were more than "really wanting to be her best friend." I had many of these friendships that tore up my heart in a number of gruesome ways, until I started to realize that this condition was not going to disappear one morning and I would suddenly desire all things male.

Growing up in a very conservative (as I was growing up, I didn't feel particularly conservative, now I realize just how right of center I was) household, I was encouraged to avoid any form of sexual conduct, so it never occurred to either of my parents that I might be following their rules by pining after my female friends.  As I began the process of accepting myself, the looming specter of coming out to my parents and getting them to understand the process I've been through became more menacing.  I finally began to transform that amorphous fear into a reality I could face when Kristl and I became serious.  The fact that I was hiding a major part of my life from my parents was wearing on me, and I am terrible at lying, so it become nearly impossible for me to cover up the intimate relationship between us.

I came out to my parents just over a year ago, and the conversation definitely changed the way we relate.  Now, every conversation has a barely concealed layer of tension, which occasionally surfaces in the form of my mother impatiently explaining scripture to me, and asking me what I am telling God. So, as far as being a candidate for the "It Gets Better" campaign, my application would be fairly incomplete.  My parents have not had any impressive breakthroughs or a-ha moments, but I am holding out hope for them. I do have supportive extended family members, and as you'll read below, Kristl's mom is more than willing to bring on a "second daughter."

Coming out was hugely important to my personal development.  I have nothing to hide from my parents or anyone else. It lifted a weight off my shoulders, and gave me the courage to move forward with marriage to my life partner and my best friend.

When I was in the third grade...I had a mullet and wore muscle tees.
When I was in the third grade...I had a mullet and wore muscle tees.

Kristl: Well, my coming out story is a little (a lot) different from Rachel's. I grew up in a liberal, rather non-religious family. I pretty much always knew I was interested in women, but didn't feel the need to "come out" unless I was actually in a serious relationship. That didn't happen until I was 27. A friend of a friend pursued me and I went with it. While it wasn't perfect by any stretch, I felt a much deeper connection than I'd felt with the few men that I'd dated. She was the first woman I dated and within a month or so, I felt compelled to officially come out to my mom. I was super nervous, even though my mom is incredibly progressive and open-minded. I called her on the phone and it went something like this:

Me, crying because I'm so nervous: "Mom, I'm dating someone and it's a woman."

Her, unable to understand me through the tears: "You're dating someone and you love him?"

Me: "No, it's a woman!"

Her: "Oh, that's okay, honey! You know, you don't need a man to have a family. Also, your sister and I were just talking about how we thought you might be gay."

Later that night, I spoke with my sister and told her what our mom had said, to which she responded, "Nope. We definitely never had that conversation. We definitely have not ever talked about your possible sexual preferences." Whatever happened, they are both totally on-board and could not be happier for me.

(Funny side-story: When my mom met Rachel for the first time, she liked her immediately and told her that she was like a second daughter to her. Um, what about my sister, your actual second daughter?!)

We're here and we're super queer.
We're here and we're super queer.

Rachel and I come from very different backgrounds and have had vastly different coming out experiences. We want to support everyone in their coming out processes and recognize that some people are unable to come out at all. We don't know how far-reaching this blog post will be, but if you're struggling with coming out and/or need someone to talk to, please feel free to email us at sustainablyqueer at gmail dot com.

What Makes Sustainability Queer

I think for many of our readers the use of the word "queer" in our site name and our handles on various social media venues goes without saying.  We're two seemingly female-bodied people in a romantic relationship; that is queer by most definitions of the word.  You can find dozens of definitions of the word queer, but for the sake of this discussion, I am thinking of the word in a wider understanding than in regards to gender or sexual politics.  Queer, as a pejorative or reclaimed term for an individual, indicates that one is not aligned with what society expects. A queer is at odds with the dominant culture.  David Halperin, in his book Saint Foucault, explains queer as "whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant."  Halperin is onto a definition of queer that has a wider scope than one about only sexuality and/or gender.

First though, for the sake of an example, being in a lesbian relationship makes us queer, because the majority of people in the culture are not lesbians or in lesbian relationships. We both identify as queer and choose queer as a blanket term because there are connotations with the word "lesbian" which do not correctly define our sexual and gender identities. Choosing to be queer rather than a certain label is a means of freedom of expression. No matter what you choose to do in life, folks will try to squish you into a box that already exists. To claim queerness is to defy boxes. Queerness says, I'm not really like most of you, and I am not required to explain or defend who I am.

How does this jive with sustainability? We see it fitting perfectly. If someone queer is "at odds with" the normal and the dominant, then doing so much as recycling could make you queer. The status quo for how to live in the United States is to consume as much as you can, as quickly as you can, with no regard to how your consumption is affecting anyone or anything else. It is normal to throw away anything you do not need; it is normal to take any and all prescription drugs without question; it is normal to be out of touch with nature and with your body; it is normal to base a person's worth on "what they do"; it is normal to unquestioningly do what a small collection of multinational companies tell us to do. Educated or not, it is so easy to fall into these patterns laid out in our society.

It is VERY queer to challenge these assumptions about how we should live. It is queer to live in contrast to the status quo. It is queer to recycle, to keep composting worms in the house, to spend hours a week in a kitchen garden, to try to eat no GMO and no conventionally grown vegetables (even there you can see the divide, when you choose vegetables, you choose between "conventional" and "organic", as if the inorganic practices by giant farms are "the way it's always been"). It is queer to try to replace factory produced chemical cleaning products with homemade alternatives. Is it queer to want to know what is in my food? Is it queer to want to have a waste-free existence? Is it queer to choose your clothing and household items based on where they were made and how humanely they were produced? Of course it is.

The list could go on. I think queerness begets queerness.  If I weren't gay, I may not be as inclined to go against the grain in other parts of my life. When you are born outside of the norm, it's easier to step back and look at all parts of your life. We are here to give you tools to make your lifestyle more queer, but we are also here as an indication that you can (and should) choose to be more queer. You can be as queer as you want to be. Personally, I feel all human beings are queer, they just don't know it yet. For now, though, we're focused on transforming the consumerist, disposable culture into something really queer. Kristl and I will do our best to keep you informed and to tell you about all our various queer activities so you can tag along.

This is the first time I've put my theory of queer sustainability to paper, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. I wouldn't call it fully-formed, but it is certainly a start. And those of you who have actually studied queer theory may have more insight and nuance when it comes to my interpretation. We're all in this together. We'll look forward to any comments, and thank you for reading!