Of all the community benefit cookbooks out there, collections of recipes compiled by particular groups to raise money and awareness for one cause or another, Doomed Rabbit: Recipes from the Kitchens of Leather Folk and Friends, edited by Aubrey Hart Sparks (1994) is one of my favorites. Long out of print, it was given to me by a friend whose partner has a recipe in the cookbook when he found about my interest in both cooking and the history of sexuality.
The cookbook is now a bit dated, featuring several recipes with canned soups and pineapple, but what hasn’t changed is its call to arms. It was originally published in Seattle as a fundraiser for gay and lesbian civil rights advocates, and there’s no better time than today, November 3, the day before the most important election of our time, to think about how civil rights issues for one group affect all of us.
There are some funny recipes, like the one for Irish pizza written by Dan Savage (hint: you need money and a finger to dial the phone), and there are regional and ethnic specialties from Mexico and New Orleans. And you probably wouldn’t find recipes in any other community cookbook section for Vitamin E lube, leather conditioner, “herbal mixture for increasing sexual intensity” and yuletide potpourri. Hilary Clinton’s infamous chocolate chip cookie recipe is there, as are recipes called “On Your Knees Chutney” and the eponymous “Doomed Rabbit” (a rabbit stew) and “No Apologies Meatloaf” and “Durk’s Notoriously Lemon Chicken,” apparently erotic illustrator Tom of Finland’s favorite meal.
But when I read Doomed Rabbit, I see recipes prepared with love for family and friends. One recipe is for cookies put in a lover’s lunch box, and another is sweet-n-sour ribs dedicated to the only straight friend who supported the author after he came out. The one I’ve pictured is of an apple cake served to the author by his first BDSM lover their first morning together. There are several recipes memorializing friends who have died of AIDS, and several more devoted to soft, gentle foods for sick loved ones on restricted diets. Others thank parents, remember good times in childhood, or associate the recipe with a lost love or passionate night. Many of these recipes are effects of being gay in an intolerant society, and how a particular sexual orientation shapes one’s life as a citizen, family member, friend, and lover.
When I read these recipes, I can’t help but think of the time and effort it takes to fight discrimination, time and effort that could be used to love and live better. This cookbook is 15 years old, and awareness of the need for equal rights for gays and lesbians has improved in most areas in America. Gay marriage is one of those areas — some states recognize marriage between same-sex couples, and I hope that many more will soon.
As a heterosexual married person, I know that marriage isn’t just about legal access, it’s about society recognizing our longstanding partnership in language that everyone understands in our social tradition in America. As silly as it sounds to me, my relationship was somehow validated when we stuck a ring on my finger. I became a part of “traditional” society. I was congratulated as if I had won a marathon or the lottery, and by virtue of my changed name, I can act on behalf of my husband in all kinds of ways that I can’t act for anyone else, just because I can say “my husband.”
Think about it. In your daily life, how can you act and advocate for your spouse that you never could for your boyfriend/girlfriend? And why would you deny that to anyone else?
I’m no longer registered to vote in California, but if I were, you can bet I’d be voting no on Prop 8, which seeks to eliminate the hard-won right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. I’m of the camp that thinks marriage shouldn’t have the power it does, but it does, and as long as it does, I strongly support extending the right to all couples. I say anyone who loves and cares for someone should be entitled to equal legal rights and the less quantifiable social privileges that marriage entails.
I am absolutely amazed by Americans who love marriage so much — the ones who claim their wedding was the best day of their lives, that their husbands make them whole, that they live happily married lives based on their wedding vows — and claim an exclusive right to those pleasures. I think: no one’s trying to take away *your* marriage. You’re welcome to continue celebrating your union and the union of your heterosexual friends in any religious or civil way you’d like. But remember: marriage may have been founded in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but it’s not a religious institution. Atheists like me and godless heathens and those of us resentful of the Christian appropriation of marriage, as long as they are of opposing genders, can get married. Marriage is not yours; it is ours. Why not open up your romantic heart just a bit and let others who love the idea of marriage celebrate and value it, too?
I should note, as well, that I’m angered at the continuing fight against gay marriage, and the waste of money and effort it has engendered within gay communities. These ideological battles divide communities, families and friends by arguing for exclusive rights for one type of person, and I’d much rather see the money and effort put into projects that create scholarships and projects that seek to strengthen our unity as diverse Americans, not to divide it.
So, in support of the fight against Prop 8, I will give you a still (sadly) appropriate recipe from Doomed Rabbit by K. T. Chase, and dedicate it to everyone who’s out there campaigning against intolerance.
Recipe for Surviving the Bigots
Take time to eat, sleep, get some R&R, and above all, Love. Don’t get so caught up in the infighting and status-climbing which typically accompany this kind of campaign that you lose focus of your primary purpose: to defeat bigotry at the polls. Come out of a campaign like this alive and emotionally intact, and you’ve won half the battle! And above all, remember to Give ‘Em Hell, Baby, ’cause Heaven’s too good for the likes of them!
I would urge all Californians to vote against Prop 8, and everyone else to vote for choices that support tolerance, education, and big sea-changes in the White House. Good luck tomorrow, and don’t forget to vote!