02/07/2011- by Natasia Langfelder
You have probably seen Jane Velez-Mitchell on CNN Headline News, hosting her popular show, “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.” You might have also seen her on Nancy Grace or read one of her bestselling books. If you have, you know that Ms. Velez-Mitchell is a strong, outspoken woman who isn’t afraid of having an opinion and sharing it.
In her newest offering, “Addict Nation: An Intervention for America,” Velez-Mitchell implores Americans to identify their addictions, legal or not and overcome them. Velez-Mitchell wants to wake readers up and make them think. Her book asks tough questions and makes readers face the impact each of their decisions make on their lives and the world in general. From fast food addiction to overpopulation, Velez-Mitchell wants you to be aware of the choices you are making and how they affect the world around you.
Also, she’s a lesbian and she is calling on the LGBT community to be a leader in the change that needs to happen in order to keep our planet healthy. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to the busy author and you, lucky LGR reader, get the play by play. Is gay the new green? Will you go vegan for Jane? (Spoiler Alert: I AM) Read more to find out!
LGR: Your fans know that you hyphenated your name to represent both sides of your heritage; can I ask you what your mindset was at the time and how you think that decision has impacted the perception of you by your audience?
Jane Velez-Mitchell: Well I was in therapy and I had not gotten sober yet and ultimately I did go on to get sober, thank god! But I was trying to figure out who I was. I wouldn’t recommend that people go into therapy to get sober; you go into a 12 step program to get sober. In the interim while therapy didn’t help me get sober, it did help my maturity level…I did end up discussing other issues… and that was very helpful.
But the real miracle happened when I got sober. I tell anyone who tries to get sober to go to a 12 step program but nevertheless I got into therapy. I felt that my name, Jane Mitchell, didn’t really represent who I was. I was always kind of explaining myself, explaining my background and I got really sick of it. And people would say “oh you look very exotic, what’s your background?” People were very curious and I was always explaining myself. During the course of all this I realized that the name Jane Mitchell didn’t really fit me, [it was] making me feel inauthentic. I was telling my therapist, and I said my mother is one of the original hyphens…she married my father and became Velez-Mitchell. And my therapist said you could do the same thing, you could be Jane Velez-Mitchell and I said, “You know I like the sound of that.” So, I added my mother’s name and immediately felt a psychic shift to the right. Like “This feels better, now I am representing myself to the world, this represents my background.” I never regretted the decision I thought it was great and it’s been all good.
…by the way that was many many years ago! That happened in the mid-80s!
LGR: You have an interesting coming out story, you had a boyfriend, you met a woman and left your boyfriend. What was the process like for you and after you came out, how did you label?
JVM: It was a humdinger rollercoaster ride for sure. Basically what happened was I got sober. When I was 39 I got sober and very soon after I got sober I realized I had been drinking down a lot of things. And one of the things I had been drinking down, I kind of knew subconsciously but I never really confronted it, I was drinking down my sexual orientation.
After recovery I went back to anther psychiatrist and after talking around it I said to him finally, “I think I’m gay.” and I think he had figured it out before. He said “it’s very good that you are being honest about it.” After that I didn’t do anything about it, I talked to my boyfriend about it. He’s a great guy we are very good friends… He was also very intuitive of that and felt there was something there. I was grappling with it and then I met a woman at a charity event and I did fall in love and eventually I left my boyfriend and we moved in together and we are no longer together. We are very good friends and she is the co-author of my book, Addict Nation! (ed. Note: how gaaaayyy is that?! Also, Sandra Mohr is the co-author of Addict Nation, you will see her name on the cover when you pick up your copy.)
LGR: Jane, you’re a pretty outspoken person. One of the criticisms of LBQ culture is that there is a racial divide; do you think that divide exists? Have you seen that in your personal experience?
JVM: I don’t! Honestly I really don’t. I feel that the LGBT community has to stick together and we have to be cohesive. It’s a good example because I’m also an animal rights activist and I always say I don’t want to get involved with nitpicking in the animals rights world or the LGBT community. I think we have to be cohesive and we can’t hone in on some of maybe those petty differences and let them splinter our cause. We need to be cohesive we need to be a unit to achieve political change.
If some people think that, they see that, they can try to change that. I think any improvement is always welcome and I would welcome that, but let’s keep our eye on the ball. Let’s work together to achieve change. I personally have not experienced that; as a woman of color I have been welcomed everywhere. Jarrett Barrios is the head of GLAAD and he’s Latino. I don’t see it at all! Maybe I’m naïve but I go to LGBT parties and there are a rainbow of people and much more diverse than parties I go to for other sectors of society. So I think we are very diverse I think that’s one of our strengths.
LGR: In Addict Nation, in the chapter focused on overpopulation entitled “Breeders,” you discuss the fact that many Latinos are very old school catholic, and that has contributed to the fact that they have a lot of children. I was wondering if you see a correlation between that religiousness and Latino’s attitudes towards the queer community?
JVM: My mom is Puerto Rican and she completely accepted me 100 percent and so did my sister, my nieces my nephews. My personal experience is that everyone is welcoming. I don’t see the Latino community being any more homophobic than any other sector of society. You can look at any segment of society and find homophobia. I don’t think we should single out the Latino community for that at all.
As far as the chapter on procreation, I will say that our planet is experiencing a huge population explosion…and you dovetail that with diminishing resources and you realize that something has to change because we cannot sustain this kind of growth. One of the things I point out in my book is that every 5 seconds a child dies of hunger. Jesus Christ would want us to do what we can to keep one child from dying from starvation…these children did nothing wrong but be born into an environment that cannot feed them.
We have to do something about this, as a species, humans have to do something about this. So in my book, I ask the question, I don’t have an answer to it, but I ask, is gay the new green? Nature has a tendency to adjust, it’s true of animals and we r animals. I ask the question, isn’t it interesting that the gay rights movement is surging at a time where population is surging and we’ve crossed a tipping point where the survival of the species depends less on procreation and more on controlling procreation so that we don’t over procreate so we don’t get to the point where we can’t sustain the population.
The gay movement opens the door to nurturing children and other sentient beings in a non-traditional manner, through adoption for example and I think this is a wonderful thing and it’s something we should contemplate.
LGR: Is there any part of the book that ur queer fans cannot miss?
JVM: I think that “we” have always been on the forefront of social change, because we have had the courage to come out. So therefore we have kind of this chain reaction of honesty that happens within our community and we are open to new ideas because we had to be open about the fact that we wanted to be with somebody of the same sex, even though it might not be accepted in some quarters. So we have this courage to come out, so we can lead in other areas.
What I would tell everybody in the LGBT community is don’t buy into the consumer culture. Don’t be a consumer zombie. Look at everything you are buying and analyze it and harness your power as a consumer to say “No, I will not buy this if it’s bad for me.” And that includes fast foods, products with harsh chemicals unnecessary cleaning products, products that are cruel to animals and products that are the result of factory farming.
We can be leaders in the green movement and say to the powers that be and say we are going to harness our purchasing power as consumers and say we want humane, environmentally sensitive, cruelty free, biodegradable, 100 percent recycled products. Because we are the cutting edge consumer and that’s what we demand we are not going to participate in a fast food junk product culture that is making us fat, making us sick and destroying the environment.
LGR: That’s really interesting and with the obesity epidemic, that fast food part is really important.
JVM: Just say no to fast food. You cannot negotiate with it. You cannot eat it successfully. Very few people can eat fast food successfully there is more and more evidence that it is addictive it is packed with sugar salt and fat. Three ingredients that we are biologically programmed to crave and it is very hard… this is about addiction. The book is about addiction; not just the usual addictions like drugs and alcohol. It’s about being addicted to things that are not considered addictions.
Obesity is not a lifestyle choice obesity is food addiction and my book talks about how you can work your way out of that addiction. I’m not coming from “oh I know it all” I’m coming from “I’m an addict,” and I have grappled and continue to grapple with many addictions in my journey to true sobriety. I’m not there yet, but I am sober from alcohol. I’ve given up alcohol, I’ve given up drugs, I’ve given up smoking, I’ve given up meat, I’ve given up dairy, I’ve given up sugar and I’ll tell you I don’t miss any it. I feel happier, I feel more energetic, I feel lighter, I save money, I’m helping the environment it’s all good!
LGR: That’s so inspiring!
JVM: Thank you!
LGR: Why do you think more lesbians are obese than straight women?
JVM: I don’t know where that statistic comes from.* 2/3rds of Americans are overweight or obese. So, you’re telling me that more than 2/3rds of lesbians are overweight or obese? That’s not been my experience. I think we are right there with the rest of the population.
I don’t think we should stigmatize ourselves unnecessarily. There is an obesity problem within all communities and we need to address it and I think we need to take the lead on healthy eating. Look at Ellen! Ellen’s gone vegan, I’m a vegan, go vegan everything else will fall into place. Oprah is going vegan this week! Her whole staff! Ellen DeGeneres is very outspoken about vegan, I’m very outspoken about being a vegan so I say to the LGBT community go vegan!
Everything else will fall into place as far as your battles with health and weight. When I say go vegan I don’t mean eating pasta and potato chips! A plant based diet is about eating vegetables, fruits and nuts and grains and there are these people who do damage to the vegan vegetarian movement. They say I tried it and you ask them what they ate, they ate pasta! That’s not being a vegan, being a vegan is eating veggies and fruits. It’s a delight, it’s fun, it’s not this big sacrifice that people make it out to me. The all American diet is the most restrictive diet in the world! Burger, fries and a shake? There is a whole universe of beautiful vegetables and fruits out there that can be prepared in fabulous combinations. There are tons of cookbooks and restaurants all over America. It’s great, check it out!
LGR: Ok ! I will!
LGR: And I’ll write about it [stay tuned to LGR for my week of vegan!]
LGR: Your latest book, “Addict Nation” discusses the obsessions of Americans, what, in your experience, would you say the lesbian community’s biggest addiction is, besides the WNBA?
JVM: To be honest with you I don’t want to separate the LGBT community. We are already unique in a good way and communities have a tendency in focusing on themselves to over criticize. You know, we’re people! We are going to have the sane addictions and the same urges as everybody else, so that’s what I see. I don’t see any real difference.
I think Addict Nation is a great book for every Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered person to read. And I do say that unapologetically because I do feel that we can be on the forefront of change. I do feel that we can take a leadership role, having done something very courageous once, we can do something very courageous again vis a vis our society and bring in values of compassion and celebrating out uniqueness.
To be a consumer is to be a zombie and we are more than consumers we are human beings and why not celebrate that. I really feel that instead of looking inward and criticizing ourselves, we have something very special. We defied culture once, in a sense and we can defy culture again and lead the group towards a humane and smart way of dealing with this culture that is so consumption oriented.
I would like to leave you with this thought. Every decision we make throughout the day is not a personal lifestyle decision. It’s a political decision, it’s an environmental decision and most of all it’s a moral choice. If you are buying products that are based on animal cruelty, that are made with factory farming, animal testing, destruction of the environment than you are a co-conspirator in those terrible things and I believe karmic-ly there is a price to pay. I do feel that we all need to work on these choices that we are making and we all need to have a ‘moment of clarity.’ And I teach in Addict Nation, I show, how you can have that clarity using the 12 steps. And get really clear about what you are doing and then get to better choices.
LGR: Are you going to NYC’s pride parade this year?
JVM: Yes! I always do, I was person of the year for gay pride in LA. I’ll be right there in Sheraton Square where I was last year!
For more Addict Nation, become a fan on Facebook or check out www.AddictNation.org