Pride: Gay and Vegan Pride – One and the Same
I became a vegetarian at about the same time I came out. Or maybe I came out at the same time I became a vegetarian. You see, for me, the two were the result of the same wrenching soul searching and part of the same eye-opening process after which right became wrong, and wrong became right. Boiled down to a simple sentence, I came out at the other end feeling that it was perfectly natural to be gay, and it’s perfectly natural to question how we treat non-humans.
There is a growing number of personal stories like mine – of coming out as queer and coming out as a veg’n (vegetarian/vegan) in a world, where, sadly the non-veg’n/non-queer majority see both as “aberrant” choices. The same society whose media and general public refuses to face the well-documented and extremely violent images of how factory farm animals are housed, transported, and slaughtered is the very same society that continues to deny queer folks full rights and treat them as less than human. The question that we should be asking about the two movements –animal rights and gay rights- should not be, “What is the connection?” but instead, “What is the difference?”
After cracking open the closet door (by coming out before me), my best friend at the time handed me a copy of Carol Adams’ “The Sexual Politics of Meat,” a crucial book that links the prevalence of a meat-based diet to patriarchal attitudes, compares the myths about meat-eating with the myths about manliness, and ultimately highlights the commonality of all oppressed in a patriarchal society – women, ethnic and sexual minorities, and non-human animals. The latter, in fact, is part of long-standing current among artistic, literary, and intellectual movements whose aim is to bring about radical change. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley made her Creature (a natural outcast/outlaw if there ever was one) a vegetarian. Shelley was part of the Romantics, a movement of artists, writers and intellectuals in the latter part of the 18th century in Western Europe that questioned the status quo of the time.
Many people with whom I’ve spoken feel that having experienced oppression as a queer person makes them more likely to be compassionate toward animals. However, if we can cultivate compassion more readily than the mainstream, how can we explain that to those who don’t make the connection?
Just as more queer folks begin to draw comparisons between the two movements, a number of animal rights organizations are starting to reach out to the GLTB community. A couple of years ago, the animal welfare group, Mercy for Animals, marched in the Columbus, OH Gay Pride Parade, forming a human rainbow with colorful t-shirts that read, “No one is free when others are oppressed.” This Pride weekend, I and a couple of friends will be manning the table of Compassion Over Killing during the Sunday street festival. Compassion Over Killing is a local vegetarian advocacy non-profit that does fantastic work on behalf of animals in factory farms. Check them out at www.cok.net. Consider stopping by our booth to say hi, ask tons of questions, and pick up some brochures. My hope is that COK (yeah, yeah, insert your favorite double entendre here) can crack open the veg’n door for a few of you just like others before did it for me.
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