The Scavenger

Salvaging whats left after the masses have had their feed

VSF-468x60

Thu03302017

Last updateTue, 29 Mar 2016 6am

Menu Style

Cpanel
Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity Queer Gay rights and animal rights: intersections

Gay rights and animal rights: intersections

GayrightsanimalrightsVegan lesbian Jasmin Singer dissects the intersections between gay rights and animal rights, concluding that the rationale used to marginalize both groups are rooted in the same mindset.

11 June 2011

My two favorite things about myself are that I’m vegan and that I’m gay – so I’m constantly perplexed by the fact that the world seems to have such a problem with each, never mind together.

And though there was a time when I didn’t identify as either gay or vegan – and, sadly, probably a time when I would have felt at least minor discomfort around each way of life – as I’ve grown past my sure-I’ll-try-it 20s into my pursue-my-life’s-purpose 30s, these two seemingly disjointed parts of myself have more and more merged.

Indeed, throughout the process of this coming together, I have been faced with yet another coming out – I am a vegan lesbian.

Those things are joined so intimately in my psyche that I cannot imagine one without the other. And I’m not sorry.

In a funny twist of fate, I met my partner, animal law professor Mariann Sullivan, several years ago when I interviewed her for the now defunct social justice magazine, Satya, for a piece I was writing called “Coming Out for Animal Rights: LGBT Animal Advocates Make the Connection.”

Yet, as Mariann will not let me forget (nor should she, since this was the most regrettable decision of my writing career), her quote made it only as far as the cutting room floor.

Thankfully, Mariann saw past that faux pas, and four and a half years later, here we are: an outwardly-seeming mismatched couple with an age difference of over 25 years. But despite that, we fit together like an unobvious puzzle that ultimately makes so much sense. Even though society at large may look at us with crossed eyes, the truth is, I can’t imagine gelling with anyone quite so swimmingly.

Among other things, we share a worldview – the implications of which extend beyond  our stance on animal rights, and into even less popular viewpoints, things involving deeply embedded societal norms like marriage and children … but that’s for another article.

Mariann and I live in lower Manhattan and are privileged enough that we can walk around holding hands and not get shot, or even provoke a raised eyebrow (though, of course, given our age difference, when we are holding hands, people often assume that we are mother and daughter).

We also live in walking distance of literally dozens of vegetarian restaurants – so vegan indulgences are easily attainable. (That said, most of our diet is comprised of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains – all of which you can get at any grocery store in America – no fancy tempeh or seitan necessary.)

I bring up our privilege because, given the subject matter, I would be remiss not to. In so many parts of the world, of course, homosexuality is a crime. Even where being gay is not actually illegal, there can be vast discrimination in things like job opportunities, and still a remarkable number of hate crimes aimed toward those who identify as LGBT. I am fully aware that, when compared to these situations, my life is cake – vegan cake, of course.

Speaking of vegan cake, part of the reason I choose to consume that instead of what my meat-eating brother (the only meat-eater in my family) refers to as “regular cake,” is because the dairy and egg industries are perhaps the ultimate exploitation of the reproductive organs of cows and hens.

It perplexes me that anyone who has fought for the rights of people to express themselves sexually in the way that is right for them, can be part of a system that undermines so completely the sexuality and reproduction of living, breathing, sentient beings.

Farmed animals are different from us in many ways, but does anyone really think that they are so different from us that they cannot enjoy these same basic pleasures? That it matters not at all that their every desire for the simplest imaginable comforts or pleasures, are thwarted, or that their lives are sheer, unadulterated hell?

In the dairy industry, cows are forcibly inseminated (raped) over and over again in order to produce milk. They are strapped onto what the agriculture industry refers to as “rape racks” (their term), and as soon as they give birth and their baby is immediately taken away from them, the cycle continues. The girl cows then become dairy cows, and the boys become veal calves. After the dairy cow is considered useless (ie her milk production has waned, which happens when she is around four), she is slaughtered for low-grade beef. What a life.

And regarding the egg-laying hen – who is arguably the most abused of any farmed animal – she likely will live her entire life in a space smaller than a sheet of paper. She will be painfully debeaked. And she will be genetically manipulated so that she lays far more eggs than she would in nature. She won’t be able to roost or to hatch her own young, and after she is considered spent, which won’t take more than two years, she will be killed for low-grade meat, like pot pie or dog food.

Again, while birds may be even more different than us in some ways than cows are, do we really think that that difference means that they do not know comfort from misery? Do not prefer to raise their chicks rather than have their eggs taken from them? Wouldn’t prefer grass under their feet to life in a wire cage with six other hens who are so crowded they can barely move?

Recognising privilege

As a gay person, even one with extraordinary privilege, I know what it is like to be “othered.” Even though, as I mentioned earlier, I am lucky enough to live in a place where I can, for the most part, be free to express myself without ramifications, there are certainly still things that directly affect me – such as the lack of legal privileges, things like hospital visits in some of the places I might be traveling to, tax breaks, and even little things like paying for an extra driver when renting a car (for married people, that fee is waived).

Are these things serious, in the grand scheme? No, absolutely not – annoying at most. But for others who choose to be open about their sexuality, the ramifications can be life-threatening.

As far as other classifications go, I truly am one of the privileged. My able body, my skin color, my class, my education, and so many other things make me one of the people who, just by being who I am, gets a leg up in world. When I was born, I hit the privilege jackpot.

I remember when I was in graduate school for – get this – Experiential Health and Healing (it was one of those I’ll-try-anything mistakes of my 20s), and one of my professors was ranting on and on about “The Secret,” which apparently is based on the absurd belief that, if you imagine good fortune, it will materialize.

Talk about being blind to your privilege. There are people who actually believe that their good fortune is all due to the power of their own imaginations, rather than, at least in good part, to the conditions of their birth.

That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t maintain positivity whenever possible. But it’s so important to do so with a keen understanding that many people are far less lucky, and oppressed in grave ways that are far more effective in preventing their good fortune than a simple failure of their imaginations.

Of course, this awareness is an ongoing journey for all of us. And one of the most important elements of that awareness is to be mindful of our great grand privilege as human animals.

Once we are aware of that privilege, what are we to do about it? Well, with farmed animals, it certainly means that we must boycott the cruelty to them altogether. We must cease being the financial engine running the instruments of their oppression.

You know how you spell boycott? V-E-G-A-N. And our responsibility really goes further. Since they are not able to speak up for themselves, it is most certainly our obligation to do so for them.

Just as so many straight people choose to stand up and be counted when it comes to gay issues, we must each take a stand against violence to our fellow beings.

In fact, when it comes to violence, whether it is violence against a member of the LGBT community or violence to an animal (or violence to so many other marginalized groups), the rationale is so frequently similar, if not identical.

Here are two of the most common ones: “Insert-the-blank was put here for my use.” And, “It is okay for me to abuse insert-the-blank because God said so.”

This mindset has resulted in so many horrors, including slavery, genocide, and women’s oppression. It results as well in the belief that the lives of animals simply don’t matter as much as fleeting pleasure, or even just adherence to outmoded custom or habit.

No one is free while others are oppressed

As someone who has lived my life going up the down staircase, I am aware of what it’s like to constantly feel like you’re challenging others’ stereotypes. Other gay people probably feel the same way.

One of the results of that is that there do seem to be a disproportionate number of gay people in the animal rights movement. In fact, that prompted me to start a “Gay Animal” series for the animal rights organization that Mariann and I co-founded, Our Hen House.

Our first subject was Nathan Runkle, the executive director of Mercy for Animals. Among other things, Nathan’s feature discussed a yearly campaign that he spearheads, where he and hundreds of his group’s members march at gay pride parades throughout the country, behind a banner that says “No one is free when others are oppressed.”

One of the reasons that I believe that slogan is true is that the knowledge that we are participating in, or even just ignoring, the oppression of another forces us to enter into a state of denial.

Those who would deny people their fundamental humanity because they are gay must force themselves to not really see the people whom they are oppressing. If they truly allowed themselves to see us, they would not be able to avoid our fellow humanity, our similar needs and desires, our participation in the human community, with both its wonders and its deep flaws.

The same things holds true for those who are aware of the horrors that are visited upon animals in factory farms and turn a blind eye. Those who would deny animals their every source of pleasure, their every comfort, their every instinct, their every desire, are also forced to live in a world that they are refusing to see.

Their world is so much smaller than it could be if they would just open their eyes to their fellow inhabitants of our fragile planet.

There are good reasons why my favorite things about myself are that I am gay, and that I am vegan.

Being gay has placed me in a community that I love, and has brought me the love of my life.

Being vegan is an expression of my desire to live without denying reality and with as much compassion as I am able to muster.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jasmin Singer is the co-founder and executive director of Our Hen House, a place to find our way to change the world for animals. She is a contributing writer for VegNews Magazine, and the former campaigns manager for Farm Sanctuary. She lives in New York City with her partner, Mariann Sullivan, and her sweet pit bull, Rose.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Share this post

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Personal Development

personal-development
Be the change.