I’m Gay and I’m Vegan – and They are Connected

By Ari Soloman

“I’m gay. I’m also vegan. To most people, these two things would seem to have nothing to do with one another. To me, the connection is as clear as day.

Growing up, I was bullied in middle school because of who I was. I didn’t know exactly …why I was different, but it seems everyone else did. I can still remember the fear and the sadness I felt walking down the hallway to assembly every Friday, being tormented by the dickheads in the class above me. I never told a soul — not my parents, not my teachers, no one. I was too ashamed. And consequently, no one ever came to my defense, because I never gave them a chance.

Flash forward twenty years: I’m out of the closet, married, and living with my husband in Hollywood. I’m involved in gay rights and feel passionately about equality for everyone. Well, humans to be exact. Then one day, I’m sitting on my couch watching The View. Alicia Silverstone is on. She says that she’s vegan. A conversation ensues that piques my interest: Alicia says she’s vegan because she loves her dogs. I love dogs… cats too. So, I go to my computer after the show, and Google “Alicia Silverstone” and “veganism”. What I find changes my life.

That day, for nearly two hours, I sat at my computer and poured over undercover footage from inside factory farms. How could it be that in 30 years, no one had told me that this is how animals we eat become our food? I saw the terrified looks on the animals’ faces, the cruel beatings and torment they endured. I heard the desensitized farm-workers screaming in their faces. And inside, I felt hollow because I knew what this felt like. I knew it from growing up. I knew what it’s like to be bullied.

I went vegan that day because I couldn’t stand knowing that I was paying other people to do to those animals what had been done, on a much smaller scale, to me. How could I say that I believed everyone deserved to be equal and have a chance to be happy when I was eating the remains of lives that had been wrought with misery and mercilessness.

To me, the parallel was simple and plain: oppression is oppression. We can rationalize all we want about how animals and humans are different, but at the heart of the quandary are certain undeniable truths: that animals really do suffer; that they have rich emotional and physical lives not so different from our own. If you’ve lived with a dog or cat, you already know this.

So it saddens me to see so many social progressives — gays included — who scoff at the idea of animal rights and veganism. In the fall of 2008, my husband and I volunteered feverishly for the NO on 8 campaign here in California. During a phone bank shift, one of the higher-ups, a gay man, approached me. He wanted to know why I wore an animal rights t-shirt every time I showed up to volunteer. “We get it,” he said. “You’re vegan.” “You don’t get it at all,” I replied. “Because if you did, you’d be vegan yourself.”

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