Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Being Vegan Is SO Gay

Published on March 16, 2011 by   ·   82 Comments Pin It
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Ari Solomon (creator of our gorgeous, green, and vegan candle line A Scent of Scandal ) explains why some find it incongruous to be gay and not vegan;

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.”

Gay & Vegan & Proud Ari Solomon

Ari Solomon is the President and co-creator of the celebrated vegan candle line A Scent of Scandal . After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ari first worked as an actor in New York and Los Angeles, and later hosted the wildly popular ARI’S HOLLYWOOD UPDATE on Miami’s Y-100FM. Now a prolific activist and writer for animal and human rights, Ari’s letters have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and The Advocate.  He write a column for The Huffington Post.  You can follow him on twitter at VeganAri.

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Readers Comments (82)

  1. Elysa says:

    Thank you so much for that. Very well put.
    Thank you for standing up for what you believe and who you are.
    Been vegan for almost a year and I am enjoying every moment of it.

  2. Kezia says:

    Brilliant – shared.

  3. Jess says:

    Brilliant, Ari! I’m so happy you’re you. xo

  4. vic says:

    hey i hope it is ok to share this on my blog. I will link back to you. this is a very moving article. thanks for sharing it.

  5. Devon says:

    This is a great article! Ties everything together vividly

  6. vic says:

    hey, i meant to leave the link to my other blog, sorry. i wrote something about this on there, quoted the article and linked back to you. as i said before, hope it’s ok, and i really enjoyed this article.

  7. Jonny says:

    I totally got it times ago, the answers are that simple and although people might ask you: ‘why are you vegan?’. the way you wrote about your thoughts was so brilliant an pure. You’ve just made my day!

  8. Kimberly says:

    Thank-you Ari! You expressed in such a clear, but heartfelt way. SO reposting!

  9. Alicia says:

    What a great way to put it!! :-D Oppression is oppression, no matter your species, sexual orientation, colour, whatever. I have to say, my favourite part of your blog post was the last bit where you say, “You don’t get it at all,” I replied. “Because if you did, you’d be vegan yourself.” That is made of awesome. Thank you for being you. :-)
    -Alicia

  10. TravelingVeg says:

    Much love to you, Ari. Thank you for sharing this!

  11. meggles says:

    Great article! Although I think the candle name is so clever but the url link is broken when I went to check it out. I think it’s supposed to be http://www.­ascentofscandal.­com? Ari, I think you need to grab http://www.­ascentofscandle.­com as well just in case! Very cute =)

  12. Heather says:

    Well said. That final quote should be on a t-shirt too.. it’s perfect.

  13. ASD says:

    Beautiful post, Ari. Your empathy and courage are inspiring.

  14. vanessa says:

    Ari for President!

  15. Cameron says:

    Beautiful. Clear indeed. I wish more of our brothers would get it. Our sisters seem to be one step ahead, but what is slowing the boys down?

  16. thanks so much for this piece, ari. as a vegan lesbian, i couldn’t agree more with the parallels between the two movements. actually, for my organization, our hen house (www.ourhenhouse.org), i’m currently in the post-production for the launch of the gay animal series, which discusses just that — and will feature nathan runkle. anyway, ari, love it and love you. xo

  17. Lisa says:

    Gay. Vegan. Proud. Beautiful.

    Forgot that last adjective!

  18. lisa says:

    this was so beautifully written. brought me to tears. thank you for all you do for our animal friends. lisa

  19. Rachel J says:

    Love you to pieces, Ari! Everything you write and do… You are a shining light.

  20. Rory Freedman says:

    I love, love, love this man and I love, love, love this piece. I am reminded that during the civil rights movement, many Jews were actively in support. Because they knew what it felt like to be persecuted for just being who they are. Bravo, beautiful Ari. And bless you for all you do for animals.

  21. _mark says:

    if being vegan means being ‘gay’, then ‘gay me up’. My orientation is actually hetero, but i don’t mind being called gay or thought of as ‘gay’. we’re the ones who aren’t blinded by ignorance.

  22. Tara says:

    Well said. Thank you for sharing.

  23. I think that it is a logical and ethical leap to move from gay rights to animal rights. The understanding of oppression as a form of abuse transcends the human animal barrier. You are absolutely correct in saying that if you have lived with a companion animal that you know they live emotional and social lives and as such can be damaged by the removal of their freedom or their social natures.

    What makes things even worse is most of the population know that places such as Huntington life sciences, routinely experiments on companion animals, and still most humans cannot make the leap from their pre-programed understanding of their pets as opposed to other animals needs. Perhaps it is because they see animals still, even in love, as property.

    Property is only valuable when we have a claim to it, a vested interest in seeing it maintained. While its true rationally we can understand someone elses property as an elusive value it is not the same as actualized value of ownership. Vested interest in this case is the emotional bond or connection we create with our companions verses perhaps the monetary value of someone elses property.

    I think one thing should be stated. As gay men and women every day we wake up as we are, without the ability to change what nature intended. So everyday we awake we are politicized and grouped into the LGBT umbrella and all of the connotations that this entails. The culture of protest was born our of the oppression our four fathers and as such it is the acculturated ideal to stand up, oft times loudly, for our rights. Sadly being compassionate, standing up for all beings that are mistreated is not what we are taught is valuable nor socially viable

    One thing that i feel must change is the culture of the LGBT community. we need to understand that the fight for equality is but one fight, but the fight to reclaim our humanity from the clutches of brutality is a universal fight. Each being that is subjugated to the needs of the masses, who is looked at as less than ourselves, is by its very definition, deserving of our protections.

    Those that have need will always find a helping hand to steady the pain from me, but i am unsure that the current Me culture of gay rights as well as American idealism can sustain the notion of help to all in need with the current power structures that feed into this selfish cycle.

    I am hopeful for the future because compassion is becoming more and more commonplace, however first we must learn to accept people within our won movement before we can even hope to branch further. This involves bisexual, transgendered/cisgendered individuals. When one is left behind we all stray.

  24. Ramy says:

    LOVE this piece Ari!!

  25. Maribeth says:

    It is so good to see something that I’ve been feeling, put into words. Compassion is compassion is compassion, and suffering is suffering. To deliberately pick and choose when and where we experience compassion is a sign that we still have something pretty huge to learn. Thank you for posting your well-said views on the internet.

  26. Cathy D says:

    Beautifully written Ari. I have often wondered why persecuted people and others that have suffered at the hands of others do not see the connection. Sending vegan hugs and love to you xoxo

  27. Sophia Pospisil says:

    Thanks, Ari. This is perfect. I’m going to share it like crazy.

    I’m going to an anti-bullying workshop on Friday – you’ve inspired me to wear some AR gear there!

  28. Sandi says:

    Wonderful piece! I love when you say “oppression is oppression”. Many people do not understand this, yet it seems so simple. We should not pick and choose the compassion that we give, yet so many do. There is so much human and animal injustice in this world. Thank you for drawing this parallel. I will be sharing this.

  29. Chloe says:

    Sheer truths. This is gods work.

  30. Dina Kourda says:

    You broke my heart and then made me so proud of you. Incredible piece, Ari!

  31. hey. i’m gay and vegan also. and i support women’s rights, civil rights, etc etc. Why? because before we’re gay or straight or male or female, or white or black or brown, or rich or poor, we are humans. that is the one thing that we all have in common. that is the one thing that should determine how we treat each other; no our differences. i support animals rights because what humans and animals have in common is that we are living breathing beings who have our own interests and exist for our own reasons.

  32. Jackie says:

    Bravo, Ari! I always find it so interesting when people are so passionate about human rights, but they don’t make the connection with animal rights (or vice versa). I just don’t get that. How can you believe in one and not the other?

  33. Alia says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful, well-written article. It amazes me that so many people still don’t get it — animals are family members, with feelings and souls. “Diversity” should include ALL of us, animals included.

  34. krys says:

    Love this post. Thanks for sharing. I have family members who avoid me and my family like the plague because we are vegan, strongly support gay rights, as well as being strong animal advocates.

  35. Beth says:

    This is a fantastic piece! Thank you, Ari.

  36. C. Churchill says:

    Ari,
    I too became vegan after seeing an article regarding A. Silverstone’s book THE KIND DIET. My husband and I made this change together and could not be happier about becoming vegan. Your article rings with many truths. “Oppression is oppression.” This is a slogan from a social justice organization I worked for: “Once I get to know you….I can’t hate you.” I think the same applys for animals: “Once I get to know you….I can’t EAT you.”

  37. Charlie says:

    I have a quick thought on this, and I want people to REALLY think about this.

    If people think animals are oppressed by humans, what about the unborn babies being oppressed by their mothers who abort them? It’s everyone’s right to eat meat, just like it’s the right of every woman to choose, but is it a good right? Is there any difference in letting a baby die and suffer and FEEL the abortion that their mother is doing to them and letting animals die for us? Animals don’t have a say, and neither do the unborn. So what’s the difference?
    Just a thought. And I am REALLY interested in your opinion, Ari. I hope you answer it. Thanks for the article. :)

  38. Ari Solomon says:

    Charlie,

    The choice to eat animal-based foods and the choice to have an abortion are two very different issues. My piece is not about abortion, it’s about being an animal rights activist and how my experiences as a youth led me to identify with animals and how they are bullied in our culture.

    As a staunch feminist, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Frankly, I find it troubling that men, who will never become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, for example, presume to tell women what to do with their bodies.

  39. victor says:

    What a faggot!

  40. kala says:

    Wonderful post, oppression is oppression no matter what! :)

  41. great post!! perfect connection between being gay and being vegan.

  42. Rachel says:

    This is a wonderful article! Thank you for including it! It was very inspiring, go Ari!! I liked his quote at the end: “You don’t get it at all,” I replied. “Because if you did, you’d be vegan yourself.” He’s got chutzpah!

  43. You’ve inspired me. I work at a vegan restaurant in NYC as a waitress and apprentice to the pastry chef. I’ve felt the urge to become 100% vegan for months now, but I’m still in vegetarian limbo land. The more I read articles like yours, the more I understand how important it is to adopt a cruelty free lifestyle.
    I love your point about oppression being oppression. Being vegan is SO gay, and I love it!

  44. I love, love this article!!!! I think you should write a book about this. This was a beautiful piece to read…thank you for sharing.

  45. Karen says:

    What a great read.

    PROUD OF YOU!!!

    Thank you for your straight-on compassion!

  46. Vin Divan says:

    Yeh, I stopped eating chicken after watching a Frontline episode titled Poisoned Waters. Somethings that poison waters in the Chesapeake Bay are mounds of chickenshit from all the chicken factory farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Eeecchhh…

  47. CJ says:

    I’m now a little bit in love with Ari…and I’m a lesbian! Wonderful article, thank you.

  48. Xavier Talley says:

    Hey Victor,

    It is wrong to throw around hateful slurs like that!! You learn to respect peoples choices whether thy are hetero or not!!

  49. Xavier Talley says:

    I’m with Jenne on transitioning to vegan!!! I’m also with C. Churchill when she wrote: “Once I get to know you….I can’t EAT you.” What making me give up meat and animal products/by-products/tested products. I’m a college student and every Wednesday or Thursday I volunteered(still volunteering)to work on this farm and help with gardening and the animals(nonhuman).. and the more I go their and get attached to the these wonderful creatures… the more I am abhorred at eating them.. I can’t eat them.. because I want to have a heart 4 them!!! The same applies to human rights!! The more I know humans and animals the more i want stand up for what it right!!

  50. As others have said, beautifully written! Thanks for your steadfast advocacy on behalf of all human and nonhuman oppressed.

    Jenné and Xavier: you can do it! Support and gratitude from my heart!

  51. Vegan and trans says:

    Friends wondered what I’d been smoking when I went vegan after seeing a photo exhibition in a magazine, in my queer library, that featured women and cows. I knew nothing of animal farming/cruelty and did not have access to the web mostly but it hit me then – what is the difference between the human model and the cow, why is one always in the foreground and what gives the woman the right to pour the cow’s milk over herself?

  52. Eudin says:

    “Animals don’t have a say, and neither do the unborn” Damn right Charlie and the unborn didn’t ask to be born either. Do you neuter your ‘pets’? Get yourselves spayed/neutered along with your companion animals – it’s the right thing to do!

  53. Kim Silver says:

    Interesting perspective. Lots of thought behind this, makes me think, makes me feel.

  54. Rich says:

    Hey there:

    I’m not sure where one draws the line. Is it at insects, one celled animals, plants? It seems that as animals ourselves we have an impact on our environment that we cannot avoid. We can however reduce our negative impact, but then again in whom’s judgement is it negative? Our own?

    We can improve animal’s lives by eating animals that were well cared for and more gently killed. If every meat-eater did this factory farms would go out of business.

    We can eat less animals, but that means eating more plants – most agree that it takes less environmental effort for plants than animals.

    To eliminate eating animals for moral reasons has always been confusing to me, mostly because it draws an arbitrary line as to what is moral to eat and what is immoral to eat based on it’s species not on how it was cared for.
    Plants respond to attack, many secrete chemicals when their leaves are being chewed by insects so that they taste badly to the insect and the insect moves on.
    Plants will migrate to better living locations.
    Plants attack and kill other plants for their survival
    Plants will decimate their eco-system if there isn’t an opposing force.
    (Sound Familiar?)

    Just because we don’t know how to communicate with plants doesn’t mean they don’t live worse lives being crammed into a homogeneous field and sprayed with chemicals. I feel to draw a moral line at a specific plant/animal subset is arbitrary and looses moral footing, Where does yeast fall in this spectrum (and who said it was moral to eat yeast but not bee’s honey?)

    Also if you are eating organic vegetables, chances are they are not vegan friendly in spirit. Most organic vegetables (and all large-scale organic vegetables) are fertilized with bone meal and blood. Most of the bone meal and blood comes from the factory farms.

    I think choosing what you eat is a moral question. I choose to eat well cared for animals that are killed in a mostly-stress free way. I also choose to grow veggies so I know what goes into them and what goes into the soil in which they grow. I fertilize with blood and bone from animals that were raised organically and not on a factory farm.

    But also I understand that everyone has their own moral compass and I try to respect that.

  55. Rich….. REALLY, slaughter is innately violent, in suffering ANIMALS ARE OUR EQUALS. There is no way to consume animals compassionately. NONE. Check out humanemyth.org, better yet, visit the floor of a killing lot (where ALL animals – free range or otherwise end up) and tell us if you still want to rationalize eating animals.

    PLANTS DO NOT HAVE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEMS… ergo no pain. Try again.

  56. Brendon says:

    It’s very comforting to know I’m not the only gay vegan out there!

  57. Sue says:

    Thank you, Ari, for such an excellent post! I was given the link by a friend on Facebook and have proudly shared it with many!

    Rich,

    You are not the first to ask about the ethics of eating plants, and United Poultry Concerns has posted/printed a very informative paper titled:

    Don’t Plants Have Feelings Too?

    The first question reads:

    What about plants? Don’t plants have feelings too?

    It is very possible that plants have sensitivities that we do not yet understand. Because plants do not have nervous systems and cannot run away from predators, it has generally been assumed that they do not experience pain and suffering. Recent scientific evidence suggests that this assumption may be incorrect. However, we do know that birds and other nonhuman vertebrates have well- developed nervous systems and pain receptors the same as humans. Like us, they show pleasure and pain and they present comparable evidence of fear and well-being. Animals cry out in pain, they nurse wounded body parts, and they seek to avoid those who have hurt them in the past.

    In order to live, one has to eat. However, when we eat animal products, we consume many more plants indirectly than if we ate those plants directly, because the animals we eat are fed huge quantities of grasses, grains, and seeds to be converted into meat, milk, and eggs. As a vegan (one who eats no animal products) you cause fewer beings to suffer and die for you.
    http://www.upc-online.org/ethics_questions.html

    Also, when you mentioned drawing the line at insects I was reminded of another intriguing publication found at: http://www.facebook.com/IsAnAnimalSheHeOrIt#!/notes/is-an-animal-she-he-or-it/it/182105745135877

  58. Lindsey says:

    Rich, we need to eat plant products to survive; we don’t need to eat animal products.

    Also, many more plants are used to produce animal products than when we eat them directly. So, when you choose to eat vegan, you are saving both animals and plants. Most of the time we eat parts of plants and not the entire plant itself, so we’re not even killing a plant in the process.

    Um, and yeast is a one-celled organism, while bees are a multi-cellular ANIMAL who have central nervous systems.

    I’m glad you try to eat responsibly but am sad that you can’t see a moral difference between a cow and an ear of corn.

  59. Lindsey says:

    Factory farms would not go out of business if everyone ate free range happy meat/dairy/eggs because if everyone ate products from animals that had tons of space to roam and lived a natural life, there just wouldn’t be enough land for it. Factory farms exist to keep up with the insane demand for meat, dairy, and eggs. So people would either have to cut WAY back on animal products and eat mostly vegan for factory farms to actually go out of business.

  60. Stephanie says:

    I honestly never understood – and never will – how people can be so vocal, even so violent, about ‘human rights’ but just give me strange looks about my veganism. in fact I have people told me that I ONLY care about animals (humans are animals too, but I guess that’s easy to ignore)
    but they all loooooooove their pets. it’s one thing to just not make the connection. it took me years aswell, but it’s so frustrating when people KNOW and ignore it because a steak is so so so so tasty and they would ‘die’ without meat. :(

  61. Matthew Benitez says:

    Omg! I love this so much! It’s so wonderful to read or hear other people’s stories on how they became vegan. I feel that I can relate to this story because I’m vegan, and gay. I’m sure many others feel the same way. Gotta love it!

  62. Jaime K says:

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for showing us your vulnerable parts, and your strength.

  63. Diane L says:

    Wonderful post. I was bullied in school for being overweight. I don’t think I’ve ever associated bullying with animal abuse, I guess I just never thought about it. Thanks for pointing that out, makes me even happier to be vegan!

  64. Peter . says:

    I find it quite incredulous that so -called “writers” stoop to the level of bigots with the brain of a 5-year old when choosing words.

    “So Gay”, “That’s Retarded”, “I’d Rape That” are not clever, but rather illustrate the ignorance of the writer. They are derogatory.

    Get a thesaurus PLEASE !

  65. MeatSucker says:

    well I bet you still eat the meat ;) so are you REALLY vegan? #saveacowsuckadick LOL **takes a bite out of veal parmigiana**

    • Betterthanyouineverypossibleway says:

      Dear Meatsucker
      Us vegans don’t care if you call us homophobic names because we are so far superior to you.
      xoxoxo

    • Jessa says:

      Meatsucker,
      Don’t you know we could give two shits if you come to our vegan websites to talk about meat? It’s pathetic and hilarious. Who cares? So you don’t give a crap about animals or your health… why should we care if you die young (which you will eating that stuff) or have a hideous diseased colon (you do)… get on with your life and be a pig homo hater elsewhere.

  66. Audra says:

    This is so beautiful… I have tears in my eyes!
    I’m a new vegan and I will be proud to think of you and respond “If you got it, you’d be vegan to” to those who dis this lifestyle.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  67. Xtine says:

    I love it! And I completely agree! I’ve been a vegan myself for about five years. :)

  68. Dennis Battler says:

    Appreciate your sentiments which I share. Being gay and an animal lover, seeing other beings suffer by the hands of ignorance and willfullness, is as you’ve stated, painfully immediate, felt, and personal. Having lived under a cloud of diminished value, empathizing with animals seems only natural. And gay men and women, appear to be consumed by our own battle for rights of non-abuse. For those of us who have come to realize our personal battle is one and the same with animal rights need to be and remain actively engaged in compassion. Our animal friends need our loud and proud voice – for their rights and for their lives.

  69. Heidi Frisby says:

    Oh geeeez. I love Ari!!!!

  70. Heidi Frisby says:

    Oh geeeez …. I love Ari!!

  71. Bobbi B. says:

    Beautifully articulated. Thank you, Ari.

  72. Dave Bernazani says:

    Can I “like” this little essay and the guy who wrote it about a thousand times? Well done!

  73. Bernard Continelli says:

    Ultimately, and in the modern West, the Jainist concept of ‘Ahimsa’ is essentially the cultural left-wing’s own version of sexual puritanism, and when both are pushed to ridiculous extremes both become ridiculous!

  74. Johnny says:

    Vegans are retards they dont know what theyre missing out on

  75. Please help us spread the word and get Honey LaBronx “The Vegan Drag Queen” to
    Acorns A Go-Go Groovy Vegan Fest!!!

    Many thanks!!

    Cam

  76. Jo says:

    No, you don’t believe in tolerance for everyone, only those that believe the way you do. You are the definition of the word bigot.




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