Twiddler Twit

A queer and vegan politic and philosophy

Category: Queer veganism

The ethics of a cheating vegan

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This past weekend, I took an outing from Berkeley and wound up in Pleasanton, California. I ate at Nonni’s Bistro with my grandparents, who, based on their track record, rarely take me out to vegetarian- or vegan-friendly eateries. So I was expecting to have to cheat this weekend on my diet by having to eat some sort of butter or egg. But I was pleasantly surprised when the chef made me a veganized sandwich with coconut milk aioli and using oil instead of butter for frying. Although I was delighted to have been so pampered, is it acceptable to have a mentality of being open to cheating?

Whether it be cheating on your partner, sneaking an oreo when nobody is around, or taking a peek at your fellow students’ test, life gives humanity options to wander off the directed route (whether you buy that BS or not). When I went into that restaurant expecting to cheat and eat some form of nonhuman-animal product, was my body telling me something? Should I restrict my body’s intake to what my mind is thinking? I think that the answer shouldn’t matter on what I am craving or not, but going back to the reasons for engaging in an alternative diet: the ethics behind human/nonhuman relationships.

I am vegan because I do not find it morally justifiable to exploit nonhuman-animals for my culinary enjoyment (among many other reasons). When I go out to eat at a restaurant, more times than not I must explain my vegan diet and reduce it to saying something like “I don’t eat eggs. I don’t drink milk” and the like. But I am learning that it is not to my ethics to expect to cheat on my diet, because dietary cheating promotes a capitalist culture that is against the reasons why I choose to eat the way I do. Restaurants, chefs, servers, and fellow diners should know that I willingly choose not to eat animal products, for maybe that short discussion with the server could make an impact on the way food industry is being shaped. The server could talk to the chef, the chef could talk to the vendor, the vendor could talk to the farmer.

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Every conversation counts. I have come to realize that every time I tell someone about my dietary options (after the initial shock) they seem to ask questions and appear intrigued. Although sometimes hesitant, I find it important to share my feelings on food and consumerism with the people I interact with daily, as maybe my words could cause them to think about their actions when they choose to order that hamburger, use beef broth in that soup, or purchase that new leather bag. Change happens slowly, so introducing animal rights and nonhuman theory into public discourse could eventually cause change to occur bit by bit.

When I make an effort to maintain a vegan diet at unaccommodating places, I think find it morally acceptable to cheat. If I make an effort to stir up conversation and cause my colleagues to think about their actions, I feel successful. Any non-normative identity, in my opinion, is worth being brought into the public eye, as discourses surrounding topics of oppression and non-normativity invoke thought and have the potential to create change. When slip-ups happen, I might initially freak out, but at least I may have caused someone to think. Change is gradual, and so is discourse.

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*Don’t feel limited to any food. You have the ability to choose for yourself.

“Coming out” of the kitchen

In June of 2009, I came out as gay (currently queer, for the record).

In May of 2013, I came out as vegan.

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The act of “coming out” is a problematic act in that its essential purpose upholds a “norm”, whether that be heterosexuality or carnivorism (among other privileges such as whiteness, masculinity, able bodies, right handedness, etc.). Heteropatriarchal society assumes that all are inherently heterosexual, and any who do not fit into such a paradigm are of a lesser morality. Such a norm causes individuals to feel the need to come out, as it is seemingly necessary to separate oneself’s identity from the “normal” sexuality, race, gender, diet, etc. The act of “coming out” is problematic in that it promotes a separation of a privileged norm and an inferior subversion.

Identities exclude, limit, and define possible acts by playing on a societal definition of an identity. Lesbianism may refer to a monogamous relationality between two cis-females. Bee-ganism may refer to a diet that does not consist of any animal products other than those produced by bees. Both definitions of lesbianism and bee-ganism are identical in that they provide parameters on what one can and cannot engage in. And because such definitions (many times societal) limit individuals from participating in a particular act, the act of exclaiming an identity problematizes an individual’s relation to the Self.

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I find the act of “coming out” (regardless of what the individual is coming out to) in that the act asserts an identity that prevents them from veering outside of that identity’s terms. For example, when I came out as gay when I was sixteen, I felt the restriction of only focusing my sexual energies on cis-males, whereas if I were to forgo “coming out”, I may not have felt such a societal pressure. The same confusion applies to exclamatory acts of diet (i.e. pescetarianism, veganism, paleo diets, etc.) because it induces the individual’s vulnerability by peers when eating a food that is against their imposed diet. There have been innumerable times when others have made such an effort to inform me that I cannot eat the scrambled eggs or chicken pot pie: Why can’t I make a decision for myself regardless of how I personally identify? Although the intent is sentimental, I think that I can ask for myself if I have doubt on whether or not I conform to a food’s ethics.

Privilege plays a huge part in all aspects of oppressive identities. Veganism is a privileged system of diet that assumes that all nonhuman-animal product production is ill-spirited towards the nonhuman-animal. Although I can’t speak with certainty on the non-Westernized animal production methods, I do believe that the Western slaughterhouses and farming practices do impose human superiority over the nonhuman. But of course not everyone is in a Western paradigm, so I can only comment about the difficulty of maintaining a balanced vegan diet in Western realms. Because not all have this privilege of food access, alternative diets may be deemed alternative due to limited resources and accessibilities.

Needless to say (or write), non-normative sexual identities are privileges in that not all have the option of identifying as gay, poly, zoo, lesbian, etc. Many regions criminalize such individuals using deviance as a rhetorical justification. It is a privilege to identify and to practice as queer. Think about Russia, for example: One can be persecuted and assaulted solely for appearing as non-normative. Because both non-normative sexual and dietary practices are privileges to “come out” as, such acts problematize the identities themselves and the individual’s relation to the Self.

It happens almost daily that I must tell someone that I am vegan, or that my colleague’s (problematic) assumptions of my sexuality are indeed true. When I deny a piece of cake at a work meeting, I am swayed to “come out” as vegan in order to clear up any confusion. When coworkers of mine talk about marriage and weddings, the topic of gay marriage is brought to the table and I am somehow “outed”. Veganism and queerness are undoubtedly intersectional.