A Queer Vegan’s Déjà Vu
As a vegan, it's tempting to throw in the towel in an argument when a meat-eater declares, "But meat tastes so good!" It's as close to an admission of defeat as you can get, and the only remotely coherent reason for eating meat. Selfish, yes, unjust, yes—but at least they're being honest.
I've long since considered this the end of an argument: the point at which I give up and let the cognitive dissonance do its work.
Two days ago, I was eating dinner with a friend when the discussion turned to a video we had both seen of a young lamb skipping down a hall. "It's so cute," he said, "But lamb tastes so good!”
It had never happened before; but, at that moment, I had déjà vu—not of the many times I'd heard that excuse in the past, but of a similar phrase I heard from my dad as a middle-schooler on the verge of questioning my sexuality: "Gays are disgusting.”
I remembered the day we drove to school and I'd mentioned that my progressive private high school was celebrating Gay Pride Day. I made a comment about how each color on the rainbow flag had a meaning. My dad offered his: "Red is the color of your *ss after you've been reamed by a f*gg*t."
I remembered the time my friend proposed we pretend the character we were trying to kill in a video game was his soccer team's gay coach. I joined in, shouting every epithet I knew at the TV screen while we thwacked him.
Behind these expressions was nothing more or less than raw, visceral emotion—disgust privileged over justice. As a white, economically privileged and abled male, I had a life pretty much set up for me; yet the visceral anti-gay hatred I heard growing up condemned me to spending eight years of my life in a grim depression. I spent eight years at two of the most progressive institutions, yet was constantly on edge, alert to the necessity of hiding myself as much and for as long as possible.
My dad has since changed dramatically, showing the power of human transformation. It's difficult to imagine anybody changing more powerfully for the better and being a more loving father; yet every decision I made—from my major to my friends to my decision to quit dance—was based on the desire not to be disgusting.
With this casual turn of phrase—"But meat tastes so good!"—my friends, family, and loved ones condemn countless individuals to a life filled with torture that is far worse. Flesh eaters say this with the same tone of voice my dad used when he said, "Gays are disgusting!" If you know the Latin root, you'll know that "disgust" literally means "distaste.” The injustice is no less.
So the next time somebody says "But meat tastes so good!" I won't stop there. I'll tell them my story, and how I am no different from the animals on their plate. Because "Gays are disgusting" has the same force for a homophobe as "But meat tastes so good!" has for a speciesist. It is the visceral emotion that leads people to throw away reason, to discard what they know to be right because of their bigotry.
I am glad to live now in a community where "Gays are disgusting" is no longer said; yet after that déjà vu, I will never stop fighting until "But meat tastes so good!" is also taboo.