Veggiequeer: A Twist to Veganism

“Veggiequeer” is one of my favorite portmanteaus. It’s a fusion of words originating from two social topics: dietary preference and sexuality (though the word here applies as a reference to dietary preference). While the term “queer” has had a pejorative meaning for most of the 20th century, it’s been reappropriated in the past couple decades— at least in the U.S.— to denote an opposition to binary thinking. More personally my friends and I use it as a suffix for anything that we don’t want to box ourselves into.

A recurring theme on this blog is that no one has the authority to monitor your dietary preference. The problem here is that most people are going to do it anyway, especially if they don’t know many people who are vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, etc. In middle school I didn’t know anyone who was vegetarian, but I also didn’t think it was a big deal. I guess it was a surprise to me when I went on a volunteer trip to Belize for a couple weeks and some fellow members referred to another volunteer as “PETA” because she  was vegetarian.

Too often people make us feel pressure to have a definitive dietary preference. We have to be something, as if the person asking has a burning desire  to categorize what we eat. There’s nothing wrong with asking out of curiosity, there’s just a problem with planning to critique or double-check another person’s diet.

To deal with these situations some of my friends and I use the term “veggiequeer” to describe our diet. What does it mean? Here’s the great part: it means whatever you want it to mean! Generally it’s been used to describe some variations in veganism & vegetarianism or gaps between eating meat and not eating meat. It’s casual. More than likely the person asking will have no idea what you’re talking about and what better time than then to A) explain why you choose to eat what you do B) address stereotypes C) explain the origins of “veggiequeer”! Obviously this depends on the person’s actual interest— use your social cues friends.

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The “Please Stop Talking About Your Food” Problem

Eating habits and opinions on food production can be touchy subjects for a lot of people. For one thing we were all raised differently in regards to what is “normal” to eat, even if we grew up in the same culture. Food is essential for all bodily processes that enable us to breathe, move, and think, but also what we put in our bodies plays such a huge role in our social and mental health. There is no part of our lives that is not influenced by what we eat. Along with sleeping, breathing, and pooping, eating is one of the few behaviors that all beings have in common.

Because of food’s ever-present power in our lives people become very passionate about it. Some people tweet haikus about food, others make YouTube series of drunk cooking, and still fewer and far less admirable people change Rogers & Hammerstein lyrics into chocolate-praising hymns (The Sound of Music sanctity > chocolate). Tack on all the diets, research studies, and intersectionality with environmental health, animal rights, etc. and there are millions of clashing views about what’s best to eat.

Passion is a wonderful quality to have; it fuels education, progress, and inspires others. There is a difference, however, between respectful passion and stubborn passion. Misused passion can create damaging social dynamics when it becomes a medium for accosting others. Forcing your opinion down someone’s throat will always lead to a coughing fit.

Often vegans, or really anyone else who chooses a more unique diet preference, get a bad rep for being “preachy”.  This is generally a very small minority. Of my ten vegan friends none of them have ever asked me to change my diet, made snarky remarks about my food choice, or made fun of me when I chose to eat that one slice of bacon (I’m vegetarian) like my non-veg friends have. The people I know who eat vegan are very aware of the preachy vegan stereotype and some of them even go out of their way to avoid judgement at restaurants by saying “I’m vegetarian and also lactose-intolerant, what can I eat?” instead of “what’s vegan?” In many ways I think it hurts them more than anyone else.

A couple weeks ago a group of pamphleteers stationed themselves at our campus plaza, dressed as animals, and tried to convince people to turn vegan by yelling about it and holding signs. One of them tried to hand my friend Katie, who’s vegan, a pamplet. When she informed him she was already vegan he looked at her and said “but you are wearing leather shoes and your bag is leather so maybe you should take this.” Someone please explain to me how being  judgmental and rude will convince others to go vegan.

The difference between being “preachy” and having a mutually educational conversation is how open both parties are to discussion. Many of my friends are interested in social justice, earth preservation, human & animal rights, you name it, so I know I can freely address these subjects with them.  However, there are definitely people in my life who have made it clear they don’t want to hear about it and I respect that distance unless they bring it up themselves. Sadly the fear of being perceived as preachy can silence those who have thoughtful, educational tidbits to offer. To make the best eating decisions for our health and our environment we have to be open to learning, even if it’s not what we want to hear.

Veganism Myths

Myths often exist because of a lack of knowledge. Ethical Ocean, an online marketplace for ethical products & service in North America,  created this handy-dandy infographic to dispel some common misconceptions about the vegan lifestyle.

(Note: please disregard the unnecessary sex differentiation of protein intake. I acknowledge that adequate protein varies per person according to physical activity, size, and other factors that aren’t essentially sex-related). 

Veganism Myths Debunked

via Ethical Ocean – eco friendly products, fair trade and vegan shopping.