Monday, September 30, 2013

Plant Curious

I heard Rich Roll say plant curious on a podcast the other day. My mind can’t help but jump from there to the word bicurious, especially since I listened to this podcast shortly after a mandatory diversity training session offered by my employer. The session was all about stereotypes and diversity and building inclusive environments. We started with an old standard, the human scavenger hunt. It was interesting to see how many of the statements applied to me (or didn't). I have been an out and proud lesbian since my senior year in high school (late 2001-early 2002).

My parents, grandparents, family, friends, co-workers, online followers, etc. all know that I’m queer. When I first came out I experienced quite a few uncomfortable situations and conversations. I got asked a lot of ridiculous questions by strangers and acquaintances alike. Eventually, that settled down. I can’t think of a moment like that in the last few years of my life, even when I was living in the rural South. Of course, I made a point to compartmentalize some of that in my last job because of the cultural climate, but I was surprised again and again by how much easier it is to be queer in 2013 than it was in 2003.

That being said, I know it’s not so easy for everyone. I know that gay men and genderqueer individuals experience a greater risk of violence, and that people who identify as bisexual will never really feel comfortable on either side of the gay divide. That’s one reason why I use the word queer as much as possible, it encompasses the varied spectrum of experiences in our community. I hadn't thought about this as much lately until I started openly identifying myself as plant based.

I am starting fresh with the awkward conversations and annoying questions. I am learning new words and conceptualizing the deeper meanings of terms like vegetarian and vegan. Again, in this context I use the work plant based because of its ability to cover so many bases. When I am eating out, though, I typically use the word vegan to communicate with servers/chefs because it’s easier to understand. I don’t share some of the radical political connotations of the word vegan, and I eat honey (rarely now as I've tightened up my diet and stopped adding extra sugars).

I had a moment where I realized that I feel more marginalized and apart from society because of my plant based diet rather than my queer identity. It’s amazing how much (for the sake of brevity) veggie bashing exists in popular media and the minds of Americans. There’s a popular beer/football commercial right now where a guy’s girlfriend is forcing him to eat quinoa burgers. He can’t pronounce the name, they look terrible, and he gets ostracized for his willingness to “give in” to his woman and not eat meat. This message is everywhere once you start looking for it. I’d bet that you can’t watch more than a few hours of primetime TV without coming across some veggie bashing.

Fortunately, I think things are changing much in the same way they've changed for the queers over the last 10 years. Mainstream chefs and authors are advocating for plant based diets, at least part time. Americans are starting to think about where their food comes from, and to link their health and wellness to their dietary choices. More restaurants are becoming sensitive to food issues in general, and allergen labels are a plant based eater’s best friend. I hope that plant based eating continues to gain momentum, and that those of us who identify as plant based can suffer through the questions and the push back to continue to spread the message.

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