by: Raechel T
When you cook a pot of male lobsters, and, and they realize they’re all in this pot of boiling water, they all totally start freakin out. They’re like, “Fuck, we gotta get outta here,” and they start making these lil ladders and helping each other out of the pot. So, you had to put a lid on the pot to keep ‘em inside. But female lobsters…you don’t have to put a lid on the pot because once they realize they’re in a pot of boiling water, they all just start grabbing each other and you know holding each other down. So like, “If I’m gonna die, everyone’s gonna die”. None of them wants to let any of the other ones get out of the pot…it’s a real shame, isn’t it?
I’m guessing that many of you readers will recognize that strange little speech as the one Moira (aka. Max, played by the delicious Daniela Sea) delivers upon her first meeting of Jenny’s friends on “The L Word.” The upper-class snobbery of the crew was evident in a reaction whose sole purpose, it seemed, was to make Moira as uncomfortable as possible. I remember wanting to hug that handsome, soon-to-be trans fella, stare into those beautiful, dim-witted blue eyes, and say: “Yes, Moira, it is a shame!”
In real life, I think Daniela Sea would agree. The circus-performer-turned-actress is a vegan animal rights advocate who most recently used her celebrity status to promote the Adopt-A-Turkey Project through Farm Sanctuary, along with the main sponsor, Ellen DeGeneres. When asked about her Thanksgiving plans, Sea replied, “Celebrating with [living] turkeys is top on my list.” (So charming. So dim. Just like Max.)
With DeGeneres and Sea heading up the meat-free promos, I got to thinking about the relationship between sexuality and diet. I’ve been vegan for over nine years, and a self-defined queer for about the same, albeit with a few misguided sabbaticals — from queerness not veganism — along the way. But could these two things be somehow connected?
My path towards veganism started when, as a pre-teen, I quit eating animals I found cute: namely, cows and pigs. By the time I got to high school, I slowly became a full-on vegetarian. But it wasn’t until I became politicized that I saw how a vegan diet could be more than about just animal rights: it was also about the exploitation of the laborers in the meat and dairy industry, the ways those industries destroyed our environment and how meat and dairy consumption actually aid in furthering the pandemic of global malnourishment. The side of oppression heaped on my plate was too heavy to ignore, and so at age 18, I gave up all products that came from animals.
Of course, queers know a thing or two about oppression, and so maybe it’s not so surprising that there are quite a few of us that choose to resist both heteronormativity and omnivoritivity (made up word; go with it!). Queers are already marked as outsiders; why not give the family even more reasons to scrunch their noses up when we pass on the roast beef, right?
In fact, I once heard a paper presentation at an academic conference that compared the narratives of “Coming Out as Vegan/Vegetarian” to queer coming out narratives. The author acknowledged that they were very different matters, since the latter means sacrificing physical safety, the former, convenience, but highlighted an interesting example of a queer black interviewee that told her that his mom reacted more poorly to the news of his diet change than his sexuality.
That example brings up an important point about the relationship between class and race and diet, which is far easier to understand than the relationship between diet and sexuality. It’s not lost on me that shopping at health food stores that carry specialty vegan products is a symbol of my privilege — as a white person whose access to healthy food is disproportionately greater than communities of color and as a person who has enough of an income (and no dependents) to afford those foods. Does this mean that maybe a lot of queers are vegan — because queers are usually wealthy? Of course not. As most of us know, that’s an ugly misconception that renders invisible the huge portion of poor and working class queers that are struggling, daily, on multiple fronts.
So what is it about queer love that seems to inspire plant-based meal plans? Part of me thinks it might have more to do with the construction of alternative community. Upon becoming vegan, most of us realize that it’s not so easy to “go it alone.” Our empowerment qua individual diet choice wanes when we struggle to find things to eat at parties or restaurants. So we seek out others that are like us. We host potlucks, and volunteer to hand out animal rights pamphlets, and do cookie exchanges. We eschew the pressure to fit in to neoliberal modes of being in the world, and we choose belonging over being. We queer our relationship to cooking and to eating by thriving most when those acts are done in the company of others.
It’s not so different with queers. We construct families, not through blood, but through commonality and shared principles. And we know it’s always best to be in the company of other queers; “where ever two or more queers shall be, queer worldmaking shall be done.” (Or something).
A few weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of attending a performance by queer spoken word artist, Kay Barrett . In addition to their intensely powerful poetry, Kay works on a documentary project called “Recipes for the People” . On the website, Kay explains:
Food brings so many of us together, allows us to share across the table, allows us to celebrate during times of war, ache, pain, silence. when world events and stories of survival strike us, i find myself at the stove ready to feed my family and friends. if you understand this, let’s seek vision and joy through our bellies together, yes?
It’s a perfect time of year to open ourselves up to sharing and celebrating over food. This season (and beyond), consider how your food choices reflect your queer ways of being in our world.
Raechel T is a PhD Candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include: critical media studies, queer studies, rhetoric, critical pedagogy, and the labor movement. She’s a long-time labor activist and a full-time cat lady. You can read more of Raechel’s thoughts atrebelgrrlacademy.wordpress.com, and you can follow her adventures with vegan food and healthy living at rebelgrrlkitchen.wordpress.com.