Josie Le Vay ponders why there are so many homosexual herbivores.
In January I went vegan. I’m a millennial writing an article for a lesbian magazine, what else would you expect?
A huge cliché, I know. Veggie burgers and avocado toast have probably become as much of a lesbian stereotype as having a short haircut and owning a cat.
But it wasn’t until I made the lifestyle choice myself, while happening to be what is most certainly not a choice (gay, if that wasn’t already obvious enough), that I realised the truth behind the stereotype.
The overlap is so real. Gay vegans are everywhere. It’s actually got to the point where I presume gay people I meet are vegan. Whenever I’m swiping through Tinder or Her, I come across dozens of girls with nothing other than “vegan” written on their bios (and if you’re lucky, you’ll find a little plant emoji too). When I went to the NUS LGBT+ conference, vegans were everywhere. I think the only other time the hotel kitchen staff would have to cater for quite so many vegans is if they were holding an event for PETA.
I’ve seen multiple vegan cafes with Pride flags in. When I was on placement with DIVA in London, the student journalist doing it alongside me was also doing Veganuary. Most of the girls I’ve dated have been vegan or at least veggie. When I made a profile on Grazer, the dating app for herbivores (purely for the purpose of this article, I swear), it automatically set my preference to girls.
If we look at our beloved LGBT+ celebs, you’ll be surprised (or completely unsurprised) to know that many are in fact vegan themselves. Ellen Page, Jane Lynch, Simon Amstell, oh, and the mother of all gays, Ellen Degeneres.
I know my anecdotes and name dropping don’t mean all that much, so I decided to do some research. I created a simple poll, asking people if they identified as LGBT+, and posted it on UK vegan Facebook groups. Out of the 925 responses, 66.4% said they were LGBT+. Of course my poll is far from perfect, the demographic will match that of Facebook and LGBT+ people are probably far more likely to engage with my poll in the first place. But no study is perfect, and my results are significant enough to at least say this: there’s a hell of a lot of gay vegans out there.
But why? At this point I’m slightly regretting not expanding my single question poll into a full length questionnaire, but I’ll give it a shot myself anyway.
First of all, let’s think about what it takes to be vegan. You’ve got to label yourself, tell your friends and family. That could be quite a big deal for some people. But for queer people? Well, it’s just like a second round, and the second time is always easier. As much as you may struggle adapting your diet or telling your friends at dinner parties that you don’t eat meat or diary, coming out as vegan is far less of a hurdle than coming out as LGBT+, and therefore far less of a hurdle for a queer person than a straight one.
The main argument is probably that on the whole LGBT+ people are naturally compassionate. Journalist and author Jane Velez-Mitchell explained this, speaking to Marcie Bianco for AfterEllen: “The LGBT community knows what it’s like to be voiceless and to be treated as “less than.” That’s why the gay community often has exceptional empathy for the downtrodden, the overlooked, the forgotten.
No group of sentient beings is more exploited and neglected than the billions of cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and turkeys trapped in factory farms. Ellen DeGeneres and other well-known members of the gay community have made this issue a top priority. The easiest way to help animals trapped in the horrors of industrial farming is simply not to eat them.”
Whether you’re vegan because you value the lives of animals, care about global warming, or simply want to improve your own health – being vegan is inherently political. You are taking your beliefs into your own hands, and whether you want it to be a political statement or not, that’s exactly what it is. The LGBT+ community of course has a long history of being involved with politics.
After all, we didn’t really have a choice. We were discriminated against and had to fight for our rights, and still do. It’s maybe because of this that so many queer people are actively involved in politics, both LGBT+ and further afield. If it is the case that queer people are more likely to be politically active, which wouldn’t surprise me given that 45 lesbian, gay and bisexual MPs were elected in 2017, then I’d expect them to be more knowledgeable about the politics surrounding animals and in turn more likely to take up veganism.
I’m not saying that for all queer vegans, their sexuality and lifestyle choice come hand in hand. For many, like myself, it’s not something they even thought about when turning vegan. However, there is an unmissable trend between veganism and LGBT+ people, and it makes sense.
So maybe swap your gay club for a vegan cafe next time you’re looking for someone to date.