The Gay Vegans

Personal thoughts on the Orlando massacre

A national publication recently asked me to give some thoughts on how I was feeling as a gay vegan blogger. Although my thoughts were not included in the article, I decided to share them with all of you. I spent a lot of time thinking about the answers, which are deeply personal. I am grateful to my friend Jill for editing this for me! Here we go!

What was your initial reaction as soon as you heard the news? What have you been feeling since then?

I was sick when I first found out. Then, shortly after, I was watching the press conference when they announced that the death toll had gone up to 50, and I just lost it. I have been overwhelmed with sadness ever since, which also includes sadness for what is being said in regard to hate speech and for what is not being said about the killer, who, more than anything, harbored hatred for gay people. The massacre struck close to home for me because in my earlier years, the gay bar was my haven, my safe place from a world that was very unfriendly to gay people. I am not only sad but also outraged.

You made a really insightful point about not wanting cis white gay males to be centered in this discussion, especially in the context of what happened. Can you speak to why you think this is important?

In case you are unfamiliar with the word “cis,” which is short for “cisgender,” check this definition out: cisgender.

I consider every person in the LGBTQ community to be my sibling. Of course that doesn’t mean they feel the same, but that’s the way it is for me. Looking at all my beautiful siblings who lost their lives in Orlando and knowing that it was Latin Night, a night I have enjoyed dozens of times at other gay bars (in my younger days!), I wanted to make sure that my voice was not taking the place of a voice of a gay person of color, especially a gay Puerto Rican, Mexican or Dominican. I have always felt comfortable, welcome and safe within the Latino (and more specifically Colombian) LGBTQ communities and definitely wanted to be sure their voices were included in any discussion of the massacre. It’s been bad enough to watch individuals in politics and the press disregard the fact that this was a gay bar, and even worse when the stories of people of color are not told—people in our communities who sometimes are already disenfranchised. I say all of this as a cis white man of privilege, one who daily works toward liberation. I am also uber-sensitive to the fact that for some of these beautiful family members, this massacre outed them.

What do you say to those who don’t see a connection between the LGBT community and vegans/veganism?

I firmly believe without judgment that people do not know what they do not know. Everything I have learned in regard to liberation, equality, human rights and animal rights is because someone took the time to show me and teach me. Until last year I had no idea that so many trans women of color were murdered every year, for example. We have to make these connections and constantly be a voice for the voiceless. The more we do this, regardless of which communities we are part of, the more we can see the connections.

Many times I am honestly speechless when members of one of my communities speak ill of members of another community I am part of. It’s one of the reasons I started The Gay Vegans blog—to build bridges and offer voices that some might not have heard before. My world is filled with people from diverse communities, and I see the full picture of liberation becoming more attainable when we work together instead of tearing each other down. After all, we have much more in common than not.

I’ll also add that my animal rights activism is stronger because of what I learned from my LGBTQ siblings in the 80s and 90s. I learned from these communities to fight, to never give up, to love those in my community and to be unafraid.

Anything else you want to say? To the LGBTQ community? To Americans in general?

As I say many times in my blog posts, we need to vote. We need to fight for liberation for all, including our trans siblings and those in our community sacrificed by our government because of their immigrant status. We must speak out against those politicians who express compassion for 10 seconds after a massacre but have fought against us for their entire political careers. And finally, we must each continue to be a strong, passionate and compassionate voice for the voiceless, whether that is a murdered family member, a trans woman of color who just wants to be safe, an animal who clings to her life yet is about to be killed for food, or a man in Saudi Arabia who is perceived to be gay and about to be executed.

I thank all of you who have been allies and remind you that we need you more than ever.

About Dan Hanley

Gay and vegan in the burbs (of Los Angeles). I blog about veganism, equality, compassion, activism, politics, spirituality, and our awesome life experiences. The "s" includes my husband, Mike! I want this blog to be a tool to build bridges among communities and to inspire people to get involved and vote.

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