Complete answers to VegNews Questions on Orlando

Posted: June 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

Responses for VegNews

Saryta Rodriguez, June 15, 2016


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

When I first heard the news, I was shocked. Unfortunately, I was not shocked that an LGBTQP+ club had been targeted; we all know that’s happened before. I was most taken aback by the sheer number of victims.

Then, on a personal level, I felt guilty, as I always do when things like this happen to LGBTQP+ folk, or folks who don’t adhere to the gender binary. I am agender, but I look cis (assigned female at birth), and I am a pansexual poly, but my current primary is a cis male. I am also Hispanic, but have been told by many that I am “white-passing.” So I don’t look like the marginalized communities I am apart of, and therefore am rarely a target.

I do, however, recall being targeted for harassment in my relationships with women, feeling preyed upon by men following us in the street, cat-calling to us and all that sort of thing. I also have difficult conversations regularly, including one recently with my own partner, in which folks flatly deny the very existence of people like me. (Needless to say, I have my doubts about how much longer this relationship will last.) Still, that doesn’t hold a candle to feeling and knowing every single day that you may be the victim of violence because of who or how you love. I don’t walk around on a daily basis with that fear, and I feel guilty because so many people just like me do.

On a political level, I became especially nervous, as I knew this would serve as an opportunity for both presumptive presidential nominees to take center stage. I knew Trump would use this to galvanize hatred and bigotry even more than he already had, and that Clinton would use his rhetoric to emphasize how dangerous his presidency would be and thus further promote herself as the only real option for non-racist, non-homophobic Americans.


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

What I try to emphasize in talking to anyone about any social justice issue is that all seemingly disparate issues fall under the common umbrella of Justice. All injustices stem from the same tendency of some groups to decide they are more inherently valuable than, and that their needs (and even mere desires) outweigh the needs of, another group. As long as such hierarchy is permitted in one arena, it will inevitably find justification in another. The best way to demonstrate respect for someone is to not hurt them— and violence, discrimination and bigotry hurt.

Social justice advocates often say they want to see a world in which we all love each other. While I’m not sure that’s really possible, depending on how you define love and how deeply you expect everyone to love everyone else, I do think a world in which we all respect one another is possible. We do not respect the LGBTQ+ community when we discriminate against it, make fun of it or worse, when someone opens fire on it. Similarly, we do not respect fellow inhabitants of our planet by capturing, exploiting, forcibly impregnating or murdering them.

I also see a poignant overlap between how these two communities specifically— LGBTQP+ and nonhumans— are treated with regards to the family unit. Just as many non-straight human couples have difficulty adopting children, and face undue scrutiny even upon being successful in this endeavor, so too are many nonhumans denied their rights to raise their families, as calves are ripped from the sides of their mother cows so that we humans can consume the milk that was originally intended for them. Denying a living being’s autonomy to determine for themselves what their family will look like and who will be in it is inherently immoral, in my view.

Finally, another specific point of overlap emerges when we look at “half-measures” to protect these communities— measures that nevertheless reinforce the inferiority of one community to another. “Okay, we’ll let LGBTQP+ folks get married, but they’re not allowed to call it marriage because that word is just for us straight folks.” “Okay, we’ll stop factory farming and start small operations where cows can graze outdoors, but we’ll still forcibly impregnate them and take their babies away because cow’s milk is just for us humans.”


The fact that this act of violence was perpetrated specifically on a Latin night with Latina and Black performers headlining was a big blow. Why do you think this distinction significant, especially with those who’d rather report and converse around it?

I think it’s significant in that it further otherizes the victims. The greater the distinction we are able to draw between ourselves and another, the easier it becomes for us to suppress empathy for that individual and even adopt a competitive or antagonistic attitude towards them. People at Pulse on any given night are already otherized in our society due to orientation, but on this night in particular they were further otherized by their race. This makes it even easier for someone who already had a grudge against the LGBTQP+ community, and who is not Hispanic, Latinx or Black, to commit acts of violence against them, viewing them as “lesser-than” twofold rather than just by one degree.

I know there has been a lot of talk about the killer’s Muslim roots and whether or not his actions have anything to do with Islam, but ultimately he was born in the US and raised in New York, so I think our own society has more to do with it than any other. Rather than pointing fingers at other cultures, it is critical that we examine our own and work hard to combat the many ways in which our own society promotes the otherization of LGBTQP+ people and people of color.


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

To all: Please remember the victims and their families and hold them in your hearts at this difficult time. Don’t allow politicians use this to pull you into their agenda. To the LGBTQP+ community: Stay strong and know that like so much else before, you will survive this, too. To allies: Please take the time to truly reflect on what happened and how you would feel if it were you, your friend or loved one involved. Don’t use this as an opportunity to engage in ally theater; LGBTQP+s need your support right now, not your heroism. Whether you’re LGBTQP+ or not, our focus right now should be on a) expressing empathy and b) developing concrete steps for combatting homophobia. Everything else is just a sideshow.

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