A Queer Appalachian Vegan’s Thoughts on Pride and Intersectional Social Justice Movements

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» A Queer Appalachian Vegan’s Thoughts on Pride and Intersectional Social Justice Movements

In this blog for PrideMonth, Zane McNeill highlights how veganism is closely connected to other social injustices such as queer liberation, and why we should fight together against all forms of oppression.

Pride month is both a celebration and a protest. Since the Compton Cafeteria Riots and the Stonewall uprising, LGBTQ people have taken to the streets to fight for their rights, often in tandem with other movements for social justice. While we often visualize Pride parades as moments of joy, and queer joy is undoubtedly important, this Pride feels different – environmental activists (many of them vegan and queer) have been arrested in the United States for protesting a $90 million, 85-acre police training facility dubbed ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta, Georgia, at least four transgender people were arrested earlier this month while marching for their rights in New York City, the Human Rights Campaign has declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ people in America with the far-right pushing for a coordinated attack on LGBTQ lives and the eradication of transgender people, and scientists have announced  that the Arctic could be ice-free in summers by 2030. If there is ever a time to consider why to liberate some of us, we need to liberate all of us, that time is now. 

Being vegan and queer makes it easy for me to see how all these struggles are connected – the structures for capitalist gain and the consolidation of power are predicated on the oppression of non-human animals, the earth and marginalized people. This approach to viewing systems that marginalize non-human animals as intersecting with other systems of oppression is called consistent anti-oppression. This theory of social change, developed by queer vegan activist Julia Feliz, asserts that human and animal rights are undeniably connected, and therefore it is imperative to develop campaigns that seek to address these intersections. 

In the vegan movement, many animal advocacy organizations have been moving towards a more intersectional approach to advocacy, instead of the traditional single-issue model, which solely focuses on the struggles faced by non-human animals. As theorists such as Aph and Syl Ko have explained, single-issue veganism makes it nearly impossible to liberate non-human animals by siloing the struggles of non-human animals from intersecting social justice movements, such as environmental justice, black liberation and queer liberation.

For me, personally, it is difficult to imagine my fight for non-human animal liberation separate from my other social justice movement work – especially my work on queerness in Appalachia. However, while I am proud of my positionality as someone who is queer and transgender because it gives me a particular view on how struggles for liberation are connected, it can be isolating. I have often felt out of place both in the queer and vegan communities because of how passionate I am about the necessity to fight not just for animal rights or LGBTQ rights, but rights for all of us. 

For example, in 2018, I had recently come out as trans, and I was eager to find a LGBTQ community that felt like home to me. I had always felt a little out of place with city, or metronormative, queer spaces as someone who was born and raised in West Virginia, a relatively rural state in the Appalachian region. While I no longer lived in Appalachia, growing up in there has affected who I am and how I thought about the world and my queer identities. 

I had started a small zine (short for ‘magazine’) on the inseparability of my Appalachian and queer identities and had found a lively community of queer Appalachian artists, makers, writers, poets and activists that made me feel seen, safe and valued. However, when I started writing about my vegan identity and animal activism, I was met with pushback from LGBTQ Appalachians who didn’t understand the connection between Appalachian-ness, queerness and other social justice movements, such as animal liberation. 

In addition to this tension I felt in queer Appalachia spaces, I have also faced obstacles in vegan spaces for my political views informed by my intersecting identities. I have often felt politicized just for existing as a queer and trans person in vegan spaces and have faced marginalization or tokenization because of my queer identities in animal advocacy nonprofits. When I started a diversity, equity and inclusion company to address the equity issues I faced in the animal advocacy movement or joined a labor rights organization of animal rights advocates, I faced further retaliation from funders of the movement and the organizations I worked with. 

I felt this ‘always being out of place’ feeling in queer Appalachian spaces because I was dedicated to animal liberation, and in vegan spaces because I was vocal about equity and justice issues in our movement, as well as the importance of a consistent anti-oppression approach to advocacy, which was extremely exhausting. I have always felt like, to really find community, that I needed to abandon one of my identities for the other, but that I now know that that isn’t true. To achieve liberation for some of us, we need to fight for liberation for all of us, and I can be queer and trans and vegan all at once. 

This Pride, I want vegan activists, as well as queer activists to remember that together we are strong. If we continue to take part in isolated social justice movements, we will never be able to speak back to power and truly change the systems that oppress us and non-human animals. However, because the structures we fight against are systemic, intersected and institutionalized, we can create a just world if we fight for it together. 

Zane McNeill is the co-editor of Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression and the editor of Vegan Entanglements: Dismantling Racial and Carceral Capitalism



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