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Not Thinking Straight by Madelyn Arnold
Sense of sensibility
by Madelyn Arnold - SGN Contributing Writer

We Queers are commonly believed to care more [and more consistently] about our pets than our lovers, or anyone else.

I lived briefly in St. Louis during the height of car-jacking - and afterward had to relearn to be realistic about young men passing my drivers' door at stop lights. Particularly dark-skinned men. This got easier after reading about a bunch of absolute butchers who were light-skinned women.

There are some nice, soft, often innocent prejudices. Well, innocent anyway - like that Gay folk are sensitive, more likely to understand the pain, not only of other people, but of lower animals because [hand to head] we have suffered. And not from car-jacking.

For many of us our first image of Gay men was the super-fag act of Liberace. He did it up proud, too. Somehow his image got mixed up with French poodles; he is said to have "cuddled his 27 dogs, watching [his favorite show] The Golden Girls", as he lay dying of AIDS. However, his dogs were Pekinese... it seems out of kilter that it's butchy Gertrude Stein who had the poodles. We have this prejudice about poodles and "masculinity".

I have heard that cats and dogs are our "children" [making Gertrude a bitch, no?]. Well I'd say they're our friends; but certainly Gays and their pets are an item. And we're more likely to be biased in favor of creatures than other people.

Many of us ITC [In The Community] are vegetarians, and I believe it isn't just a rumor that a higher percentage of lesbians are vegetarian or vegan than in any other segment of society. I'm not sure how my own reasons fit in: the strict Buddhists and Seventh Day Adventists, for example, have religious reasons; food faddists, picky eaters and beauty freaks have others. In a way, it's like being Queer: no matter how we got this way (or frankly, how we act) here we are. There shouldn't be any ranking of good and sufficient reasons -- but it's difficult not to think of some as evidence of sensibility, and others as, well, venal.

We ITC likely think of ourselves as sensitive people, and I've come to believe that's often true, and that for us to be unusually perceptive makes sense. Society has tended to brand (at least male) Gays as touchy, with the subtext that "sensitive" means weak.

Yet the idea that Gays are more sensitive (here I don't mean, better at color-coordination) could have had a basis in what was historically our process of self-acceptance. Articulating our difference may have meant examining many aspects of what we think and do: what and how we do or believe what, what's affected, and why. If so, maybe the emotionally "easier" transit into adulthood we've been fighting for will affect this self-examination [and maybe the idea of easy self-acceptance is a myth!], reducing the number of us who are veggies (or, say, Quakers). Right now, though, there are lots of us around.

And maybe a sense of separation tends us to like pet animals? Stroll the Hill sometime after supper. No dearth of dog-walkers... but maybe even that could change, if that need for self-examination wanes. Meantime we do at least support the AIDS charities.

Some people believe that the violent death of food animals causes the release of harmful compounds, by which perhaps they mean adrenaline. I am not sure I understand their logic. And there are some who have picked up the idea they can retain youthful skin and hair and the robust nature of youth (ahem), if they do not eat "major" (or "red") meat (mutton, swine, beef); instead they use "minor" flesh, such as from fish and fowl. Fake vegetarians.

Now, I'm not the kind of person who seeks out vitamins, minerals, bath oils, bubble-baths and massages, etc., and I'm afraid of people who do. I'm afraid that, in their search for physical perfection, they will unashamedly grab anything from vitamins to sautéed children [read: Elizabeth Bathory]; I have known people vain enough to use Human Growth Hormone [used to "bulk" them "up" or make them more handsome] back when they were hogging an extremely rare drug away from others who needed it desperately. [HGH is now made artificially.]

A veggie diet isn't necessarily healthy - that depends on the vegetarian. One thing is certain, however, a vegetarian needs to known more about nutrition than the average omnivore. Do you know what kwashiorkor is? I would have told you it was a condition found in Third World countries, inner cities, and Appalachia. Was I ever surprised to find it closer to home. Like inside it.

When I turned veg, I just dropped bologna and meat-based soups, and life got even cheaper: instant coffee, peanut butter, macaroni and ten-day-old white bread. After three months, I was surprised to see I was gaining weight in my legs area and belly, and I caught every bug flitting by. Finally, enjoying a kidney infection at the infirmary, I was told this "weight" was edema, and my blood protein was impossibly low -- that I had a protein deficiency disorder like kwashiorkor.

It had been hard enough for me to make the veggie decision (for psycho-social reasons), but I had, and was not going back. Entire cultures throve eschewing meat -- all I had asked my scornful doctor to do was treat my infection& He decided I was serious. He returned to my bedside loaded down with books on nutrition.

Actually, I had unexpectedly become a vegetarian at the age of six, though as with most folks, it didn't last. Our family had been visiting a relative's farm, and although I had known where meat came from, that day I'd actually watched a hog being butchered.

It was moved into the barn lot, suddenly shot behind the ear, jerked up by its back feet, and its throat cut. Something about that paralyzed me, and although there was plenty of gore, it wasn't that. After all, I had gone stomping through the woods with my father, flushing out game birds -- and seen pheasants plucked and rabbits gutted, aswarm with fleas and mites. I had eaten their flesh. The first rabbit I had seen shot screamed -- a thin keening - so my father quickly broke its neck with a stick, ending its suffering.

So I wasn't raised to be sentimental, though I was raised to care. But there you have it. A few moments before that shot I had been scratching the hog's back with a stick. After that shot I refused to eat meat. The issue was discussed with me, and I was returned to the table to sit with some effort, to "eat what was put in front of me".

In adulthood, the hardest thing about embracing a meat-free life was the knowledge that I was often going to be refusing that socially acceptable love, food from others. Turning it down meant rebuffing that sense of community (and pride) shared food represents. I come from that world where one offers food or drink as a matter almost of honor, and it is boorish for a guest to always refuse. S/he appears "insensitive".

Funny how being sensible of the animals can mean turning your back on the people around you.

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