A Fat Queer Black Vegan Perspective: Making Connections
by Dani Black
The Black Queer Vegan Diaries
“Hi everyone, and thanks for coming to listen to my talk and I want to be open with everyone as I can so I am going to tell you that being around all of these great vegans of colour who are really so far in their journey makes me feel a little bit of Imposter Syndrome.
“So I’ve been vegan for just a few years, but I’ve been me my whole life. What I’m going to do is talk to you about stories of my experiences of what my life has been like, and how those stories and experiences for me relate to my current view of what veganism looks like.
“So people tell me that I like to tell stories and that I am good at telling you all the details about the stories and kind of, my role in life in general is just being a story-teller, and passing on information between people and I suppose that’s true, I do like to look at stories from multiple perspectives, and see everyday situations, and see what kinds of connections I can make between what is going on currently in that story and what’s going on in the rest of the world.
“So I am going to tell you some stories about, like, some girls, but: Spoiler Alert! All the girls in the story are me, so it’s kind of my stories.”
[Image one: A young girl in a striped top, smiling to camera] “So this is me when I was younger. And by the time of this picture, this girl was assaulted – assaulted by a boy who was probably was assaulted himself – too young to understand the concept of what sex is, and too young to understand what’s happening, and yet still being sexualised, and for someone else’s pleasure, someone who is far too young is presented as an offering to someone else, OK. By this time, the girl had provided a lot of entertainment for pre-school and elementary school boys, who looked up her dress and put their hand in her skirt and tried to kiss her in the hallway. Again, for someone else’s pleasure, people put you on display and treat you kind of like a play-thing.”
[Image two: A slightly older girl, smiling to the camera] “Here’s another picture, a fun one. This girl’s Mom did her best – her Mom’s white by the way – she did her best to take care of Black hair and the combination of Mom doing her best and, like, an overly rambunctious child, this is the hair style I ended up with almost every day. So that’s the fun part. The less than fun part is that kids at school would definitely call her a bear, a dog, a dirty dog, a Sasquatch chocolate. When they find out, you know, her Mom’s white, you get new names with white stuff mixed in like zebras, Oreos, mutt, half-breed, mocha. Either way, they see her as an animal or as food, right – either way, she’s not them: she’s expendable, she’s some type of object, she can be used, consumed, observed, have her origins questioned, bought, sold, et cetera.”
[Image three: An older girl in a red dress, posing for the camera] “This girl was told, ‘You’re too fat to be a model. We need to make the clothes look like something women want to look like, they don’t want to look fat like you do.’ So, I kind of laugh every time I see this one, because I was like a size 8 at the time, and they said ‘Way too fat, you’re way too fat to be a model, you will never make it in this industry. This – you can’t look like this, it’s completely unacceptable.’ But I laugh, because this is like … anyway … so, again ‘Hair not easy enough to manage it, you need to straighten your hair. You need to, in order to have any kind of value, and be worth money in this industry, you need to show yourself to be a healthy weight, you need to show yourself to be healthy size, you have to have the right skin colour, you have to make sure you tan appropriately, not too much, not too little. You need to have your hair be perfectly organised, and your makeup be exactly on point. The only thing you need to do is to modify yourself at your essence, so that you can maximize value for other people.”
[Image four: A older girl in dressy clothes, looking at the camera] “This girl was queer, but she was tamed, trained for obedience and submission. She learned that, even though she wanted to be free, she needed to be useful – useful to a man. She needed to use her baby-maker body to create babies. Being with women isn’t fruitful, it’s not profitable, therefore, you should be with only one man, and have lots of his babies, to prove your worth, they said. The only alternative she can see is death.”
[Image five: An older girl in a glamorous silver dress] “This girl – does she look kinda like she was asking for it? Later on this night, this girl lost control of her body, and realised again that she’d not had any control over her body since the age of five.”
[Image six: A woman formally posing in a dark dress] “This woman did what was requested – married a man, and got pregnant. He stole her children – he stole her children from her too soon. He stole them before they could make it into this world. He tried to kill her if she disobeyed, he tried to kill her if she did something wrong. She was his property. He controlled her reproduction, he controlled her coming and going, she was his prisoner and his slave. Leaving was an act of resistance which was not supported by authority figures, or anyone who should care. ”
[Image seven: A happy older girl] “This girl made friends, family – real connections. These lovely individuals supported her in whatever way they could, shared love and asked nothing in return. These friends and family are in this together, we’re in this as one family.
“Good story right? What does that have to do with veganism? So I’ll tell you. When I look into the eyes of farmed animals, I see the girl who is married, I see the five year old girl, I see the girl who’s tamed, who has been beaten and broken, into submission. When I see non-humans in circuses, I remember pre-school, when I am used as a play-thing. I remember when people think of me in terms of how much ‘value’ I can add to the world, and how profitable I am, and not as the person that I really am. When I see non-humans in situations that they haven’t consented to, I remember all those times when I couldn’t consent. When I see animals mutilated physically, for our benefit, I think of all the dieting and the body shaming that I have experienced.
“Non-humans, and people like me, we’re fighting against the same people, for the same things. Our consent, our bodily autonomy, our personhood, everything about who we are – we are fighting against the same system. These two categories of issues, ‘human’ and ‘non-human’ issues aren’t categories for me – they are my life. They are so inter-twined. I know that my freedom won’t be achieved without theirs, nor theirs without mine. So thinking of veganism in terms of saving someone else, in terms of ‘I am saving the animals’ is really erasure of a whole body of issues who are really comrades in this situation, we’re all in this together, and we’re all family. So the way I am looking at veganism is about moving us as a group of people forward together, otherwise nothing will change.
“The conversation always needs to be around how to address systems of power imbalance that negatively impact all of us. If you focus on only one issue, or the other issue, you are missing the point. Thank you.” [Applause.]
(Transcript kindly done by AC B. – thank you!)