Gatekeeping in the Vegan Community

Even if you’ve never heard the term “gatekeeping”, you’ve probably experienced it. Have you ever expressed  passion in something and been met with undue skepticism? Maybe been told that you’re not a “real” fan of something if you don’t do x, y, and z? Someone extra obnoxious may have even pop quizzed you about esoteric, arbitrary facts to determine your standing. That’s gatekeeping, and I think it’s nearly universal in places where folks find their identity rooted.

The urge to identify with a group is fundamentally human. We crave validation for our beliefs and actions. Vegans often feel misunderstood or even shunned by mainstream society, further pushing us into the arms of like minded people. Personally, veganism is such a core part of my value system, and has revolutionized so many aspects of my life, that I just love having people who feel the same way. Plus it’s nice having people to eat with.

The sense of commoradery that community brings is a wonderful thing, and I’ve learned so much from others within it. That’s a big part of why I can’t stand gatekeeping.

Let me let you in on a little secret. I may not be a REAL vegan. For one, I suffer from a chronic illness which requires me to take medication containing lactose, derived from milk. Mercifully, even the harshest vegan gatekeepers usually give me a pass for that. The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” So I call myself a vegan. Both because it represents what I strive for, and it’s the quickest way to explain my diet.

It is my opinion that any self defined vegan who claims that their lifestyle causes ZERO harm to animals is incorrect. Car and bike tires contain animal products, as do many other rubbers. Many necessary medications, like my own, unfortunately contain animal products. I don’t give up. Of all the things I believe about veganism, this may be the most important:

Veganism is an effort. 

So many people tell me “I’d like to be a vegan, but I couldn’t give up cheese!”. And I say, then give up everything but cheese. The label isn’t everything. Remember why you’re trying to live this way, and strive to do the best you can. I’ll always encourage anyone who wants to take any step in reducing their consumption of animal products. My own journey to veganism sure was less as the crow flies, and more like a drunken ramble to a joyous conclusion.

I’ve struggled my entire life with perfectionism. I still do. It’s funny how it always sounds like a compliment, but it’s really a fault. I’ve cheated myself and others so many times by not trying very hard because I couldn’t do something perfectly. Why bother at all if it’s not 100%? Bother with this because every plant based meal you eat saves lives, water, reduces your carbon footprint, and nourishes your body. Don’t let perfectionism stand in the way of you moving towards the values you want to live. Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.

Veganism as I eat, live, and breathe it is really quite simple. It is an extension of compassion. Don’t forget compassion for yourself.

 

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